Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Full Cupboard of Life
by Alexander McCall Smith

Originally published in 2003.
Audio book performed by Lisette Lecat.
Saga Award for Wit in 2003 (given to the wittiest British book of the year).

I found this fifth book of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series delightful. There were a number of laugh-out-loud moments. In one of my favorites, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentice makes a comment about how a letter addressed to "Mr. Handsome" couldn't be directed at Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni because he's in his 40s. When confronted with the idea that a 40-year-old man can be considered handsome, the apprentice responds, "Only to another 40-year-old!"


Savvy by Ingrid Law

Published in 2008. 342 pages.
Newbery Honor Book for 2009.

Cute coming-of-age story with a bit of magic thrown in for fun! Here is a favorite sentence:

Lester might not have looked the part of a hero, but I suppose you never can tell right off who might have a piece of Prince Charming deep down inside.


Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson

Originally published in 1977. 128 pages.
1978 Newbery Medal Winner.

I loved this one on my recent re-read just as much as I remember loving it when I read it in the 1970s. Now I want to watch the movie version.

Sadly, Bridge to Terabithia has been the subject of a number of book challenges. The American Library Association lists it as tenth of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2003 and eighth of 2002. The reasons for the challenges are occult/satanism, offensive language, and violence.

I liked this discussion question at the back of my copy of the book:

In the past, some people have suggested that this book is inappropriate for children because it describes death, a topic that some children might not be able to handle. In your opinion, is Bridge to Terabithia an appropriate book for kids your age? How might reading about Jess's loss help students who have to face their own loss someday?


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book Awards Challenge III

5 months. 5 awards.

Hosted by 3M.
Rules and Sign-up on the Challenge Blog.

I'm currently trying to finish Book Awards Challenge II - which ends on June 1. I've completed nine of the ten books required, and I have another one in process right now.

Book Awards Challenge III will begin on July 1. At this point, I don't really know what I'll be reading. I'm sure that one will be a Newbery Medal or Honor Book. The others will likely be from the among the Printz, Pulitzer, Beehive, National Book, Alex, Salt Lake County Reader's Choice, and Cybil awards.

I'm excited to play along again!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published in 2009. 278 pages.

Released on March 19, the same day as the tenth anniversary of her best-selling Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls is another powerful look at the difficult social issues confronting teen girls today.

Check out the Wintergirls website, which includes, among other things, resources about eating disorders and a playlist. (By the way, Sarah MacLachan's "Good Enough" and Evanescence's "My Immortal" and "Bring Me to Life" - all personal favorites of mine - are on that list.) Wintergirls also has a Facebook page.


Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale,
Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale

Published in 2008. 144 pages.

This is the first graphic novel by Newbery Honor-winning novelist Shannon Hale, her husband Dean, and an unrelated man also named Hale. A sequel, entitled Calamity Jack, is due to be published next year.

Rapunzel's Revenge won a 2008-2009 Cybil Award in the category of Graphic Novels - Elementary/Middle Grade.

Be sure to check out Shannon Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge webpage.


An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green

Published in 2006. 215 pages.
2007 Printz Honor Book.

From the book jacket: Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself by Printz medalist John Green.

For my inner geek: As one might deduce from the cover, math plays a role in the plot of this young adult novel, as protagonist Colin Singleton works to devise a Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability. (There is an appendix by mathematician Daniel Bliss that expounds upon the mathematics of the Theorem.) Colin is also a master of anagrams and a lover of trivia, much of which ends up in periodic footnotes.

For the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge: Dewey wrote a review of An Abundance of Katherines in 2008. Two challenge participants who have also reviewed it are raidergirl3 and Bart.

All in all, a fun read!


Friday, May 01, 2009

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

Published in 2005. 280 pages.

This children's historical fantasy novel was April's pick for my main book club. I thought it was delightful!

I have learned that there is great power in words, no matter how long or short they be. [page 35]

"What is your name?" asked Arise Fell.
"Ann," I replied.
"Amen," said my stepmother.
I knew then that my name had been stolen from me and locked away in the study. I would have to find it, for without my name who was I? [page 82]

What is it about water, I wonder, that it always calms me? Maybe it was growing up near the Thames. Seeing the river felt like being greeted by a long-lost friend, and I felt a sudden pang for my home and all that I had lost. [page 108]


Pigboy by Vicki Grant

Published in 2006. 101 pages.

This 2009 Beehive Award Nominee in Young Adults' Books is one of the Orca Currents, "short high-interest novels with contemporary themes, written expressly for middle-school students reading below grade level." It was the perfect read for me in the waning hours of the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon!

My son helped me use Pigboy for a Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge. Vicki Grant's Pigboy webpage is here.


Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold

Published in 1999. 246 pages.

This memoir by the author of The Lovely Bones was a powerful, compelling read.

In the tunnel where I was raped, a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheater, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered. I was told this story by the police. In comparison, they said, I was lucky. [page 3]

There was power to be had in sharing my story. [page 73]

[My writing workshop instructor] knew ... that memory could save, that it had power, that it was often the only recourse of the powerless, the oppressed, or the brutalized. [page 106]


The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Published in 2005. 552 pages.
2007 Printz Honor Book.

The Book Thief, which was Salt Lake County's 2008 "One County, One Book" selection, has been on my to-read list for ages! Because it was January's pick for Becky's Online Reading Group, I decided that that would be the month I'd finally read it. When my friend and colleague Natalie decided she wanted to do a "book lunch" group and picked The Book Thief as the first book, I definitely had to get it read - and I did. Now - more than three months later - I'm finally getting my review posted.

While I didn't find the book to be the "life-changing" experience that some have, I did like it a lot. The characters are fabulous - including Liesel (the book thief of the title), her foster parents, her best friend Rudy (who wants to grow up to be Jesse Owens), the reclusive mayor's wife (who has a fabulous library), and Max (the young Jewish man that Leisel's family hides in their basement)! I loved discovering the various layers of who each of them were as the book progressed.

What I loved the most was the message of the power of words, both for good and for evil. In author Markus Zusak's words, from "A Reader's Guide" at the end of the paperback version of the book:

I ... realized the importance of words in Nazi Germany. I thought of Hitler destroying people with words, and now I had a girl who was stealing them back, as she read books with the young Jewish man in her basement and calmed people down in the bomb shelters. She writes her own story - and it's a beautiful story - through the ugliness of the world that surrounds her.


Hot Lunch by Alex Bradley

Published in 2007. 276 pages.

This 2009 Beehive Award Nominee in Young Adults' Books was a fun read with important messages about healthy food choices and improving school lunches.

Great-aunt Dorothy apologized for the food. She was ninety-one, but she had strong feelings on the subject of food. "The food here [at the senior center] tastes like it was made by people who actually hate pleasure," she said. "People who've never eaten a fresh tomato, or real butter, or bacon, or garden peas, or blue cheese, or raspberries from the back yard, or homemade bread with honey on it!"

"I knew that's what it tasted like," I said, "I just didn't know how to say it." [page 125]

What did food mean to me? How had I become a "candy vegetarian"? And how much had I changed in the past several weeks? Why hadn't I ever thought about food before, and how it impacted not just me and my health, but the health and well-being of my community and my planet? Not to mention my taste buds. I remember the cake that Cassie and I had made - the first from-scratch cake I'd ever made - and how good it was. I remembered Edmund's simple but delicious tomato soup. I remembered how that local applie Clyde had let me taste had made the supermarket apple taste like dust. I remember Great-aunt Dorothy's speech in favor of flavor. And I remembered Patty's suggestion that cooking was like magic. [page 253]


Self-Indulgent Caveat

I love talking about books, thinking about books, writing about books. Although my original intent, when I created this blog at the beginning of 2007, was simply to keep track of the books I read, I have enjoyed writing reviews of what I've read.

In recent months, however, I've been busier than ever with my work and with my family. I've chosen to spend what time I have available to read new books rather than write reviews of the ones I've already read. And as I get further and further behind on my reviews, I'm starting to dread the attempt to get caught up - which is resulting in further procrastination.

Therefore, for the next little while at least, I will be unapologetic about posting limited reviews of the books I read. I do hope that you'll continue to leave comments!