Monday, December 28, 2009

Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Cofer

Published in 2006. 290 pages.

This mystery was the third pick for my fifth grade book club. The kids and I found it laugh-out-loud funny. My son said it was the best of the three books we've read so far.


Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

Published in 2009. 338 pages.

This was my first experience with the work of Emily Listfield. I absolutely loved the first three-quarters of the book, as I got to know the characters and then a murder mystery was revealed. The last quarter, however, fell a little flat, leaving me not fully satisfied. I enjoyed the book enough, though, that I'll be looking for more of Listfield's novels.

There is a reading group guide here.


Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Originally published in 2001.
Audiobook performed by Andy Paris and Carine Montbertrand.

For some reason, I expected this "he said/she said" story to be similar in tone to E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver books. The first chapter, therefore, was a little disconcerting to me, as I adjusted to the more serious tone. Once I settled in, though, I was hooked!

Flipped is a sweet adolescent love story that also deals with some serious themes. The character Juli reminded me a bit of Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl. I loved her view of the world. I also loved watching Bryce mature.

Wendelin Van Draanen is best known for the Sammy Keyes mysteries for children, none of which I've read. I understand she has also written at least two other young adult novels.

I noticed on IMDb that a movie version of Flipped is scheduled to be released in September 2010.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Real Real
by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

Published in 2009. 310 pages.

I enjoyed the somewhat snarky, satirical tone of McLaughlin and Kraus's The Nanny Diaries when I read it with my book club back in 2002. I was happy to discover that The Real Real has the same tone - this time exploring the world of "reality" television shows in the authors' first novel for young adults. I had a hard time putting the book down - and I loved the happy ending.


A to Z Challenge

January 1 to December 31, 2010
Hosted by Becky
Challenge Blog

I attempted this challenge in 2008 and managed to complete 44 of the 52 books required. (I ended the year with 2 titles and 6 authors unread.) I'm eager to try again in 2010! I'll be filling in my authors and titles as I read them.

A~ Avi (Don't You Know There's a War On?)
B~ Bohjalian, Chris (Secrets of Eden)
C~ Clark, Mary Higgins (The Shadow of Your Smile)
D~ Donnelly, Jennifer (A Northern Light)
E~ Ellsworth, Loretta (In Search of Mockingbird)
F~ Freedman, Russell (Lincoln: A Photobiography)
G~ Gore, Ariel (Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness)
H~ Hawkins, Rachel (Hex Hall)
J~ Juster, Norton (The Phantom Tollbooth)
K~ Konigsburg, E.L. (The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place)
L~ Lockhart, E. (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks)
M~ Marchett, Melina (Saving Francesca)
P~ Potter, Ellen (Slob)
Q~ Quindlen, Anna (Every Last One)
R~ Rubin, Gretchen (The Happiness Project)
S~ Streatfeild, Noel (Ballet Shoes)
T~ Turner, Megan Whalen (The Thief)
U~ Urban, Linda (A Crooked Kind of Perfect)
W~ Wroblewski, David (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle)
Z~ Zusak, Markus (I Am the Messenger)

A~ Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
B~ Blue Heaven by C.J. Box
C~ Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale
D~ The Declaration by Gemma Malley
E~ Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
F~ Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
G~ God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
H~ The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum
I~ I, Alex Cross by James Patterson
J~ Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
L~ Loser by Jerry Spinelli
M~ Matched by Ally Condie
N~ Nocturne by Harrison Gradwell Slater
O~ Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
P~ Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
R~ Resistance, Book 1 by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis
S~ Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
T~ This Is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis
U~ Untraceable by Laura Griffin
W~ Willow by Julia Hoban

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fall Into Reading
Wrap-Up Post

A big thank you to host Katrina at Callapiddar Days!

The weather outside is frightful. Winter must be here, and that means that Fall Into Reading 2009 is over.

I'm pleased to report that I finished ten of the thirteen books on my original list. (Links are to my reviews.)

My favorite of the ten was Unwind, a young adult sci-fi novel that I found very thought-provoking. I'd not previously read anything by Neal Shusterman, but I'm eager to try some more of his work.

I typically do a bit of reading over the Christmas holidays, and I hope to do that again this year. I've already read 81 books this year - one more than in 2008 - and I hope to read three or four more.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Bloggiesta Time!

2nd Edition
January 8-10, 2010

Hosted by Natasha at Maw Books
All the Details

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Don't Tell a Soul by David Rosenfelt

Published in 2008. 306 pages.

I am not (yet) familiar with David Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter mystery series. Don't Tell a Soul is a stand-alone novel and a recent Salt Lake County Library's Reader's Choice nominee. I found it to be a solid thriller as well as a welcome diversion from my busy, chaotic pre-Christmas schedule.

With the completion of Don't Tell a Soul, I have tied my 2008 number of books read. Since there are nearly two more weeks left in the year, I'm sure to exceed it!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Series Challenge 3
Challenge Completion

December 1-November 30
Hosted by Kathrin

There are many series that I enjoy, and I'm pleased by the progress I made on some of them through this challenge - although there are always more to read! (Links are to my reviews.)

I am now caught up the William Monk historical mystery series by Anne Perry (although I had hoped to also read the latest in her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series):

I also read the latest installments in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and Dan Brown's Robert Langdon series:

I am caught up on Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series, except for the most recent installment, Evidence, published in October:

I made some progress with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith, making my way through the sixth book in the series (which currently stands at ten installments):

I also read two more of the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde:

And I read one more of James Patterson's Alex Cross mysteries:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero
by Charise Mericle Harper

Published in 2008. 106 pages.

I didn't like this third Fashion Kitty episode as much as I did the previous two (Fashion Kitty and Fashion Kitty versus the Fashion Queen). I hope that there will be further adventures though!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Published in 2009. 509 pages.

It took me longer to read The Lost Symbol than it did to read The Da Vinci Code (which, as I recall, I read in bed one long Saturday). But the third book in the Robert Langdon series, The Lost Symbol was a compelling read. I'm sure that if I hadn't been so busy and tired over the past few weeks, I'd have read it more quickly.

The action of the book, which takes place in about a day, was fast-paced and filled with puzzles. Like with The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, I was definitely willing to go along for the ride!

The one thing I really struggled with was the idea that a video of Masonic rituals would be considered a national security issue. Maybe strange. Certainly misunderstood. But a national security issue?


Saturday, November 28, 2009

42 Challenge
Challenge Completion

Hosted by Becky at the 42 Challenge Blog

My Original Post

What I Watched and Read
(Links are to my reviews.)
  1. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 31, "Secrets"

  2. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 32, "Bane"

  3. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episodes 33 and 34,
    "The Tok'ra"

  4. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 35, "Spirits"

  5. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

  6. The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

  7. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 36, "Touchstone"

  8. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 37, "The Fifth Race"

  9. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 38, "A Matter of Time"

  10. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 39, "Holiday"

  11. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 40, "Serpent's Song"

  12. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 41, "One False Step"

  13. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 42, "Show and Tell"

  14. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 43, "1969"

  15. Stargate: SG-1, Season 2, Episode 44,
    "Out of Mind (Part 1)"

  16. Stargate: Atlantis, Season 4 (20 episodes)

  17. Stargate: SG-1, Season 3 (22 episodes)

  18. Stargate: SG-1, Season 4 (22 episodes)

  19. Stargate: SG-1, Season 5 (22 episodes)

  20. Stargate: SG-1, Season 6 (22 episodes)

  21. Stargate: SG-1, Season 7 (22 episodes)

  22. InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

  23. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

  24. Stargate: SG-1, Season 8 (20 episodes)

  25. Stargate: SG-1, Season 9 (20 episodes)

  26. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

  27. Stargate: SG-1, Season 10 (20 episodes)

  28. Stargate: The Ark of Truth

  29. Stargate: Continuum

  30. Sanctuary, Season 1 (13 episodes)

  31. WALL-E

  32. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  33. Unwind by Neal Shusterman

  34. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

  35. Stargate: Atlantis, Season 5 (20 episodes)

  36. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

  37. FlashForward, Season 1 (9 episodes and counting)

  38. Stargate: Universe, Season 1 (9 episodes and counting)

  39. Sanctuary, Season 2 (7 episodes and counting)

  40. Star Trek (2009)

  41. V (2009 TV series), Season 1 (4 episodes and counting)

  42. Push (2009)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Awards Challenge III
Challenge Completion

5 months. 5 awards.

A big thank you to host 3M!

The five books I read for this challenge are as follows (with links to my reviews):

There are lots more award-winning books on my to-read list, so it's a good thing that Book Awards 4 will run from February 1 through December 1, 2010. I will be watching for more information on the challenge blog.

Worth by A. LaFaye

Published in 2004. 160 pages.
2005 Scott O'Dell Award.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but neither I nor my fifth grade book group members thought it was "really good." I thought the character development was somewhat weak, but I enjoyed talking about some of the metaphors with the kids and I liked the happy, though ambiguous ending. I love historical fiction - and it was fun having the kids contrast the late 1800s with our day - but they were adamant that our next pick not be another historical fiction.


Rules by Cynthia Lord

Published in 2006. 200 pages.
2007 Newbery Honor Book.
2007 Schneider Family Book Award.

This year my son is in fifth grade, and I volunteered to be a "book club" leader in his classroom. The first pick for my group was Rules, the story of twelve-year-old Catherine who just wants a normal life, which is near impossible with an autistic brother and a family that revolves around his disability. Four fifth-graders and I were able to meet three times to discuss it. We all enjoyed it.

Somewhere I read a review of Rules that said, "Parts are very funny while others are so real it hurts." I completely agree. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

As she reads, I think how useful a cloak that made me invisible would be right now. If I have one, I'd throw it over my head and run out the door and across the parking lot and the street, all the way through the waterfront park to the wharf, and board the first boat I saw going somewhere, anywhere else. [page 23]
I try to hold my hope down, but it keeps popping up again. [page 31] ... On the drive to the clinic, I try not to let my hopes run loose, but they rush with the water under the bridges. [page 41]
At a friend's house, everything is uncomplicated. No one drops toys in the fish tank, no one cares if the cellar door is open or closed, and no one shrieks unless there's a huge, hairy spider crawling up her arm. ... But the best part of being at a friend's house is I can be just me and put the sister part of me down. [page 89]

Rules certainly deserves its accolades as a Newbery Honor Book and as a recipient of a Schneider Family Book Award, which "honors an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."

Rules reminded me of Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars, another book about a girl and her differently-abled brother, which I read and loved as a child and which was the 1971 Newbery Award Winner.

For more information about Rules, check out the discussion guide on Lord's website.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Salt Lake County Library's Reader's Choice

Twice a year the staff of the Salt Lake County Library display their current book favorites for patrons to read and enjoy. Library patrons rate the "Reader's Choice" nominees they read, and the votes determine a winner.

The Shape of Mercy
was the Salt Lake County Library's Reader's Choice winner for July-October 2009 - both county-wide and at my branch. County-wide, the second place pick was a tie between Casting Spells and The School of Essential Ingredients, and the third place was The Lover's Knot. At my branch, the second place pick was The Help, and the third place was The School of Essential Ingredients.

The only one of these "Reader's Choice" picks that I've already read is The School of Essential Ingredients, and I reviewed it here. Have you read any of them?

All the winners going back to 1991 are here. Among the winners that I've read and enjoyed are these:

Monday, November 09, 2009

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Published in 1999. 228 pages.

Keeping the Moon is the fourth of Sarah Dessen's books that I've read. I enjoyed the quirky characters. I think Just Listen is still my favorite though.

Dessen talks about writing Keeping the Moon - and the impact that the book still has on her - on her website.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Women Unbound Reading Challenge

November 1, 2009, to November 30, 2010
Challenge Blog

Co-hosted by Aarti, Care, and Eva

Participants in this challenge are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to "women’s studies."

According to a Wikipedia entry, women's studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning women, feminism, gender, and politics. It often includes feminist theory, women's history, women's fiction, women's health, feminist art, feminist psychoanalysis, and the feminist and gender studies-influenced practice of most of the humanities and social sciences.

There are three levels for readers:
  • Philogynist: Read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction.

  • Bluestocking: Read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction.

  • Suffragette: Read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction.

I'm planning to read as a "suffragette." Here are some of the many books I'm considering:

  • 33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A. by Tonya Bolden

  • America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins

  • The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence by Rachel Simmons

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

  • No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle Freedman

  • Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons by Lynn Peril

  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

  • Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher

  • The Silent Passage by Gail Sheehy

  • Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

  • A novel by Margaret Atwood

  • A novel by Natsuo Kirino

  • The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
    by E. Lockhart

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett

  • The Kayla Chronicles by Sherri Winston

  • The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg

  • Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka

  • The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Treasure Map of Boys
by E. Lockhart

Subtitled Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch - and me, Ruby Oliver.
Published in 2009. 244 pages.

This is the third Ruby Oliver novel, and I loved it just as much as I did the first two, The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book. Ruby is such a fun character. And isn't that cover just adorable?

I'm happy to hear that a fourth Ruby Oliver book, Real Live Boyfriends, will be out in the fall of 2010. In the meantime, I'm checking out what Ruby has to say in her advice column "Ask Ruby."


Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Published in 2009. 391 pages.

This sequel to The Hunger Games was everything I hoped for! Because I'd heard that it ends on a cliffhanger, I had considered waiting to read this until closer to the release of the third book in the trilogy. But I decided that Catching Fire would be perfect for the recent 24-Hour Read-a-Thon - and it was!


Testimony by Anita Shreve

Published in 2008. 305 pages.

I had a hard time putting this one down, but I sometimes found myself wondering, "So what?" or even, "Who cares?" Ultimately, though, Testimony is a thought-provoking exploration of choices and consequences.

Other book bloggers' reviews of Testimony:
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!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Elapsed Time 24:00

Final Report

Time Read: 13:30

Pages Read: 1434. (That's an average of 106 per hour - which was possible only because of the graphic novels I read.)

Books Finished: 5 - The Treasure Map of Boys, Catching Fire, Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero, Blankets, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.

Time Blogged: 7:30

Frame of Mind: I made it to the end! I took an hour-long nap midway through - and I think that was a good move. Reading graphic novels after midnight also helped contribute to my success. Now it's time for some sleep!

Read-a-Thon End-of-Event Survey

Here is my end-of-event survey:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

About halfway through, I was feeling really sleepy. Instead of pushing on, I decided to take an hour-long nap. That made a big difference in my ability to make it to the end.

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

I read two YA novels and then three graphic novels this time, and I think that that was a good approach.

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

This was my fifth time to participate in the Read-a-thon, and I thought it was great!

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

The publicity - by word of mouth or otherwise - was very successful, resulting in a large number of participants.

5. How many books did you read?


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

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero by Charise Mericle Harper. Blankets by Craig Thompson. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

I adore the character Ruby Oliver in The Treasurer Map of Boys, which is the third Ruby Oliver book. Catching Fire, the second in The Hunger Games trilogy, is excellent. And, while not what I expected, Blankets is going to stick with me for a long time.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Neither the most recent Fashion Kitty episode nor the second of the Diary of Wimpy Kid books were particularly outstanding, although I have enjoyed other books in both series.

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! This is one of the few things I do that's just for me. 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 21:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 11:30

Pages Read: 966. (My page rate has increased over the past hour since I switched to graphic novels.)

Books Finished: 3 - The Treasure Map of Boys, Catching Fire, and Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero.

Time Blogged: 6:30

Frame of Mind: Starting on two graphic novels (one for children and one for young adults) has kept my brain from feeling too overloaded. I just may make it through to the end.

Total Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 5.

Additional Food Consumed: Some Teriyaki Beef Jerky. Another Roll of Necco Wafers.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Turn to Page ..."
Hosted by Shel

I would rather read than "arrange an accident" any night!
(From page 23 of Catching Fire.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Elapsed Time 17:30

Progress Report

Time Read: 8:30

Pages Read: 488. (That's an average of 57 per hour.)

Books Finished: 1. (Hopefully it'll be two before too long!)

Time Blogged: 6:00

Frame of Mind: I'm still feeling pretty good. It's getting late though, and my eyes are starting to feel a bit buggy.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 5.

Food Consumed: One Bowl of Lucky Charms Cereal. One Bowl of Microwave Popcorn. One Roll of Necco Wafers. One Bowl of Steamed Broccoli with Melted Cheese. Some Bean Dip with Tortilla Chips. One Utah Truffles Raspberry Bar. One Plate of Chinese Food (Vegie Lo Mein, Lemon Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and Cream Cheese Wontons). Two S'Mores (prepared by my resident 10yo chef). Another Plate of Chinese Food. A Handful of Swedish Fish.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Honouring Dewey"
Hosted by Eva

I just spent a few minutes reading a post I wrote about Dewey right after her death, as well as looking through my email at some of the messages we exchanged. What an amazing woman she was! And how grateful I am to have rubbed shoulders with her in cyberspace!

(Button courtesy of Bethany.)

Elapsed Time 13:30

Progress Report

Time Read: 6:00

Pages Read: 320. (An average of 53 per hour.)

Books Finished: 1. (The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart.)

Time Blogged: 4:30

Frame of Mind: I'm feeling pretty good right now. My husband has brought some Chinese food home from Sampan - so I'll be snacking on that for the next little while, as I continue reading Catching Fire.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 3.

Food Consumed: One Bowl of Lucky Charms Cereal. One Bowl of Microwave Popcorn. One Roll of Necco Wafers. One Bowl of Steamed Broccoli with Melted Cheese. Some Bean Dip with Tortilla Chips. One Utah Truffles Raspberry Bar. One Plate of Chinese Food (Vegie Lo Mein, Lemon Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and Cream Cheese Wontons).

Read-a-Thon Mid-Event Survey

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

1. What are you reading right now?

I'm on page 76 of Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. When Catching Fire was released last month, I thought maybe I'd wait to read it until closer to the release of the third book in the trilogy because I've heard it ends with a big cliff-hanger. In preparation for the read-a-thon, however, I decided that Catching Fire would be a perfect choice for today. (It is!)

2. How many books have you read so far?

I have only finished one - the YA novel The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart.

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

Some quick and easy reads for the second half - as I get more and more sleepy - are the latest in the Fashion Kitty graphic novel series and the two of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series that I haven't yet read.

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

Fortunately, I didn't have any major commitments already on the calendar when I found out about the read-a-thon. It's been hard to stay completely focused on the read-a-thon today, though. I did end up spending about two hours on some family matters this morning.

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

Both of my kids are working on school projects today, so they've needed me to answer questions and give suggestions on and off all afternoon. As the night continues, though, things will be more quiet. (Maybe too quiet.)

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

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

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

This is my fifth time participating in the read-a-thon, and I've enjoyed it every time!

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

If it were possible - but it's probably not - I'd try to arrange to have my family out of the house for a good part of the day.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

I was very sleepy at the start of Hour 11. I decided to not fight it, so I napped for an hour and I'm doing much better now.

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 decided to again focus mostly on YA books, and I think that's a good approach.

Elapsed Time 08:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 2:45

Pages Read: 192. (I'm still reading The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart.)

Books Finished: None (yet).

Time Blogged: 3:15

Frame of Mind: Although I planned to devote the entire day to the read-a-thon, I decided to take two hours off this morning to attend to some family matters. I'm glad I did. That, however - combined the amount of time I've been spending on blogs - has resulted in not much reading progress so far. I'm feeling good, though. There's a thunderstorm rolling in, and I'm very contented to be sitting in my family room reading a good book!

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 2.

Food Consumed: One Bowl of Lucky Charms Cereal. One Bag of Microwave Popcorn. One Roll of Necco Wafers. One Bowl of Steamed Broccoli with Melted Cheese.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Guess the YA Book Covers"
Hosted by Drea at Book Blather

I would have thought that with my love of YA fiction and two teenage daughters that I would know more than 12 of the 25 book covers! I'm eager to learn the answers. I may have some new books to add to my to-read list!

Elapsed Time 03:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 1:00

Pages Read: 80. (I'm reading The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart.)

Books Finished: None (yet).

Time Blogged: 2:00

Frame of Mind: I can't believe it's been three hours already. I've not read much yet, as I keep getting distracted by blogs and Twitter. But I'm having great fun!

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:

Food Consumed:
One Bowl of Lucky Charms Cereal. Part of a Bag of Microwave Popcorn.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Where in the World is the Read-a-Thon?"
Hosted by Trish

Check Out a Google Map of Read-a-Thon Participants!

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Trending on Twitter"
Hosted by WordLily

Introduction Meme

The first activity of the read-a-thon is an Introduction Meme, created by Darcie a few read-a-thons ago. Here goes:

Where are you reading from today?
For the most part, I'll be sitting on the love seat in my family room, with my feet on the ottoman and my laptop computer nearby.

Three facts about me:

  • I have been a fan of books since I first learned how to read with Dick and Jane.

  • I love Diet Coke with Lime, microwave popcorn, and crab cakes - all of which I intend to consume in the course of the read-a-thon.

  • I don't do well when I don't get enough sleep. Participating in an event like this one is a bit of an act of faith that the rewards will outweigh the cost.
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I have five in the "top tier" of my pile. From there, the pile expands another two dozen, including three audio books.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (e.g., number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I would like to finish the five "top tier" books in my pile plus at least one more. I would also like to stay awake for all twenty-four hours, although I think that might be too ambitious (and I won't beat myself up about it if I don't).

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
This is my fifth read-a-thon, and I recommend that everyone take it an hour at a time and just enjoy!

Elapsed Time 00:00

Here We Go!

I'm very rarely up on a Saturday morning before nine or ten, but here I am - excited about participating in my fifth read-a-thon!

Good luck to all the other read-a-thon participants, and a big thank you to Nymeth, Trish, Hannah, Eva, the cheerleaders, and all the other helpers!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Family and Other Animals
by Gerald Durrell

Published in 1956. 288 pages.

I think I'm in the minority, but I didn't love this memoir. The "family" parts were somewhat interesting to me - sometimes downright laugh-out-loud funny - but the "other animals" stuff just isn't my thing.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Kissing Games of the World
by Sandi Kahn Shelton

Published in 2008. 386 pages.

This is a Salt Lake County Library's Reader's Choice nominee for July to October 2009. I was drawn to it by the title and the cover (although the photo is a bit of a mismatch because the main character is blonde). Somewhat reminiscent of the work of Anne Tyler but heavier on the romance, Kissing Games of the World was an enjoyable read.


When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead

Published in 2009. 197 pages.

One of the most unique children's books I've ever read, When You Reach Me is required reading for time travel aficionados, fans (of all ages) of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and grown-ups who loved Harriet the Spy, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Westing Game as young girls. (I belong to each of those categories.) It's also great for those - unlike me - who see the late 1970s as "history."

Rebecca Stead's website is here. Her previous book is First Light.

Other book bloggers' reviews of When You Reach Me:
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!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time Again for Dewey's Read-a-Thon

Mark Your Calendar!

October 24

Beginning at 13:00 GMT
(which is 6 am for me)

For more information,
check out the read-a-thon blog.

In the Pub 2009
Challenge Completion

Hosted by 3M (Michelle)
January 1 - December 31
Challenge Blog

The challenge requirement was to read a minimum of nine books published in 2009 - but no children's or YA titles, since we're "in the pub." At least five of the books had to be fiction.

Although I may read more 2009 books before the end of December, I've completed the nine required, so I'm marking the challenge as "complete." I read two books of non-fiction, both memoirs. Of the seven fiction books I read, three were the most recent installments in favorite series, two were from favorite authors, and one was a debut novel. To see my "In the Pub" reviews, click here.

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox

Published in 2009. 279 pages.

Because I loved Michael J. Fox's Lucky Man when I listened to the audiobook last year, I was eager to read this recently published follow-up. While different in format - it is organized in four categories (Work, Politics, Faith, and Family) rather than chronologically - and somewhat different in tone, Always Looking Up is every bit as smart, funny, and insightful as Lucky Man is.

One of the concepts Fox presented that I especially loved was an idea he got from Christopher Reeve: optimism + knowledge = hope. In the section on "Faith," Fox writes:

Chris Reeve wisely parsed the difference between optimism and hope. Unlike optimism, he said, "Hope is the product of knowledge and the projection of where the knowledge can take us." If optimism is a happy-go-lucky expectation that the odds are in my favor, that things are likely to break my way, and if hope is an informed optimism, facts converting desire into possibility, then faith is the third leg of the stool. Faith tells me that I'm not alone. [pages 201-202]

Here is a passage I liked from the "Politics" section of the book (italics in original):
Our little, shingled Martha's Vineyard saltbox is blessed with an unobstructed view of the Gay Head Lighthouse. Every night its beacon slowly turns, and each half revolution paints the house and hillside with a warm swath of light. From dusk onward, fireflies twinkle through the grasses like Bush forty-one's metaphorical "Thousand Points of Light." The beacon completes another thrity-second sweep of the nightscape, and a wave of brilliance washes out the glow of the insects. A thousand fireflies won't generate the luminescence sufficient to read a roadmap. A lighthouse - more powerful and dependable - speaks to the guiding nature of hope. By equal turns, it illuminates and darkens, so the way forward can be chosen in the light, and trusted in the darkness.

Admittedly, I haven't spent much time in West Texas, but given the amount and variety of brush the President clears on his vacations, my guess is that he has a lot of fireflies on that ranch - and no lighthouse. [pages 99-100]

In the "Family" section, Fox writes the following:
I hate to say it, but I know parents who regard their children as instruments to be played. It's all a matter of what strings to pull and how finely they're tuned. I see them, to extend the metaphor, more as jukeboxes. Put in your two bits, maybe give them a bit of a nudge to get them going, but nine times out of ten, if you're lucky, they're going to play their own tune. [page 237]

I also liked the conclusion Fox made during a road trip he made with his son, after Sam asked, "Are we there yet?":
We are where we are. If we keep moving, we'll be someplace else. We'll know when we get there. [page 262]


Friday, October 09, 2009

Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

Published in 2009. 322 pages.

I think I've read every one of Mary Higgins Clark's mystery and suspense novels. This one isn't anything special - but it was a good escapism read for a MHC fan like me.


Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Published in 2000. 208 pages.

I read Give a Boy a Gun this past summer on the recommendation of my 13yo daughter. It's a powerful testament to the need for gun control in America!

From Todd Strasser's website:

A stunning work of fiction taken straight from today's headlines, Give a Boy a Gun is a stirring wake-up call to stop violence and teasing, and to explore the role of guns in the lives of teenagers.

From the book's "Final Thoughts" (on pages 204-208):
Anyone looking for one simple black-and-white answer to the problem of school violence involving guns will not find it here. ... I have no one answer.

If these changes are going to occur, they will have to start with you, the young person reading this book. If this story has moved you, then it will be your job to keep these ideas alive, to examine your own life and your own school, to keep these issues in the forefront with open discussions and debate. Mine is the generation that will see true gun reform continually stalled by lobby-fattened politicians. Yours is the generation that may someday have the power to make the real changes that will save young lives.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature
by Robin Brande

Published in 2007. 268 pages.

I really liked this debut young adult novel, which (like Unwind) is a 2010 Beehive Award Nominee in Young Adults' Books. I completely agree with this comment from the School Library Journal:

The most impressive thing about this novel is the fairness and empathy with which Brande presents Mena's heartfelt struggle to reconcile her belief in both God and science.

Find out more about Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature at author Robin Brande's blog.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Published in 2007. 335 pages.

Unwind is a Children's Literature Association of Utah 2010 Beehive Award Nominee in the Young Adults' Books category. It was also recently challenged (with six other books) in a high school in Kentucky, as reported by author Laurie Halse Anderson. This dichotomy of views made this science-fiction novel the perfect read for me during Banned Books Week!

First sentence: "There are places you can go," Ariana tells him, "and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen."

Last sentence: At last, he allows himself the wonderful luxury of hope.

In my view, the best works of sci-fi provide commentary about our day and our society. Shusterman has written a book that challenges his readers' ideas about life - where it begins, where it ends, and what it means to be alive - and thereby comments primarily about the political debate between "right to life" and "right to choice," but also about organ donation, terrorism, medical advances, race, legalities, family, and doing the right thing.

Here are two favorite passages:

In a perfect world mothers would all want their babies, and strangers would open up their homes to the unloved. In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn't a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is. [page 75]

"Please ...," says the boy.
Please what? the teacher thinks. Please break the law? Please put myself and the school at risk? But, no that's not it at all. What he's really saying is: Please be a human being. With a life so full of rules and regiments, it's so easy to forget that's what they are. She knows - she sees - how often compassion takes a back seat to expediency. [page 83]

In March 2008, there was a review of Unwind in The New York Times. I agree with this conclusion:

Ultimately, though, the power of the novel lies in what it doesn’t do: come down explicitly on one side or the other.

That's why the book is so brilliant - and why it will be provoking my thoughts for many days to come!


Friday, September 25, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Published in 2008. 312 pages.
With illustrations by Dave McKean.
2009 Newbery Medal.
2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
2008 Cybils Winner.

I adored this Newbery Award winner! I will admit I was a little worried that it would be too "creepy" for my taste - but I was hooked from the first page. The following quote from the Newbery website sums it up well:

A delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing, the tale of Nobody Owens is told in magical, haunting prose. A child marked for death by an ancient league of assassins escapes into an abandoned graveyard, where he is reared and protected by its spirit denizens.