Saturday, December 31, 2011

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Published in 2011. 318 pages.

Excellent writing, with a story replete with thought and emotion: What is faith? What is family? What is love? How do humans, with their innate brokenness, become whole? Given that we all transgress, what role does forgiveness play in each of our lives?

Here is a favorite passage:

It was a thing I'd always known but until recently had forgotten: that faith is a decision. In its most basic form, it is a choice.

Faith was reminiscent of one of my favorite reads of 2010, Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood. I was also reminded of some of Anne Tyler's characters, people with whom I have little or nothing in common but for whom I can feel a good deal of empathy, simply because of their real-ness, their humanity.

This is the second of Haigh's books that I've read. Mrs. Kimble was the first, back in 2004. When I really like one book by an author, I'm sometimes hesitant to read another one for fear of being disappointed. Faith did not disappoint at all! (I guess I now ought to read Baker Towers and The Condition.)


Friday, December 30, 2011

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
by Louise Murphy

Subtitled A Novel of War and Survival.
Published in 2003. 297 pages.

Louise Murphy has written a clever re-imagining of the classic fairy tale to illustrate the brutality of war, particularly in the lives of children. At the same time, the novel provides a message of hope and love.

The members of my long-time book club seem to favor novels about World War II. Among those we've enjoyed together are Sarah's Key, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and Skeletons at the Feast. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel was another great read, with an excellent discussion over delicious food.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry

Published in 2011. 305 pages.

Acceptable Loss is the seventeenth of the acclaimed William Monk mystery novels, set in Victorian England. In addition to the murder mystery, several characters in this book consider what it means to love someone, to be loyal to them. Anne Perry is a great storyteller!


Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Subtitled One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal.
Published in 2011. 294 pages (including Index).

Melissa of my long-time book club raved about this book last spring - and then chose this for the group to read for our first meeting in the fall. I'm so very glad she did!

Conor Grennan's story is both a page-turner and an inspiration. It is a testament to what one person can do to make the world a better place - even if his deci to work at an orphanage in Nepal begin simply as a way to attract women. I love, love this line:

Despite myself, I had become a parent to these kids - not because I was qualified, but because I had showed up.

I also love something that Conor's friend Liz says, "Things that are broken can be made whole."

By the way, Joy of Thoughts of Joy - who gave Little Princes five stars - says that the audiobook version is "awesome." I totally believe that - as it is read by the author himself.

For more information about Conor and his work, see his website and the website of his non-profit organization Next Generation Nepal.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Sky is Everywhere
by Jandy Nelson

Published in 2010.
Audiobook performed by Julie Whelan.

Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

YA author Gayle Forman picked The Sky is Everywhere as one of her five "The Year's Best Teen Reads" for NPR last December. I'm glad I finally found time to "read" (via audiobook) this lyrical, tender story of grief and loss. I loved that Lennie is a bookworm and a clarinetist (just like my older daughter), and I especially loved that the audiobook included clarinet music. I also think that the cover is fabulous!

Melissa at One Librarian's Book Reviews thought The Sky is Everywhere was "absolutely beautifully written" but that the love story aspect of the plot fell flat. Suey at It's All About Books raves, "How could I not love this book?"


Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Published in 2010. 235 pages.
2010 National Book Award.

(This is the cover of the paperback version, which I own.)

(This is the original cover.)
In Caitlin's world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That's the stuff Caitlin's older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon's dead and Dad
is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it,
but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger's,
she doesn't know how. When she reads the definition
of closure, she realizes that is what she needs.
In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not
everything is black and white. The world is full of colors - messy and beautiful.

Tender. Touching. Moving. Meaningful.
That's Mockingbird in four words.
I'm eager to read more by Kathryn Erskine!


Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool

Published in 2010. 351 pages.
2011 Newbery Medal.

Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is the daughter of a drifter who, in the summer of 1936, sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, and where she hopes to find out some things about his past.

I loved this book! It is well deserving of its Newbery Medal, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys children's literature and/or historical fiction. "Vanderpool illustrates the importance of stories as a way for children to understand the past, inform the present, and provide hope for the future," said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Cynthia K. Richey.

Moon Over Manifest was the pick for the April meeting of Natalie's Book Club. As individuals we've enjoyed many of the Newbery winners, and this is the second we've read as a group, the first being the 2009 winner Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

Tricia at Library Queue says that Moon Over Manifest is "heartbreaking, heartwarming, witty, and well-written." Melissa at Gerbera Daisy Diaries - who adored the book - suggests, "This is a book that needs to be read in a day or two to fully embrace the richness of the narrative." The book's website is here.


Friday, November 25, 2011

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Published in 2010. 339 pages.

Daisy Whitney's "Twitter version" of her debut novel (as revealed on Elana Johnson's blog) is as follows:

The Mockingbirds is the story of an underground student-run justice system at a prestigious boarding school and the date rape case they try.

Thought-provoking and highly readable, The Mockingbirds addresses an important concept for teens - girls and boys - to fully understand:
If a person does not say 'no,' that does not mean he or she said 'yes.' Silence does not equal consent. Silence could mean fear, confusion, inebriation. The only thing that means yes is yes. A lack of yes is a no.
The book includes resources in the back, and there is a Reading Group Guide here.

A sequel to The Mockingbirds, titled The Rivals, is due out next year. I'll definitely be visiting Themis Academy again!


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Published in 2007. 295 pages.
Audiobook read by Polly Stone.

Sarah's Key is a historical fiction novel set in Paris. It alternates between 1942, during the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Round-up of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France, and 2002, during the sixtieth anniversary of the event.

I read Sarah's Key with my long-time book club. Overall, I think the group enjoyed the book. (I know I did!) But I think the consensus was that the historical sections were better than the contemporary ones.

The contemporary sections, however, did emphasize the importance of telling stories from the past. Here are two quotes I particularly liked:

"Oh Father, please," interrupted Laure. "What Julia did was pathetic. Bringing back the past is never a good idea, especially whatever happened during the war. No one wants to be reminded of that, no one wants to think about that."
William, the son of Sarah, said, "Chirac gave a speech. I did not understand it, of course. I looked it up later on the Internet and read the translation. A good speech. Urging people to remember France's responsibility during the Vel'd'Hiv' roundup and what followed. Chirac pronounced the same words my mother had written at the end of her letter. Zakhor, Al Tichkah. Remember. Never forget. In Hebrew."


Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Published in 2010. 307 pages.

This memoir-style novel was a great read! I enjoyed the voice of main character Kimberly, and I loved watching her grow from an 11-year-old immigrant child into a confident, successful woman. A phrase from the back cover blurb says it well:

In time, Kim learns to translate not just her language but herself, back and forth between two worlds, between hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.

Girl in Translation was the winner of the July-October 2011 Salt Lake County Reader's Choice. It also was one of the ten winners of the 2011 Alex Award (which is given to books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18); because my 15-year-old daughter liked Girl in Translation as much as I did, I think the award is well deserved.


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Published in 2005. 288 pages.

I found Never Let Me Go to be a compelling read. Though it's actually quite slow moving, it is hard to put down. Ultimately it is an exploration of what makes us human.

At Library Queue, Tricia - who found the book "deliberate and thought-provoking" - asserts that the book should be read without knowing anything about it. Nymeth agrees but presents a quite detailed (yet relatively spoiler-free) review at Things Mean A Lot.

At the risk of creating a spoiler, I'm posting a quote from Ishiguro from the Reader's Guide at the back of the book:

There are things I am more interested in than the clone thing. How are they trying to find their place in the world and make sense of their lives? To what extent can they transcend their fate? ... Most of the things that concern them concern us all, but with them it is concertinaed into this relatively short period of time. These are things that really interest me and, having come to the realization that I probably have limited opportunities to explore these things, that's what I want to concentrate on." [Interview with Nicholas Wroe, The Guardian, February 2, 2005.]

A movie version of Never Let Me Go was released in 2010. I haven't seen it, but I'm curious. Have you seen it?


Monday, November 14, 2011

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky

Published in 2010. 435 pages.
Audiobook read by Cassandra Campbell.

Barbara Delinsky is a new-to-me author. Perusing the audiobook shelves at the library, I recently happened upon Not My Daughter, one of two of Delinsky's books that I had previously put on my to-read list. (The other is Family Tree.) Reminded of the 2010 Lifetime movie The Pregnancy Pact (which featured the incredible Camryn Manheim), I decided that I was in the mood to listen to this book while providing "mom taxi" services. Within a day of beginning the audiobook, I was back at the library to pick up a paperback copy because I realized that I wasn't going to spend enough time in the car to move through the story quickly enough!

Not a knitter, I nevertheless loved the symbolism provided by this hobby of the characters of the book. The emotions connected to both "being knit together in love" and "coming unraveled" are depicted well in the story.

I found Not My Daughter extremely compelling, and ultimately thought-provoking on both a personal and a societal level. How does a mother deal with her unfilled expectations of her child? How much is a mother responsible for the (bad) choices of her child? What does it mean to love - and to forgive? What is a family? Are the changing definitions and configurations of "family" positive developments, or do they undermine what family is supposed to be?

I'd like to read another book by the prolific Delinsky, but which one should I read next? Have you read any of her books? If so, what do you recommend?


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The King of Attolia
by Megan Whalen Turner

Published in 2006.
Audiobook performed by Jeff Woodman.

The King of Attolia is the third installment of Megan Whalen Turner's series The Queen's Thief. As I did with the two previous books, I listened to this one on CD - and Jeff Woodman is an exceptional narrator. (I reviewed The Thief here and The Queen of Attolia here.)

I am still loving the thief Gen (short for Eugenides), even in his new profession and even though this installment is told from the perspective of the soldier Costis. I didn't like this book as much as The Queen of Attolia, but Megan Whalen Turner is a great storyteller! I will certainly be reading the next book in the series, A Conspiracy of Kings.

Turner has a discussion guide for the series (at least of the four books so far) here.


Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Published in 2007.
Audiobook performed by Carine Montbertrand.

Extras is a follow-up to Scott Westerfeld's Uglies Trilogy (which I reviewed here and here and here). Set in Japan several years after the "prettytime," the book's main character is fifteen-year-old Aya Fuse, who wants nothing more than to be famous.

Overall, this was worth the time I spent listening to the audiobook. I really liked the first half or so, with its excellent commentary on social media and fame. Toward the end, though, despite some commentary on war, I found myself mostly just wishing the book was over.

Despite the lag in my interest toward the end of this book, I have enjoyed the world of the "uglies." Westerfeld's website includes a summary of all four books (featuring awesome, new covers) and an interview he did about Uglies with Simon & Schuster. I am curious, too, about his reference book Bogus to Bubbly: An Insider's Guide to the World of Uglies, for when I want to return to that world.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

Published in 2010. 373 pages.

First sentence: Karena Jorge's birthday starts as a quiet affair, but she doesn't mind.

Plot summary: Karena and her bipolar twin brother Charles share a violent secret. After twenty years of estrangement, Karena receives a call that leads her - quite literally - into the eye of the storm, back into Charles' life and on the road toward love and redemption.

Why I read this book: The Stormchasers was a Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice nominee for July-October 2011.

What I thought: Jenna Blum provides a fascinating look at storm chasers as well as a heart-breaking view of bipolar disorder. I couldn't help but think of the musical Next to Normal (which I recently saw) as I read. Storms are a great metaphor for the novel's themes. I'm eager to read Blum's first novel, the bestselling Those Who Save Us.

A favorite passage:

[The sun] appears first as a gray patch in the east, then shoots white rays over the buildings across the highway. Finally, when it casts a fine gold net over the Sandhills lawn, they get up to go back to their room. Karena is stiff from sitting, and chilled and damp with dew. But while they are crossing the grass their movement startles a flock of birds in the vacant lot next to the motel, and she stops to watch them rise as one and circle into the sky. It seems an omen of something. Karena just doesn't know what.

For more information: Discussion questions can be found here. Susan at Bloggin' 'bout Books interviewed Jenna Blum here. The Stormchasers page of Jenna Blum's website is here.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Read-a-Thon End-of-Event Survey

I ended up bailing from the read-a-thon with a little over four hours to go. I think I could have forced myself to stay awake, but I also know that I wouldn't have enjoyed this morning's church services near as much as I did if I hadn't gotten some sleep. (I'm still going to need a nap after I eat lunch.)

Here is my end-of-event survey:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 21, when I decided to call it good, was the hardest hour for me. I just wanted to lay on the sofa and "pretend" to read!

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.

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

This was my ninth time participating 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?

Although I wouldn't have forgotten, I enjoyed getting the reminder email the day before the read-a-thon.

5. How many books did you read?

One and a part.

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

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum. Part of The Death Cure by James Dashner.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Both books were/are great!

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Not applicable.

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 - and I'm already thinking about going to the library for a part of the day, so I can separate myself from the household chaos around me.

Elapsed Time 19:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 7:30

Pages Read: 342. (That's about 46 pages per hour.)

Books Finished: 1. (The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum, which I had started yesterday. Now I'm reading The Death Cure by James Dashner.)

Time Blogged and/or Tweeted: 4:00

Frame of Mind: I'm sleepy - despite (or maybe because of) a half-hour nap. I think I'm too old to stay up all night! My fifteen-year-old daughter is keeping me company right now, which is nice. I guess time will tell how much more read-a-thon I've got in me.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:

Food Consumed:
One bowl of Lucky Charms. One bacon and egg sandwich. Two German chocolate brownies. A plum. Some chocolate licorice. One-and-a-half tomato sandwiches on wheat bread. Some spinach-artichoke dip with tortilla chips. A Mediterranean vegie sandwich and a cup of Thai curry soup. Two more German chocolate brownies. A bowl of microwave popcorn. Some elf sandwich cookies.

Money Raised for Charity: $9.50 (Help me increase the donation by leaving a comment! I'm donating 50 cents for every comment on a read-a-thon post.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reading for Charity

"Education is the key to opportunity."

I'm reading to raise money for the Perpetual Education Fund by donating 50 cents for every comment I receive on a read-a-thon post, up to a total of $100. You can help by leaving a comment here - or on any of my other read-a-thon posts. Maybe you ought to try to guess the title in my book puzzle post!

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 ready to start something new, and I'm trying to decide between The Death Cure by James Dashner and Possession by Elana Johnson.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I have finished one: The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum.

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! My twelve-year-old son wants me to read Darth Paper Strikes Back. I'm also looking forward to reading This Lullaby - if I can stay awake that long.

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

Unfortunately, life goes on in spite of the read-a-thon ... so I'm just dealing. Maybe one day I'll sequester myself for the read-a-thon and see how that goes!

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

Let's just say that I'm good at multi-tasking.

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

I am amazed how quickly the time is passing!

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?

It would be helpful to plan an early bedtime the night before!

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 12:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 6:00

Pages Read: 280. (That's about 46 pages per hour.)

Books Finished: 1. (The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum, which I had started yesterday.)

Time Blogged and/or Tweeted: 2:30

Frame of Mind: It's hard to believe that the read-a-thon is half over! While I'd love to be reading more quickly, I'm doing a little multi-tasking and enjoying the day ...

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed:

Food Consumed:
One bowl of Lucky Charms. One bacon and egg sandwich. Two German chocolate brownies. A plum. Some chocolate licorice. One-and-a-half tomato sandwiches on wheat bread. Some spinach-artichoke dip with tortilla chips.

Elapsed Time 6:00

Progress Report

Time Read: 2:15

Pages Read: 110. (I am reading The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum.)

Books Finished: None yet.

Time Blogged and/or Tweeted: 2:00

Frame of Mind: I feel like I'm moving slowly this morning - and I took an almost two-hour break to pick up my produce from the Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op. But I've been enjoying this opportunity to read guilt-free on this beautiful fall morning.

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

Food Consumed:
One bowl of Lucky Charms. One bacon and egg sandwich from the Sonic Drive-In. Two German chocolate brownies (which my daughter and I made yesterday).

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

"Book Puzzle"
Hosted by Melissa at One Librarian's Book Reviews

This is the title of one of the books in my read-a-thon pile. Can you figure out what it is?

To Be Born

Introduction Meme

The traditional first activity of the read-a-thon is an introduction meme. Here goes:

Where are you reading from today?
The suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Three facts about me:
  • I learned to read with Dick and Jane when I was six years old, and I've not stopped since!

  • My reading goal for 2011 is 104 books (an average of two each week) - and I'm nearly on pace to achieve that goal.

  • I'm addicted to social media, and you can find me on Facebook, goodreads, and Twitter.
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I've got eighteen books picked out for the read-a-thon. If I finish those - just kidding! - or need something else to keep my attention, I've got plenty of others in the house. There is no chance I'll run out of reading material!

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)?
My goals are to actively participate in at least twelve hours of the read-a-thon (while still fulfilling some other commitments of the day and not totally exhausting myself) and to raise some money for the Perpetual Education Fund (by donating 50 cents for every comment I receive on a read-a-thon post, up to a total of $100).

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
I recommend that everyone just do what seems fun and enjoy! No stressing allowed!

Elapsed Time 0:00

Here We Go!

I rarely get up on a Saturday morning before anyone else in the house and before the sun - but I am here for Dewey's Read-a-Thon for the ninth time, and I'm ready to read! 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.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What I'm Going to Be Doing on Saturday

October 22

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

Saturday is the ninth occurrence of Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon! In the past I've often been able to clear my calendar for the day of the event, but this time I've got at least one other commitment that I need to fulfill. I'm also not sure, given my current health concerns, that I'm willing to go without sleep. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to devoting a good part of my day to reading. I do hope that I'll be more successful than I was in April, when I ended up in the ER!

What about you? Are you read-a-thon-ing this week?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Published in 2010. 269 pages.

Because of Mr. Terupt is a tender middle grade novel about the impact a good teacher can have on his students. Told from alternating viewpoints, it is also about growing up, making choices to become a better person, and learning to forgive.

It's probably not a good idea for me to read a book that makes me sob while lying in bed without any tissues nearby!

Author Rob Buyea's website is here. Because of Mr. Terupt was a 2010 Cybils Finalist and is a 2012 Beehive Award Nominee. I was thrilled to discover that a sequel, titled Mr. Terupt Falls Again, is to be released in the fall of 2012.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
by Helen Simonson

Published in 2010. 358 pages.

Delightful! A little slower reading than I had wished, but Major Pettigrew is such an endearing character, and he had so much wisdom for me to absorb. Here are some Pettigrew-isms I enjoyed:

Life isn't all about flashy parties and meeting rich people.
One really shouldn't have to bargain with one's family like a used-car salesman.
Life does often get in the way of one's reading.
There is nothing more corrosive to character than money.
We must refuse to imagine [that it's too late] and concentrate only on the next step and then the next. We do what we can do, and the rest is God's problem.
The solution is to make things right, or at least to work every day to do so.

And here's a quote from another character that I found quite thought-provoking:
If faith is worth no more than the price of a small shop in an ugly village, what is the purpose of my life - of any life?

For the context of all those statements, you just have to read the book yourself!

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was a Salt Lake County Reader's Choice Nominee last year, but, unfortunately, I didn't make the time to read it then. It was also the August pick for the "book lunch girls" (aka Natalie's Book Club). I wasn't able to attend the meeting due to another commitment, but I'm so glad I read the book.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

A Six-Word Review of
Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Published in 2011. 264 pages.
(Sequel to 2009's If I Stay, which I reviewed here.)

Beautiful writing.
Evocative storyline.
Tears flowed.


Friday, September 30, 2011

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Published in 2008. 473 pages. Originally published in Australia in 2006 as The Shifting Fog.

This was the September pick for Natalie's Book Club, and I didn't know anything about it before I started reading. I was sucked in from the very first sentence!

Last November I had a nightmare.

Does that remind you of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca? It did me!

I really enjoyed the book club discussion, which we had over lunch at Blue Lemon. Mostly we talked about the ending of the book, about what was foreshadowed, about what was surprising, about how it fit together so well.

One short passage really struck me when I read it, and I've been thinking about it a lot.
While I wasn't certain how I felt about spiritualists, I was certain enough about the type of people who were drawn to them. Only people unhappy in the present seek to know the future.

I'd not read anything by Kate Morton before I read The House at Riverton, but I will certainly be looking for more of her novels!


By the Numbers
Three-Quarters of 2011

Total books read year-to-date: 73. (My goal for the year is 104 books. Right now I'm only about 4 books behind the pace I need to reach that goal!)

Fiction: 63.
Non-fiction: 9.
Poetry: 1.

Audiobooks: 20.

On the Kindle: 5. (Obviously, my Kindle - which I've had since May - isn't replacing traditional books, but it is a nice addition.)

Books by male authors: 24.
Books by female authors: 48.
Anthologies: 1.

Published in 2011: 14.
Published prior to 1990: 4.

Historical fiction: 11.

Young adult: 40.
Juvenile: 7.

Read for my Teaching Through Literature class: 4.
Read with the "book lunch girls" (aka Natalie's Book Club): 8.
Read with my long-time book club: 5.

5-star rating: 5.
4-star rating: 50.
3-star rating: 18.

What are your reading numbers for 2011 to date? What are you going to read in the last quarter of the year?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Into Reading 2011

September 23 - December 21
Hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days

Fall is a marvelous time for curling up with a good book! My reading goal for 2011 (as it has been for several years running) is 104 books (an average of two books a week). This year (for the first time) I'm thinking that my goal is attainable. As of today I have read 71 books, so I've got only 33 left to go! With that goal in mind, I've chosen the following books for my Fall Into Reading list:

Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice Nominees
  • Bliss Remembered by Frank Deford

  • Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

  • Mothers and Other Liars by Amy Bourret

  • The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

  • The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
(Check out the "Reader's Choice" blog here.)

In Honor of Banned Books Week (September 24-October 1)
  • Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Also on the "List Swap" Selections list.)
(Update: Check out the "Banned Books Challenge" blog here.)

Recent or Upcoming Releases (A mix of genres.)
  • Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry

  • Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

  • The Death Cure by James Dashner

  • Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh* (Also on the IRL Book Clubs list.)

  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

  • The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

  • The Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography by Emma Lou Warner Thayne

List Swap Selections
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

  • The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Also on the Banned Books Week list.)
(For an explanation of the "list swap" project and my complete list, click here.)

Picks for My IRL Book Clubs
  • Faith by Jennifer Haigh* (Also on the Recent Releases list.)

  • Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan*

  • The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman

  • The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

  • An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life by Mary Johnson

  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
(Updated on September 30, following September's book club meetings, and again on November 21.)

Required Reading (For my "Teaching Through Literature Discussions" class.)
  • The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah Eden

  • Possession by Elana Johnson

  • A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

Books Received for Review
  • Lost on Treasure Island: A Memoir of Longing, Love, and Lousy Choices in New York City by Steve Friedman

  • Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression by Ida Lichter*

Other Nonfiction Titles
  • His Final Hours by Jeffrey Marsh*

  • Lighten Up by Chieko Okazaki

  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

  • The Year My Son and I Were Born: A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery by Kathryn Lynard Soper

Other Fiction Titles (Mostly YA.)
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee

  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

  • Extras by Scott Westerfeld*

  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

  • This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

*Started reading prior to September 23.

What are you reading this fall?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Three Cheers for Gary Schmidt!

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Published in 2004. 224 pages.
2005 Newbery Honor Book.
2005 Printz Honor Book.

My first exposure to Gary Schmidt came a year and a half ago when I read the young adult historical fiction novel Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy with my son and his fifth grade book club. The writing is beautiful, and we spent a couple of weeks in the book club looking at similes and metaphors, personification, and imagery. Set in 1912 and based on a real event, the story also teaches important lessons about racism and doing the right thing.


The Wednesday Wars
Published in 2007. 264 pages.
2008 Newbery Honor Book.

This 2008 Newbery Honor Book (which is a prequel of sorts to Okay for Now) is a tender story of growing up and finding one's way in the world. The plot is centered around the main character's exploration of Shakespeare's plays under the direction of his seventh grade teacher. I'm a little too young to remember the Vietnam War, but that time period is used as an effective backdrop to the story.


Okay for Now
Published in 2011. 360 pages.

What do Aububon's Birds of America, the Vietnam War, Jane Eyre, Apollo 11, and the New York Yankees have to do with one another? Each plays an important role in this fabulous exploration of "the transforming power of art over disaster," in a wonderful tale "about creativity and loss, love and recovery, and survival" (to borrow some phrases from the book jacket).

I simply cannot say enough good about this one! I will be surprised - and disappointed - if Okay for Now doesn't receive some awards of its own. By the way, I actually read it before I read The Wednesday Wars. (I don't think my reading enjoyment was diminished because of that, but I would have known a little about the main character of Okay for Now if I'd read The Wednesday Wars first.)


Friday, September 09, 2011

Tales from Outer Suburbia
by Shaun Tan

Published in 2009. 96 pages.

Tales from Outer Suburbia is an anthology of fifteen illustrated short stories set in the Australian suburbs. As with poetry, I'm not always sure I "get" short stories. But there are some in the collection that I loved, and the illustrations are glorious!

Some of the illustrations, as well as commentary on the stories, can be found on author Shaun Tan's website here. Tricia at Library Queue called Tales from Outer Suburbia "one of the most unique books [she's] ever read." (Her full review is here.) At Thoughts of Joy, Joy said that the book is "great for a short diversion." (Her full review is here.)

This was my first experience with Tan, and while I'm a little less than completely enthusiastic about this book, I've heard that his graphic novel The Arrival is amazing, so I'm sure I'll be checking out more of his work.


Friday, August 26, 2011

The Forgotten Locket by Lisa Mangum

Published in 2011. 368 pages.

The world is full of impossibilities - some beautiful, some terrible - but sometimes, when you least expect it, they can become possible.
                ~ Abby

The Forgotten Locket is a satisfying ending to The Hourglass Door trilogy. I was bothered by some of the same things as in the previous books, but overall - as before - my inner teenage geek had a good time with it! (My initial response to The Hourglass Door is here, with my thoughts on The Golden Spiral here.)

I re-read The Hourglass Door last fall for my Teaching Through Literature Discussions workshop. I found that I enjoyed the book more on the second read - perhaps partly because I wasn't trying so much to figure things out. I also found that I appreciated the book more having heard the author talk about it and the writing process. Among the interesting things she said are these:
One thing that bugged me while I was reading was looking at the beautiful gold locket on the cover and seeing in my mind's eye the beautiful silver locket described in the narrative. In the end, I understand the point of the cover picture - but for most of the book I was thinking that the cover designer hadn't even read it!

Here is a favorite passage from The Forgotten Locket, one that I think deserves some contemplation:

"What kinds of things did you wish for?

Orlando turned his attention to the fire, avoiding my gaze. "Oh, I never made a wish myself."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. Maybe it was because I didn't want to look at my life and see what was missing. Once you identify what you lack, then it's all you see anymore. Wanting something I couldn't have would only lead to unhappiness, so I tried to be content with what I had."

"That's terrible," I said. "It misses the whole point of wishing. It's not to focus on what you don't have; it's to show you what could be. Once you know what you want, then you know what to reach for, what to dream about. It's how you change things."


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three Audiobooks I Enjoyed

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Published in 2006.
Audiobook performed by Carol Monda.

I read a number of negative reviews of Rise and Shine shortly after I started listening to the audiobook. I'm glad I didn't respond to those by abandoning the book, as I ending up enjoying it a great deal.

There is a lot to ponder in this novel: the difference between who we are and what we do, the relationship between sisters, the importance of family, and an understanding of what really matters. I was listening through tears near the end of the book - probably not such a great idea when driving in rush hour traffic.

Anna Quindlen certainly has a way with words. It had been many years since I'd read one of her novels, and I'm happy to have made my re-acquaintance with her work!


Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline
Published in 2007.
Audiobook performed by Barbara Rosenblat.

It had been a number of years since I had read a book by Lisa Scottoline. It won't be as long before I read another!

Daddy's Girl was a great audiobook "read"! It is laugh-out-loud funny in places, with enough twists and turns in the mystery to keep me guessing to the end. The story also has a meaningful exploration of what "justice" means, with references to The Merchant of Venice and the Underground Railroad.


The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Originally published in 2000.
Audiobook performed by Jeff Woodman.

This is the second book of The Queen's Thief young adult fantasy series. (My review of the first book - The Thief - is here.)

With lots of adventure and a little bit of romance, this one is hard to resist. There are some fabulous theological insights near the end, as the thief Eugenides struggles to understand the path his life has taken. I thought the ending was perfect - and leads right into the third book of the series, The King of Attolia.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Published in 2009. 201 pages.

Summary of plot (from Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Data): While in a coma following an automobile accident that killed her parents and younger brother, seventeen-year-old Mia, a gifted cellist, weighs whether to live with her grief or join her family in death.

Personal response: If I Stay is a quick but powerful look at family, love, and what matters most. I hope no one was watching me cry while I read during lunch at the sandwich shop!

Thoughts of other bloggers: Natasha at Maw Books Blog said, "Gayle Forman is able to pack in a wallop of a storyline and character development in just a few short pages." For Suey at It's All About Books, the "bottom line" was "I loved it, even if it did make me quite weepy." Melissa at One Librarian's Book Reviews had some issues with the book, although she thought the ending was "beautifully done." At The Book Nest, Corinne said, "I liked the feel of love that just sort of radiated out from all the relationships in this book." Darren at Bart's Bookshelf called If I Stay a "powerful story about loss and love in all its meanings."

Up next: Where She Went is the recently published sequel. It's definitely on my to-read list!


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back When You Were Easier to Love
by Emily Wing Smith

Published in 2011. 296 pages.

Earlier this year I read Emily Wing Smith's first novel The Way He Lived. I wanted to love it - but, alas, I found it a little wanting. Perhaps my expectations were lower for Back When You Were Easier to Love - but I adored it. The plot is predictable, but the execution is so, so worth the read!

I enjoy explorations of the themes of conformity and being true to oneself, and Back When You Were Easier to Love does that well. I found the underpinnings of these words from protagonist Joy quite thought-provoking:

I didn't like any of the Soccer Lovin' Kids. I didn't like how easy it was for all of them, how they all were Haven. They knew the sport they were supposed to play, so they did. They knew what they were supposed to look like, so they did. They knew what they were supposed to believe, so they did. But none of them were real to me.

I did enjoy Smith's writing style in The Way He Lived - and I enjoyed it even more in Back When You Were Easier to Love. Here is a passage I liked for both its humor and its poignancy (again from Joy's perspective):
I eat. I eat and I eat and I eat and do not stop. I do not stop to talk to Noah. I do not stop to take proper breaths. If I stop I might realize I'm no longer hungry, and if I realize I'm no longer hungry, I'll have to admit to myself that all the buffets in Las Vegas won't fill the hole in my heart.

Emily Wing Smith is one of The Contemps, and author Lindsey Leavitt spotlighted Back When You Were Easier to Love here. Additional thoughts can be found at the blogs It's All About Books and Karen M. Krueger. Emily Wing Smith's blog is here.

By the way, I have to make mention that Back When You Were Easier to Love is set in Utah (near my home) and that Joy is a Mormon (as I am) - so in some ways I feel that Smith is writing about my people. (In response to Smith's - or Joy's - observations about the absurdities of Utah Mormon culture, my 15-year-old daughter exclaimed, "I think she's one of us!") I also have to confess that I love Barry Manilow's music and have had some of the songs mentioned in the book running through my mind since I finished reading. (I think my favorite song is "Weekend in New England," though, which isn't included in the book.)


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Library Loot in July - Part 2

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg and Claire to encourage bloggers to share what they’ve checked out from the library.

I think that the library is a dangerous place. I will need more reading time over the next several weeks if I'm going to read all of the library loot I've been tempted into picking up!

All the Flowers are Dying by Lawrence Block
(It's been about a decade since
I've read a Matthew Scudder novel.
This one was published in 2005.)

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
(Joy called this one "outstanding."
I thought I should read it sooner than later.)

Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson
(I got this one to read
with my 12-year-old son.)

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block
(This Matthew Scudder novel came
from the "new releases" display.)

I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
(I think I've read every one of MHC's
mystery novels. This is the latest.)

The Last of the Little Blue Envelopes
by Maureen Johnson
(This is the sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes,
which I read last year. My review is here.)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
(This is the August pick for Natalie's Book Club.)

Possession by Elana Johnson
(Written by a Utah author, this new release is
YA dystopian fiction, a favorite genre of mine.)

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
(This is one of The Contemps.)

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum
(This is one of the Salt Lake County Library
Reader's Choice nominees

Then by Morris Gleitzman
(I chose this one off the "new releases" shelf.
I've since discovered that it is a sequel -
so I also need to get Once.)

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
(This is another of the Reader's Choice nominees.)