Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Published in 2004. 374 pages.

I read Dessen's Just Listen during the summer last year. My daughter recommended The Truth About Forever to me as her favorite of Dessen's books. I enjoyed them both and look forward to reading more.

Dessen talks about The Truth About Forever on her website.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Published in 2007. 271 pages.

I read this one at the recommendation of my nine-year-old son. A reluctant reader, particularly of fiction, he was so excited about this series - which he heard about from some school friends - that he asked his grandmother for both Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the sequel Rodrick Rules for Christmas. (A third book The Last Straw has just been published.) I got him the Do-It-Yourself Book as a Christmas gift too. He says that this series is "awesome!"

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is "a novel in cartoons" - not really a graphic novel, but designed to look like a journal of lined paper with drawings in it. I enjoyed it, even if I found much of the humor to be more appreciated by a nine-year-old boy than by his mom. I do like the mom in the book; we see her through the eyes of Greg (the "wimpy kid" of the title) but it's evident that she's a feminist and good at imposing consequences for bad behavior. Most of all, I love that my son has a book that he loves!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Own Private 999

I really enjoyed Michelle's Triple 8 (or 888) Challenge last year - even though I haven't yet finished it (although I do plan to do that). She isn't doing a 999 for 2009, although I understand that there is a group from LibraryThing that is.

Because I love lists and categories - but because I just really can't commit to a huge challenge like that this year - I've created my own private 999, just for me: nine books in each of nine categories, with no more than nine overlaps, for a total of 72 to 81 books. Here are my categories:

  • Bee Bonanza (Nine books from the 2009 Beehive Book Nominees. The Beehive Awards are sponsored by the Children's Literature Association of Utah (CLAU) in five categories: Children's Picture Book, Children's Fiction Book, Children's Informational Book, Young Adults' Book, and Children's Poetry Book. Winners are chosen from the nominated books by the children of Utah, who vote for their favorite books. A list of the 2009 nominees can be found here.)

  • Books in a Series (Nine books from one of the many series that I'm currently reading - or maybe from a new series.)

  • Escapism Reads (Nine books from the genres of mystery/suspense thriller, science fiction, fantasy, chick lit, or maybe even romance.)

  • IRL Book Club Picks (Nine books from my in-real-life book club picks. I love my book clubs! I'm currently meeting with one that I've been with since 2002 - although a lot of the people have changed over time - and also with one for my church women's group. My friend Natalie has just started a lunch book club that I hope will be successful too.)

  • Midvale Middle School Book Challenge List (Nine books from the "book challenge" at the middle school that my daughter attends. In this challenge, participants are to read 30 of the books on a list of recommended YA books. I want to read some of the current - 2008-2009 school year - recommendations, and if necessary some of those for 2009-2010.)

  • My Mom's Book Club Picks (Nine of the books that my mom is reading with her long-time book club. I've got the list on one of my goodreads shelves.)

  • My Sisters' Book Clubs Picks (Nine of the books that my sisters Emily and Elicia are reading with their book clubs. Emily and Elicia no longer meet with the same book club I do, and I am curious about what books their groups are reading. I've got their lists on two of my goodreads shelves.)

  • Non-Fiction Books (Nine books from the genre of biography/memoir or other non-fiction categories.)

  • Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice (Nine of either the 2009 nominees or past winners of the SLCLS Reader's Choice. Recently published books are chosen twice a year by the Salt Lake County Library staff as books they enjoyed reading and think library patrons will enjoy too. Patrons vote for their favorites.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Published in 2006. 335 pages.

First sentence of the prologue: Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me, and the fry cook.

First sentences of chapter one: I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.

Last sentence: For this old man, this is home.

Basic concept: Ninety-year-old (or maybe 93-year-old) Jacob Jankowski reminisces about his life at age twenty-three as a veterinarian with a traveling circus during the Great Depression.

Why I read this book: I put Water for Elephants on my to-read list back in October 2007. I heard good things about it all last year, but I hadn't yet made the time to read it - although I really did want to read it at some point. (I was a little hesitant, I think, because I knew that the book was, at least in part, about a circus, and I am not a fan of circuses. I also always worry a little when I've heard so many good things about a book; can it possibly be as good as everyone says?) In December, my book club did a Christmas book exchange, and I was thrilled to receive a copy of Water for Elephants. This was fortuitous as well, since the book was chosen as our book for January's meeting (which is on Wednesday).

Why I loved this book: Once I starting reading, I just couldn't put this book down. The story was compelling, and the writing style was comfortable. I loved the character of Jacob, and the alternating scenes between his time with the circus in the 1930s and his time at the care center in his nineties was the perfect way for the reader to get to know and understand him. The prologue sets up a bit of a mystery, too, about which I wanted to learn more. All in all, a terrific read!

Something I didn't love: There were a couple of graphic scenes of sexuality that I wouldn't have missed. The scenes could have been less explicit, maybe even left out all together. Their presence makes my recommendation of the book as a winner of an Alex Award in 2007 - for adult books that are appealing to young people, ages 12 to 18 - less enthusiastic than it would otherwise be.

Something I didn't understand: One of the discussion questions in the back of my copy indicates that the author has said that the "backbone" of the novel "parallels the biblical story of Jacob" in the book of Genesis. I am fairly biblically literate, and this statement didn't make any sense to me at all. I googled it and found this discussion on - interesting, but I'm still not sure I really see it.

Other book bloggers' reviews of Water for Elephants:
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, January 17, 2009

The Rhyming Season by Edward Averett

Published in 2005. 214 pages.

I didn't fall in love with this one immediately. I'm still not sure how I feel about a few aspects of the story. But I did enjoy this 2007-2008 Beehive Award Nominee in Young Adults' Books.

The premise - mixing poetry with basketball - was a fun one, definitely unique.

Brenda Jacobsen's voice reminded me a little of D.J.'s in the fabulous Dairy Queen.

There wasn't anything the least bit objectionable - no profanity, no depictions of sex, and when the team goes out to the forest to hang out, they share a Pepsi, not beer. While I know that profanity, sex, and alcohol are reality among some groups of teens, I also know that the lack thereof is reality for others - and I was happy to see that possibility portrayed in a contemporary YA novel.

In the end, I just can't resist a good girls' basketball story!


Friday, January 02, 2009

Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

Subtitled How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon.
Published in 2006.
80 pages (including sources, notes, and a section "For Further Exploration").

This 2007-2008 Beehive Award Nominee in Informational is an awe-inspiring look at all those behind that the first walk on the moon in 1969.

Yes, three heroic men went to the moon; but it was a team of four hundred thousand people that put them there. They were the flight directors, controllers, planners, and engineers; the rocket designers and builders and technicians; the managers, supervisors, quality control and safety inspectors; the programmers, electricians, welders, seamstresses, gluers, painters, doctors, geologists, scientists, trainers, and navigators . . .

Apollo 11 is their story too. [page 7]


Series Challenge - Third Time's a Charm?

Twice before I have set goals for Kathrin's Series Challenge - and twice before I have failed to reach those goals. I still am interested in the many series that I have started reading over the years, though, so I am going to attempt the challenge for a third time.

The rules of Series Challenge Season 3 are somewhat different than before. This time participants have to read at least four books, with the idea of getting up-to-date on one or more of the series they are reading. The challenge runs December 1 through November 30.

I keep track of the series I read on this blog. Among those I'd like to catch up on this year - or at least make some progress in - are Anna Pigeon, Thursday Next, and Inspector Alan Banks.