Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall into Reading 2010
Status Report

About five weeks into the challenge, I've read five of the 26 books on my Fall into Reading list:

  • Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood

  • The Declaration by Gemma Malley

  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

  • I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Host Katrina has posted some reading questions for challenge participants to answer. I offer a few of my thoughts:

What do you think is the biggest obstacle to your reading? What prevents you from reading as much as you’d like?

"Not enough time" is certainly the simple, though not complete answer. Time is indeed a significant factor, as illustrated by the fact that I read 30 books this year from January through June (an average of five per month) but since completing a five-year work commitment on June 30, I've read another 43 books (almost 11 per month). I know that I could read more, however, if I spent less time on Facebook. I also struggle with what I call "the book blogger's dilemma" - that is, finding the proper balance between reading books and blogging about them.

Do you eat/drink while reading? If so, do you have some favorite reading snacks?

Although I don't always eat or drink while reading, I do enjoy combining food and books. My favorite reading snack is microwave popcorn. I also enjoy reading while I eat a meal. In the last several months - since I have more time mid-day than I used to have - I've been having lunch every few weeks at Cafe Zupas or Paradise Bakery with a book.

When you read a book, do you read everything? In other words, do you read the dedication, the acknowledgements, the foreword, the afterword, the prologue, the epilogue, the appendix, etc.? Or do you just read the "meat" of the book? Or is your approach somewhere in between?

I read everything! Two recent reads with lots of "extras" were the non-fiction young adult history Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice and the novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Published in 2010. 326 pages.

I wanted to love this book. A historical fiction novel. Set during World War II. With not just one but three female protagonists. Each revealing part of the story from her own perspective. The Postmistress had all the elements of a great read! Alas ...

The book started slow for me, but I kept going because it was both a Book Buddies pick and a Salt Lake County Reader's Choice nominee. I kept hoping that something would happen that would captivate me - or at least let me see what the author was trying to tell her readers. Unfortunately, that never happened - even as I neared the end and just "knew" that I would finally be happy with the tale. The more I hoped for the book to come together in a way that I'd find satisfying, the more irritated I got ... and then I just got crabby.

  • If I had read "he leaned in to light her cigarette" one more time, I would have screamed.

  • What was with the weird, unrelated scenes of sexuality and discussions of women's reproductive health issues?

  • The plot was not cohesive. There were several "short stories" that I quite enjoyed, but as a novel it just didn't come together.

  • Even the title misrepresents the content, as "the postmistress" is only one of three female protagonists.

For a more thoughtful and positive review, check out Dawn's thoughts at She Is Too Food of Books.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand?

Hosted by 5 Minutes for Books

Right now - just in time for Halloween - I'm finishing up The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. It is a Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice nominee, and it will also be the November/December read for my long-time book club.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is the next pick for my "book lunch girls" meeting, so it is on my nightstand, as is The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, which is the Book Buddies selection for November.

In the next few weeks I'm hoping to read two non-fiction books on women's issues to complete the Women Unbound challenge by November 30. The two I'll likely read:

I'll also be continuing work on my Fall into Reading list all through November and into December. (Since I've only read four of the 26 books so far, I've got a long way to go!) Among the titles I'm most excited to read in the next few weeks:

Check out what other people have
on their nightstands here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buster Midnight's Cafe by Sandra Dallas

Published in 1990. 277 pages.

I've been wanting to read Sandra Dallas for a long time, so I was eager to get to this one - her first novel - for the October meeting with my "book lunch girls." I finished it this rainy Saturday morning while wrapped in a blanket in bed.

I think I started the book with a misconception. My friend Sue, who picked this month's book, had said we needed some lighter reading than we'd had recently, and she called the narrator "hilarious." My fourteen-year-old daughter, who read the book before I got to it, also said the book was "funny." As I started reading, however, although I found the characters to be fun and quirky - especially the names of Effa Commander and Whippy Bird, I wasn't finding the story to be at all funny. Poverty, prostitution, cancer, even boxing, are not light topics. Even the theme of friendship is one that I find more meaningful than light-hearted. (I looked up "light-hearted" in the dictionary: "Not being burdened by trouble, worry, or care; happy and carefree.") While friendship can, at times, be happy and carefree, I prefer relationships that are occasionally burdened by trouble, worry, and care - and the friendship of May Anna, Effa, and Whippy is certainly one with burdens.

I was about halfway through the book when I decided that it wasn't a light-hearted book and that I should just continue reading it through my personal worldview. Once that happened, I enjoyed the book a whole lot more. The power of friendship to sustain people through war, loss, and death. The ability of friends to come together to support and strengthen one another. The importance of assuming the best of those we love and seeing the good in them. Those are all themes I found in the novel. Dallas does a good job of exploring them through the lives and relationships of fun, quirky characters with an interesting and compelling storyline. I look forward to reading more of her work!

There is one aspect of the book that really bugged me. Effa Commander, the narrator of the story, frequently uses bad grammar - especially "me and ..." as the subject of a sentence. I understand that this was supposed to give the reader a sense of who Effa is, and while I accept that she is uneducated and unpretentious, her use of words in other ways is so beautiful and so effective that these instances of bad grammar grated on my nerves.

Have you read any of Sandra Dallas' books? Which one would you recommend I read next?


Friday, October 22, 2010

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie
by Jordan Sonnenblick

Published in 2004. 273 pages.

Heart-breaking. Humorous.
Heart-warming. Honest.
You have to love it when the doctor lays all this horrific stuff on you and then tells you not to worry. It's like saying, "Here's thirty-seven pounds of assorted chocolates. Try not to think about food, though." Or "Look! There's Renee Albert in a bikini. But please try to keep your mind on algebraic functions." [page 235]

Author Jordan Sonnenblick's website.

2005 ALA Teens' Top Ten.

Sequel - After Ever After (2010).


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Picks for Book Clubs

As the member of several book clubs, past and present, I was interested by the Top Ten Discussion Books list compiled by Reading Group Guides. I have read eight of the ten, all with a book club of one kind or another:

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (I read this one on my own at the end of 2009, and it made the list of my favorite books of the year. It was also a pick of the Book Buddies online book group this year.)
  2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (I read this one with my long-time book club in January and posted a review.)
  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (I read this one with my long-time book club, back in October 2006 before I started book blogging. I did post a few thoughts on my "other" blog. In January 2007, another book club I met with briefly read the book, but the discussion was less than satisfying for me, as I explained here, and I stopped attending this book club.)
  4. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (This was a pick for my long-time book club in 2006, and in January 2009 I re-read it with my church women's group book club, which is now defunct, and posted a review.)
  5. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (This was the "book club" read for my annual women's retreat in June 2008. I started it there and continued reading it through the summer.)
  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (I read this with my "book lunch girls" in February 2009 and posted a review. Then in June this was the "book club" read for my annual women's retreat.)
  7. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (I first read this one with my long-time book club in the summer of 2005. My church women's group book club read it in January 2007, and I posted a few thoughts.)
  8. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (I haven't read this one yet, although my mom recommended it to me not too long ago.)
  9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (I read this one with my long-time book club in May 2009 and posted a few thoughts about it.)
  10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (This one has been on my to-read list for several years, but I've not yet read it.)

As a fan of young adult and children's novels, I was also interested in the Top 10 Young Adults/Kids Books list. Of these, I've read eight, many of them with a reading group:

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (I read this one on my own at the end of 2009 and posted a review.)
  2. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Although I read two of DiCamillo's other books in a mother-daughter book club - The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - this one remains on my to-read list.)
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (I read this with the "book lunch girls" early in 2009 and posted a review. It was also the 2008 Salt Lake County "One County, One Book.")
  4. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (I read this one with the Book Buddies in November 2007 and posted a review.)
  5. The Giver by Lois Lowry (I've never discussed this all-time favorite with a group but have always wanted to. I posted a few thoughts on re-reading in January 2008.)
  6. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (I've not read this one yet.)
  7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (I read this one with the "book lunch girls" in the summer of 2009 and posted a few thoughts.)
  8. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (I read The Deathly Hallows - the seventh book of the series - during the summer of 2007 and posted my review. My church women's group book club met to discuss it shortly thereafter. I read all the other books in the series on my own, pre-book blog.)
  9. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (I picked The Hunger Games for both the "book lunch girls" and my long-time book club in the summer of 2009, and I posted some discussion questions. I've since read the other two books in the trilogy on my own.)
  10. Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (I chose Twilight for my long-time book club in June 2007 and posted a few thoughts and some discussion questions. My church women's group book club met to discuss Twilight a few months later. I read the rest of the series along with my daughters, including a formal discussion of New Moon at a lunch outing.)

What books have you enjoyed reading and discussing with a book group?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

13 Little Blue Envelopes
by Maureen Johnson

Published in 2005. 321 pages.

First line: As a rule, Ginny Blackstone tried to go unnoticed - something that was more or less impossible with thirty pounds (she'd weighed it) of purple-and-green backpack hanging from her back.

Brief summary (from the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data): When seventeen-year-old Ginny receives a packet of mysterious envelopes from her favorite aunt, she leaves New Jersey to criss-cross Europe on a sort of scavenger hunt that transforms her life.

Why I read this book: I've been hearing good things about young adult novelist Maureen Johnson's work for a while, but I hadn't read any of her books until now. Tricia of Library Queue had recommended 13 Little Blue Envelopes to me as a short, quick read published in 2005, as I worked to finish the Countdown Challenge. (Tricia's review is here.)

A few random thoughts: Very nice read, particularly good for the Read-a-Thon! Ginny had her very own personal, miniature version of The Amazing Race - and, like the racers I admire most, learned more about herself in the process. I especially loved hearing about her adventures in Amsterdam and Copenhagen because, although I've never been there myself, I did recognize much of it from the photos and souvenirs that my sisters and I compiled into a scrapbook for my parents from their trip there a few years ago.

Something notable: 13 Little Blue Envelopes was an ALA Teens' Top Ten for 2006 (as was Peeps, which I also recently read.)

For more fun: Check out Maureen Johnson's website, including some FAQs about 13 Little Blue Envelopes. (I'm also now following Johnson on Twitter.) A sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, titled The Last Little Blue Envelope, is scheduled for publication next spring.

From the peanut gallery: My 14-year-old book-loving daughter says, "I thought Suite Scarlett was cute, so I want to read this one."


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We Have a Winner

As promised, I have randomly selected (using one lucky person from those who left a comment on my review of The Day the Falls Stood Still and will be passing along my copy to her.

And the book goes to . . . . Sue!
(Sue, I'll get the book to you shortly.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood

Published in 2005. 335 pages.

I loved this novel that was part the journey of a woman from childhood to adulthood, part a mystery tale, part an exploration of faith, and part the story of a marriage! It was heart-breaking and faith-affirming. It was filled with both sorrow and hope.

This is part of the description of the novel on goodreads:

Lizzy Mitchell was raised from the age of two by her uncle, a Catholic priest. When she was nine, he was falsely accused of improprieties with her and dismissed from his church, and she was sent away to boarding school. Now thirty years old and in a failing marriage, she is nearly killed in a traffic accident. What she discovers when she sets out to find the truths surrounding the accident and about the accusations that led to her uncle's death does more than change her life. With deft insight into the snares of the human heart, Monica Wood has written an intimate and emotionally expansive novel full of understanding and hope.

The title of the book comes from a poignant Bible verse:
The full soul tramples upon the honeycomb,
but to the hungry soul, any bitter thing tastes sweet.
- Proverbs 27:7

Any Bitter Thing was a finalist for Beliefnet's 2005 Best Spiritual Book of the Year. I'd never read anything by Monica Wood before, but I think I'll have to look for her other work. Her website is here.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Reading Dilemma

I've publicly stated that one of the best things about a book club is reading books you wouldn't choose on your own. (I said that here as well as in a number of book club meetings and casual conversations.)

I've also publicly stated that I'll never read anything written by Glenn Beck. (I said it here and also implied it here.)

Can you guess what my long-time book club is reading for our November 4 meeting? That would be The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck. How do I deal with this dilemma?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Read-a-Thon End-of-Event Survey

I ended up bailing from the read-a-thon with just over two hours to go. I know I could have forced myself to stay awake, but I also know that, given my commitments for this afternoon, today would have been miserable for me if I hadn't gotten some sleep. So I opted for a better day today! (I'm still going to need to go to bed early tonight.)

Here is my end-of-event survey:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Besides the end of Hour 22, when I decided to call it good, the hardest hour was Hour 16, when I just couldn't keep sitting any longer.

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

In general, I think young adult novels are the best read-a-thon picks.

One thing I did this time that I've never done before was listen to an audiobook while just sitting on the sofa. I've used audiobooks when I've had to drive somewhere during the read-a-thon or when I've wanted to get some chores done. This time I started an audiobook for those two purposes - but then I decided to just keep listening. I followed the Twitter feed some while listening, and I also instant messaged with a friend and played some word games while I listened. My tired brain definitely benefited from the change of approach for several hours.

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

This was my seventh 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?

I had a lot of visits from cheerleaders this year. They were truly terrific!

5. How many books did you read?

Two - plus part of two others.

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

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Fly On the Wall by E. Lockhart. Part of Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood. Part of The Declaration by Gemma Malley.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

13 Little Blue Envelopes was my first Maureen Johnson book; I'm sure I'll be reading more from her in the future.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

There were parts of Fly On the Wall that I really liked, but there were also parts that I really didn't.

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 is just for me. I'd like to be a reader again.

Elapsed Time 21:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 11:15

Pages Read: Approximately 700 (including the equivalent of four hours of audiobook listening).

Books Finished: 2. (Fly On the Wall by E. Lockhart and 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.)

Time Blogged: 7:15

Frame of Mind: I've decided that I'm going to take off my contact lenses and then read until I fall asleep. I'm not doing too badly, but I just can't see myself muddling through three more hours. A big "thank you" to the cheerleaders and other visitors who've left me comments of encouragement!

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:

Food Consumed:
Two mugs of hot cocoa. A bowl of fresh raspberries with raspberry yogurt. Two biscuits with cheese, and two hard-boiled eggs. One Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar. A handful of Good & Plenty. A handful of cashews. Chinese take-out from Panda Express. One chocolate-dipped strawberry, and several pieces of Hershey's Bliss. Some Pringles potato chips.

Elapsed Time 19:30

Progress Report

Time Read: 10:15

Pages Read: 488, plus about 3 1/2 hours listening to an audio book (the equivalent of about 160 pages).

Books Finished: Just 1 - although I've made progress on three others.

Time Blogged: 7:15

Frame of Mind: I'm thinking that I'll maybe finish my audio book of Fly On the Wall and then head to bed. I'm not completely exhausted, but I'm worrying a little about my ability to complete a few tasks on tomorrow's to-do list if I've not had any sleep.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:
3 1/2.

Food Consumed:
Two mugs of hot cocoa. A bowl of fresh raspberries with raspberry yogurt. Two biscuits with cheese, and two hard-boiled eggs. One Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar. A handful of Good & Plenty. A handful of cashews. Chinese take-out from Panda Express. One chocolate-dipped strawberry, and several pieces of Hershey's Bliss. Some Pringles potato chips.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Non-Fiction Read-a-Thon"
Hosted by Susie QTPies at Scraps of Life

I've got four non-fiction books in my read-a-thon piles - although I'm doubtful at this point that I'll get them read:

Girl Sleuth:
Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her

by Melanie Rehak

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
by Phillip Hoose

Looking Like the Enemy:
My Story of Imprisonment
in Japanese American Internment Camps

by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald

They Called Themselves the KKK:
The Birth of an American Terrorist Group

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Hosted by Carina at Reading Through Life

Elapsed Time 14:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 7:15

Pages Read: 446, plus one hour listening to an audio book (the equivalent of about 50 pages).

Books Finished: 1.

Time Blogged: 5:15

Frame of Mind: I'm glad I went for a walk earlier, but I'm feeling a little discouraged that I haven't got more reading done than I have. I'm thinking that I might switch to a different book for a while. I have enjoyed the mini-challenges I participated in today, so I send a big "thank you" to those who've sponsored those!

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:

Food Consumed:
Two mugs of hot cocoa. A bowl of fresh raspberries with raspberry yogurt. Two biscuits with cheese, and two hard-boiled eggs. One Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar. A handful of Good & Plenty. A handful of cashews. Chinese take-out from Panda Express. One perfect chocolate-dipped strawberry (prepared for me by my 11yo personal chef).

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Title Word Scramble"
Hosted by Sheery at Sheery's Place
  1. yfferil enal = Firefly Lane

  2. aste fo eend = East of Eden

  3. retwa orf pntshleea = Water for Elephants*

  4. ot lkli a ckomgnrbdii = To Kill a Mockingbird*

  5. het gtaer ysbtag = The Great Gatsby

  6. yrhra tetrpo dna eth lyhdtea wollsah = Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows*

  7. hte rat fo nrgcai ni eht nair = The Art of Racing in the Rain

  8. eth mite reslveart efwi = The Time Traveler's Wife*

  9. eht rlig iehw eht gnodar ooattt = The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  10. ydira fo a mypiw idk = Diary of a Wimpy Kid*

  11. a kwrlnei ni emit = A Wrinkle in Time*

  12. het rpoal sxprese = The Polar Express*

  13. vole dewlak ni = Love Walked In

  14. reehw eth dwli hingts rea = Where the Wild Things Are*

  15. eht ginnhsi = The Shining

  16. dnohogigt oonm = Goodnight, Moon*

  17. vwtienrie hwti a pvmarie = Interview with a Vampire

  18. eht cretse file fo eesb = The Secret Life of Bees*

  19. eht raesch = The Search

  20. het pelh = The Help*
*I've read this one.

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 89 of Any Bitter Thing. It is a book I've had on my to-read for quite some time.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I have finished only one - 13 Little Blue Envelopes. In addition to my current read, I've also listened to about one-quarter of Fly on the Wall while I was playing "taxi mom" earlier.

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

I've got so many to choose from, it's difficult to pick just one! Maybe The Declaration or Twenty Boy Summer. I'm also looking forward to Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1.

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 heard the date of the read-a-thon.

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

My daughter wanted a ride to the mall mid-afternoon, so I decided to take a break at that point. After dropping her off, I went for a three-mile walk and then made a stop at the library. Besides, that I haven't had too many interruptions.

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

I am totally amazed by the number of people who are participating!

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

Things seem to be running very well!

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

I think things have gone quite well for me so far. I spent some time creating book piles and preparing blog templates prior to today, and I think that was helpful.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

I'm not really tired yet. But I haven't been solely concentrating on the read-a-thon either, so I guess we'll see what the next few hours bring.

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?

In my experience, graphic novels can be good picks for the wee hours of the night.

Elapsed Time 7:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 3:45

Pages Read: 321.

Books Finished: 1. (13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.)

Time Blogged: 3:15

Frame of Mind: I've been enjoying my reading and blogging. I'm still in my pajamas, though, and starting to think that I need a break to shower and dress. It's hard for me to believe that it's already been seven hours!

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:

Food Consumed:
Two mugs of hot cocoa. A bowl of fresh raspberries with raspberry yogurt. Two biscuits with cheese, and two hard-boiled eggs. One Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Indie Pride"
Hosted at {Indie}pendent Books

So, I learned something new today! Apparently, in the same way that the accounting industry has the Big 4 (although when I started work as an auditor out of college, it was the Big 8), book publishing has the Big Six.

For this challenge, I checked the publishers of many of the books in my read-a-thon piles and determined that the majority are, in fact, from one of the Big Six. One of the others is this book (which I'm reading because my fourteen-year-old daughter read it as part of her summer reading for school and because it qualifies for the YA-D2 Reading Challenge), published by Bloomsbury:

Can you see it there in one of my piles?

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Six-Word Celebration"
Hosted by Andi at Estella's Revenge

Books. Blogs. Chocolate. Me time. Aah!

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Show Me the Books"
Hosted by Crystal at My Reading Room

Elapsed Time 4:15

Progress Report

Time Read: 2:30

Pages Read: 183. (I am reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.)

Books Finished: None yet.

Time Blogged: 1:45

Frame of Mind: I feel like I'm moving slowly this morning. But I'm enjoying my book and my food, and I'm encouraged by the cheerleaders and other participants who are visiting my blog and Tweeting about the read-a-thon.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:
Only part of 1.

Food Consumed:
Two mugs of hot cocoa. A bowl of fresh raspberries with raspberry yogurt.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Back-in-the-Day Children's Books"
Hosted by Elizabeth at Miss Wisabus

I adore children’s and young adult books. Many of the multitudes of books in my read-a-thon piles are children’s or young adult titles. I’m starting with Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

Favorites from childhood include Harriet the Spy, which I re-read with my 11-year-old son’s school book club last year, A Wrinkle in Time, and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. I belonged to a Nancy Drew book club in elementary school too; I’ve still got all those books in a box in the basement.

New favorites include the Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, and many of the novels by Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Introduction Meme

The first activity of the read-a-thon is a short little meme that has become the Hour 1 tradition. 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. I might decide to venture out of the house this year for a bit, maybe to the library or to a favorite cafe, but we'll have to see how it goes.

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, Mexican food, and chocolate - all of which I intend to consume in the course of the read-a-thon.

  • I'm addicted to Facebook and goodreads, and I also enjoy Twitter. You can follow my Tweets here.
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I've posted photos of my read-a-thon piles here.

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 love to read at least five books and to stay awake for all twenty-four hours. However, I think that might be too ambitious, so I'm really going to just enjoy myself - and I won't beat myself up about it if I don't meet my goals.

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
This is my seventh read-a-thon, and I recommend that no one worry about doing everything. Just do what seems like fun and enjoy!

Elapsed Time 0:00

Here We Go!

Getting up on a Saturday morning before anyone else in the house - and before the sun - goes against my personal code of conduct, but I am here and I'm ready to read!

This is my seventh time participating in Dewey's Read-a-Thon. (Yes, I was there at the start!) I'm thinking that I might mix things up a bit in my participation this year - maybe going to the library to read for a while, maybe taking a book to a favorite cafe for lunch, maybe taking a break for a walk - but I guess I'll just get started and see what happens.

Good luck to all the other read-a-thon participants, and a big thanks to the hosts, the cheerleaders, and all the other helpers! (If you're just stopping by and want to know more about what's happening, check out the read-a-thon blog or the Twitter feed.)

Friday, October 08, 2010

What I'm Reading During the Read-a-Thon Tomorrow

In April, for the last read-a-thon, I had no time to make preparations. Out of necessity, I started with a book I already had in progress and then just went to something else and then something else on my shelf.

For this read-a-thon, I've had time to contemplate titles and assemble book piles. I'm not sure if that's a good thing! Because, apparently, I had too much time on my hands this week. Here's the evidence:

My "first tier" picks.
(I plan to start with 13 Little Blue Envelopes.)

My "second tier" picks - in case I finish everything
in the first tier. (Just kidding!)

A pile of books that I think I'll find compelling
should I need a fresh start.

Some graphic novels for late night (or early morning) reading when my brain feels fried.

Some audiobooks for "reading" with my ears while I fold laundry or provide taxi services for my kids.

And if those don't suffice, I can always make a quick trip to the library or peruse my bookshelves for some more ideas!

The Wives of Henry Oades
by Johanna Moran

Published in 2010. 367 pages.

I read The Wives of Henry Oades with the Book Buddies online book group in August. Although I hadn't heard of the book before it was suggested for the group, the premise intrigued me. From the publisher's website:

When Henry Oades accepts an accountancy post in New Zealand, his wife, Margaret, and their children follow him to exotic Wellington. But while Henry is an adventurer, Margaret is not. Their new home is rougher and more rustic than they expected—and a single night of tragedy shatters the family when the native Maori stage an uprising, kidnapping Margaret and her children.

For months, Henry scours the surrounding wilderness, until all hope is lost and his wife and children are presumed dead. Grief-stricken, he books passage to California. There he marries Nancy Foreland, a young widow with a new baby, and it seems they’ve both found happiness in the midst of their mourning—until Henry’s first wife and children show up, alive and having finally escaped captivity.

Narrated primarily by the two wives, and based on a real-life legal case, The Wives of Henry Oades is the riveting story of what happens when Henry, Margaret, and Nancy face persecution for bigamy. Exploring the intricacies of marriage, the construction of family, the changing world of the late 1800s, and the strength of two remarkable women, Johanna Moran turns this unusual family’s story into an unforgettable page-turning drama.

Like Shanghai Girls and The Help - both of which the Book Buddies read and discussed just prior to reading The Wives of Henry Oades - this is a novel about women and their stories. I found myself identifying with both wives, unable to take sides. In the end, I think the theme of the book is the power of women's connections, a theme foreshadowed early in the novel:
Margaret tried, but she couldn't make [Henry] understand an affection forged in a single morning. The small transactions between women, particularly mothers, cannot adequately be explained to a man. Some, like hers with Mrs. Randolph, will bind women for life.

For more information, check out Johanna Moran's website - I particularly enjoyed "The Story Behind the Story" - and reviews by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews and Amy of My Friend Amy.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Untraceable by Laura Griffin

Published in 2009. 374 pages.

For most of the decade from 1990 to 1999, I primarily read mystery and suspense novels. My three children were born during that decade, and most of my reading was a form of escapism. As my children have grown, my reading habits have changed - for a lot of reasons, I think - but I still enjoy a good mystery.

Untraceable is a current Salt Lake County Reader's Choice nominee, and I thought it looked like a good pick for vacation reading this past summer. I read it over just a couple of days as I relaxed. The mystery was a good one - with a major plot twist that I never saw coming - and some steamy romance was thrown in for good measure.

The novel won a 2010 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Romantic Mystery/Suspense. Laura Griffin's website indicates that Untraceable is the first of The Tracers series, with Unspeakable out now and Unforgivable due to be released in November.

I haven't yet decided whether I'll continue with the series - there are just "so many books, so little time"! - but ten years ago it would have been a no-brainer!


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Day the Falls Stood Still
by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Published in 2009. 307 pages.

Author Cathy Buchanan contacted me about reading and reviewing her book. She had the publisher send me a complimentary copy of the trade paperback. Thanks, Cathy!

This debut novel - which is a current Salt Lake County Reader's Choice nominee - is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction, set in the early 1900s. I have never visited Niagara Falls, but this book invoked in me such sense of the place that I will need to do that someday.

The novel is divided into two parts. Book 1 - which I think could almost stand on its own as a young adult novel - is primarily the coming-of-age story of seventeen-year-old Bess Heath. This section of the book reminded me in some ways of Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light (which I loved). Here is a favorite passage from that section of the book:
Stays run the length of the side seams; also over the ribs, front and back; and alongside the hooks and eyes of the front opening, and the grommets of the back opening through which the lace is pulled. In my camisole and drawers, I fasten hooks and eyes from just beneath my sternum to well below my hips. I have heard of the fainting and know the complaints, also the rhetoric of the suffragettes, yet a corset is a rite of passage, which places me a step closer to making decisions for myself. As Mother begins to tighten the laces, the irony in such thinking strikes me, and then, with the final tug, any notion linking a corset with independence seems entirely foolish.

Book 2 expands Bess's story into more of a family drama with some exploration of meaningful minor themes, including some that could be considered commentary on current society. These include the conflict between preserving nature and using nature for the benefit of humankind, the impact of war on individuals and families, views on energy and its generation, and condemnation of materialism. I particularly loved some of the thoughts on faith, such as this passage:
I have stood at the brink of the falls, that thin line that separates eternity from time. I have looked for aberrations in the rising mist, those flecks of shimmering silver, those orbs of color a shade more intense than their surroundings that I had once seen from my window seat. I have counted to ten before opening my eyelids, and let my gaze become unfocused, and crossed and uncrossed my eyes, and waited in the mist until I was soaked through to the bone, until it finally occurred to me that faith is believing without proof. Someday I would stop needing proof.

The title of the book is taken from an historical event that took place years before the action of the novel. It is a wonderful metaphor for those moments in life that give us great pause, those events that are so defining as to be a point after which nothing will never be the same as it was before.

Visit Cathy Marie Buchanan's website for more information. You can also follow her on Twitter.

I would love to pass my copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still to another interested reader. Leave a comment if you'd be interested, and I will randomly select one lucky reader from those who comment by Sunday, October 10.


Monday, October 04, 2010

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Published in 2005. 312 pages.

First line: After a year of hunting, I finally caught up with Sarah.

Plot summary (from the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data): Cal Thompson is a carrier of a parasite that causes vampirism, and must hunt down all of the girlfriends he has unknowingly infected.

Why I read this book: I put Peeps on my to-read list a while ago, after my now 19-year-old daughter recommended it to me and I picked it up via BookMooch. Because I needed four more books published in 2005 for the Countdown Challenge, I decided now was the right time to read it.

A few random thoughts: This is a very readable sci-fi novel that combines science with myth in a plausible manner. The book alternates between chapters that move the plot forward and chapters that explain some of the science of parasites. With its 19-year-old protagonist, I think the book skews toward the upper end of the young adult age continuum - and it certainly entertained me as an adult. I thought of Will Smith in I Am Legend a few times as I read about Cal's hunting trips.

What Scott Westerfeld said about Peeps on his website: "Some days you wake up, and you just have to write a vampire novel." (Read more here.)

From the peanut gallery: My 14-year-old book-loving daughter says, "Creative take on the stereotypical vampire. But it freaked. Me. Out."


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Time Again for Dewey's Read-a-Thon!

Mark Your Calendar!

October 9

Beginning at 13:00 GMT
(That's 6:00 a.m. for me.)

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

Can this really be my seventh read-a-thon?!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Thinking about Banned Books

Banned Books Week
September 25 - October 2

10 Frequently-Challenged Books
Everyone Should Read

(Two on this list are all-time favorites of mine:
The Giver and To Kill a Mockingbird.)

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009
(I've reviewed a few of these on this blog:
The Chocolate War, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,
Bridge to Terabithia, and Speak. Many of the others I read in my pre-blogging days, and yet others are on my to-read list. What's your favorite banned or challenged book?)

The Banned Books Project
(A reading project started by Bonnie
in honor of Banned Books Week 2007.)

Three posts for Banned Books Week
that I particularly liked:

Sydney Salter at My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters
"Stories about tough subjects show kids that they aren't alone in their experiences. Stories show a way out, a solution, new possibilities, and sometimes they simply provide an escape. As Chris Crutcher says, 'Censorship works against kids who don't have much anyway.'"

Sara Zarr
"We either have intellectual freedom or we don’t."

Karen Krueger at Typing with My Toes
"Banning Stove Top Stuffing and Books"

Celebrate Your Freedom to Read!