Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Reading challenges March Update

I have created a Challenge page which gets updated pretty regularly, and so this roundup will only include March books (except for the new challenge or completed challenges). To see the full lists of what I've read for each Challenge this year, check out the page. Also I realized this month that I had forgotten that part of most Challenges is linking back to your review when you have posted a review of a Challenge book, so I have done that this month too.

Still haven’t started:
The Memorable Memoir Challenge
Participants are to read at least 4 memoirs/diaries/letters/autobiography books in 2010.
My bad. I still haven’t read one. I have read 2 books that have elements of Memoir to them but they’re not strictly speaking memoirs. I’m still not worried though. I’ll knock out a lot when I do my summer nonfiction Challenge (see below).

The 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge
The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.
No need to list your books in advance, 2010
It's funny but all the books I've read for the Shelf Discovery Challenge I feel fall squarely into Middle Readers, not YA, although I'd thought there'd be a lot of overlap. I have been collecting a small stack of these though.

Making Headway:
The Art History Reading Challenge
Read at least 3 books about art in 2010. These books can be either fiction or nonfiction, and they can span every genre.
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Finally I started! I’m feeling inspired and I might be able to knock these out in the next few months. 1/3

Rainbow Connection Reading Challenge
Single Rainbow (reading 7 books) by either Author (first or last name) or Title starting with R, O, Y, G, B, I and V (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet) books. This challenge is from January 1- June 30, 2010.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon DONE O
Innocent by Scott Turow DONE I
I’m nearly done, having read ROYGBI. Only V remains.

TBR *Lite* 2010
TBR= books that have been on your “To Be Read” list for 6 months or longer, but you haven’t gotten around to.
OPTION B: read 6 books in 12 months ~ you CAN change your reading list throughout the year
Nutureshock by Po Bronson
Halfway through! 3/6

Chunkster Reading Challenge
February 1, 2010 - January 31, 2011
A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature (fiction or nonfiction). A chunkster should be a challenge. Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - 4 Chunksters
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Technically, I’ve read 3/4 but I’m pretty sure I’ll replace the first one, The Help, because it’s exactly 451 which seems to be a cheat. In fact, a friend has even debated if it is 451 but we seem to have slightly different pagination for some bizarre reason.

TOURIST - Read and review 3 books by 3 different Australian authors
Read 1/3, none this month

Shelf Discovery Challenge
November 1, 2009 - April 30, 2010
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
5/6 1 month left

Raved Reads
Create – and read! – a list of books that you’ve always heard others rave about, and thought you should read yourself… but always put off reading “until later”. Your list has to have at least 3 books on it. There are no limitations on genre. And no time limit.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
Finished Challenge! Of course, I will continue to read Raved Reads books and I’ll continue to add to the list on my Challenge page.

Review each book you read in 2010. So far, so good!

New Challenge I’ve signed up for:
Audio Books Challenge
Fascinated – Listen to 6 Audio Books. 2010
You Were Always Mom's Favorite by Deborah Tannen
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

New Summer Challenges To Come:
Southern Reading Challenge
you read three (fiction or nonfiction) between May 15th and August 15th.

This is still listed for 2009 on the host site, I am hoping she'll post an update soon for 2010.

MAY 1 - SEPTEMBER 30, 2010
2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 by Evan Thomas

from the publisher:
A riveting narrative chronicles America's ferocious drive toward empire during the Spanish-American War and the Gilded Age, a drive that was led by Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge and William Randolph Hearst.

This is huge, but it looks just great!

Publishing by Little, Brown on 4/27/10.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street

So when I finished reading this book, I went online and watched "C is for Cookie," "These Are the People in Your Neighborhood," "Rubber Duckie," and "It's Not Easy Being Green." I also watched Johnny Cash singing "Five Feet High and Rising" with the help of Biff, the Martians discovering a fan, and David doing some disco roller-skating. Mr. Hooper counted to three with the help of chairs, and a baker fell down the stairs carrying three birthday cakes. Being a child of the '70s, I am not a fan of Elmo. I remember when Snuffleupagus was still thought to be imaginary, and when Maria and Luis got married (I know, you'd think I was too old for the wedding memory but I have a brother 12 years younger.)

Street Gang is thorough and nostalgic. It starts with the idea at a dinner party, goes through the first shows, expansion to The Electric Company, the evolution of Elmo, through to today. The author uses a few too many 50-cent words than are necessary, and he could have used a few more dates (it's so well-researched that I am sure it's not because he doesn't have the dates, but that he didn't want it to seem pedantic.) It's a great story with too many early exits in the end. Unfortunately I don't think this author was perfect for this book, although he's certainly done a good job. But my expectations were high. I did learn a lot of fun pop culture trivia, one of my addictions. The most shocking was that one of the actors, who played David, became mentally unbalanced. He was on the road in the off season, in Nashville, my hometown. And there was an incident. He broke into 4 homes and vandalized them. ON MY STREET. In 1980, when we were living there and I was 6. I asked my Mom and she doesn't remember the incident at all. When he was arrested they found he'd beaten up his girlfriend with a tire iron, remembered nothing, and he was committed. Granted the vandalisms were at the other end of our street, about a half a mile away, but it is shocking to me that this wouldn't have been news, at least in town.

Of course stories like this are rare. More common were sweet stories about the inspiration for Children's Television Network and the inception of Big Bird. It was informative, interesting, and inspiring. Joan Ganz Cooney is a wonderful role model all young women should aspire to.

Teaser Tuesdays: From the Mixed-Up Files

Teaser Tuesdays

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg p. 56

"Claudia was ready to pull Jamie out of line and make him learn another part of the museum today, but she got a glimpse of the room they were to go to next. It was filled with jewelry: case after case of it."

I haven't started it yet, but this certainly has teased me and I'll start it later tonight!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Another Blog Award!

from Stacy at A Novel Source I received a most wonderful award - the Humane Award!

This award is passed on to 10 bloggers who are kind-hearted individuals. These bloggers regularly leave comments, answer questions, offer support, and in general are superbly kind! The blogs that these lovely individuals write are resourceful, knowledgeable, and just plain awesome! For a new blogger, these people are invaluable.

The Humane Award goes to these fellow bloggers who regularly comment and are so incredibly KIND:

1. Kristen at BookNAround
Thank you for all your support, and thanks for the validation!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

I picked up this new button for the meme from Lori at Dollycas's Thoughts. I just love that it's artsy and a woman and reading. And she makes me feel so thin!

Books completed last week:
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

Books I Still Need to Write Reviews On: N/A

Up Next (Still Hachette books for March):
I'm So Happy for You by Lucinda Rosenfeld
In the Fold by Rachel Cusk
I Like You by Amy Sedaris

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How I Write a Review: Instruction Manual

Recently the editor of a newsletter asked me for help with their book reviews. I have written reviews for several newsletters (work and WNBA) but they didn't want to have to rely on me exclusively, not to mention I'm not even on the newsletter committee. So a month ago I wrote up these guidelines. Then I thought I'd let them percolate to be sure they were complete and full. And so now I share them with you all!

There are basically two kinds of reviews, personal and impersonal. Impersonal reviews are the ones in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, etc. They tend to have a sentence of opinion at the very beginning and very end and the whole middle is plot description. This type makes sense for A) organizations that are supposed to be impartial B) reviews of books no one has heard of before (pre-publication). But we don’t need to be impartial for our newsletters, and mostly are reviewing books already available to the public, and therefore widely reviewed. I think personal reviews are more interesting. Also they acknowledge that everyone is different, and while I might dislike a book, others will like it.

I start off talking a bit about why I read the book and what my expectations are. Was I forced to read it for book club? Was I eager to read it because I’ve loved previous books by the author? Was I worried that it was over-hyped and would be disappointing? Was I worried that a beloved childhood classic wouldn’t live up to my memory? Then I answer that question briefly.

Next, I do a brief summary, being careful to not give away any spoilers. Now some things that seem like spoilers might not be, such as if the book is so widely known (like the time traveling in Outlander), or if the spoiler is already given away on the back cover (although it's not always necessary to perpetuate that kind of reading crime.) Sometimes it’ll be really hard to do because a huge momentous event happens very shortly after the start of the book and you don’t want to give it away, but then there’s nothing left to talk about. You’ve got to use your judgment here. I only go for 4-5 lines. If I’m doing the review in Goodreads where the full description is right there, I don’t put any description in my review at all, but I do on my blog and for newsletters.

Third, I’ll talk about what I liked or didn’t like. I try to be specific, to point to particular passages and scenes. If I was skeptical or worried going in to the reading I’ll address those concerns directly. I’ll mention what I connected with in the narrative, what I found off-putting, what was pertinent, and when I thought the author went off the rails. If characters are two-dimensions, events seem implausible, historical eras feel false, or the writing is overwrought, all these are things I’d talk about. These are the main structural pieces to look at: character, plot, setting, pacing, accuracy, dialogue. But anything that strikes you is fair game. As a former editor, this is likely easier for me than most, but I also tend to be more critical than a typical reader. I know writers don't always like to hear criticisms, but they're always meant to be constructive.

Then I’ll try to finish it up with a conclusion. Sometimes I’ll have a lot of niggling issues with a book but still like it overall. Sometimes the book will be technically well-written but feel soulless. I try to pull all the details together into an overarching opinion. Obviously, you don’t have to like everything. In fact, the world would be amazingly boring if that were the case.

So those are my own personal guidelines for book reviews. I'm sure they won't work for everyone, but I hope they could be helpful for people who find review writing daunting.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

I remember just adoring this book when I was a kid. It was fantastical, subtly hilarious, and the children didn't have to go to school. Who among us hasn't wished we could just go away for a year, floating about in a funny little house, not having to deal with other people (particularly if one has a well-stocked library of small-print paperbacks along for the ride.) The story was so unique and brought in so many fascinating elements - Shipwreck! Hot-air balloons! Krakatoa! Diamonds! Inventions! Volcanoes! What's not to like?
Professor Sherman is retired and wants to spend a year flying around the world being blown hither and yon in his cleverly constructed bamboo house suspended from the second largest hot air balloon ever. Instead after just a short while he is wrecked on the volcanic island of Krakatoa which he discovers is inhabited by a group of well-to-do, eccentric families.

As an adult I also really liked the style. I love the era in which it's set (1890s), and the way the story is structured with the lone known survivor showing up first and then a lot of tempting about the story before he finally tells it. It's very skillfully done but I don't think most children would have any idea how carefully the book has been constructed. Mr. Du Bose has done such a good job, it is invisible to the reader. There are also bits that are quite funny but Mr. Du Bose treats them perfectly straight which is as it should be. I loved those kinds of details. Also the book is illustrated throughout by the author who was apparently multi-talented. The pictures really add to the book as a lot of the inventions and ballooning information would have gone over my head without the pictures.

I get why this won the Newbery. It probably has a strong appeal to boys with the inventions and adventure, but I also loved it as a child and today. A clever and sophisticated, inventive story.

I cannot find the image that was on the copy I read as a child but I think this cover treatment is very cool. I do not at all like the cover copy on the edition (Puffin) I reread which implies the story is going to be Prof. Sherman's attempted escape from the crazy Krakatoans who have kidnapped him - which is completely bogus.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's Friday! Time for Book Blogger Hop!!

Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books is hosting another weekly Book Blogger Hop today!

This is a weekly event where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read. It's a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends! Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!

Pretty please - Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know! Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added! And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

So, let's do the Hop!

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
"It was more comfortable than I could have imagined. A room of my own with a bathroom, or rather an apartment of my own, because there were two rooms: a bedroom and a living room with a kitchenette."
Does this sound a little tiny bit creepy? Because the apartment is free. And mandatory. And filled with cameras. But no windows....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review: The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

At the end of this book I cried. Not with sadness at Dorrit's sacrifice and losses. But because since I've been an adult, I've never read a book that I felt so understood me. Those were the words I thought to myself as hot tears came to my eyes: "she understands." It is Elsa I cried for. And all the others.

In the dystopian world of The Unit, when women turn 50 (and men 60), if they are unpartnered, childless, and not working at an Important Job, they are deemed unneeded and sent off to live in a Unit. Their every need will be seen to, everything is free, and they will participate in medical experiments, until they make their final donation of vital organs. This is the story of Dorrit, a single, childless artist who hits that milestone and is taken away, and what happens to her afterward. It is translated from the Swedish.
When you read a lot, you recognize that those tropes you hear about how there are only 7 plots in the world (or 10 or 5 or 3) are true. So when you run across a book with a truly novel point of view, you treasure it. I can recall no other book I've read that treats the single and childless with such respect. (And that respect that the members of the Unit are shown is frequently noted as it's the first time they've felt it in their lives.)

I dread my bookclub. As the only member who is single and one of only two who are childless, I feel I will be focused on. But this book has left me raw and I don't particularly want to talk about how I would feel heading off to a Unit as that's where I'd be headed in that world while everyone else stayed and didn't even notice I was gone for a couple of years. My only hope would be to work hard and become invaluable that way.

This book is powerful and heart-wrenching. It will stay with me forever.

My Favorite Reads:The Omnivore's Dilemma

My Favorite Reads

Each week I am featuring one of my favorite reads from the past.

March is National Nutrition Month so I am posting books on food/drink. Today I chose The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Scott Brick (Narrator) (audiobook)

Summary (from the publisher):
A New York Times bestseller that has changed the way readers view the ecology of eating, this revolutionary book by award winner Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us - whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed - he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound implications our food choices have for the health of our species and the future of our planet.

Why I chose this book:

This book goes on a very, very short list of books that actually changed the way I think (or in this case, the way I eat). Ever since I read (well, listened) to this book, I have switched to only eating meat once a day. It's mostly for the environmental impact. and it helps that it's healthier too. This absolutely wasn't why I read the book though. I was on the road and I was eating fast food a lot of the time (not that I had many other options.) Mr. Pollan manages to be informative without pedantic. He's a health nut without being holier-than-thou (in fact, he even still ate a McDonald's meal at the end of the book although I doubt he would now.)

I just thought it was an interesting set-up: trace 4 meals from beginning to plate: McDonald's, Whole Foods, farmer's market, hunter-gatherer. I do eat a lot less fast food now, but it's still yummy. Thanks to Mr. Pollan I now know that a McDonald's meal is basically corn, corn, and corn with a side of corn, but it's yummy corn. I could never go as far as he has, but I admire his conviction, and his sense. He still manages to have fun with the story, while so many other authors would have been strident and tedious.

I recommend it highly. And the audio version was excellent. I didn't feel like I missed anything from the print book, it was well-read and entertaining.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Private Life by Jane Smiley

From the publisher:
A stunning novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner that traverses the intimate landscape of one woman’s life, from the 1880s to World War II.

Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He’s the most famous man their Missouri town has ever produced: a naval officer and an astronomer—a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret’s mother calls the match “a piece of luck.”

Yet Andrew confounds Margaret’s expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in San Francisco, and soon she realizes that his devotion to science leaves little room for anything, or anyone, else. She stands by him through tragedies both personal and those they share with the nation. But as World War II approaches, Andrew’s obsessions take a darker turn, forcing Margaret to reconsider the life she’s so carefully constructed.

A portrait of marriage and the mysteries that endure even in lives lived side by side; a riveting historical panorama; an unforgettable novel from one of our finest storytellers.

Publishes 5/4/10 by Knopf

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Okay I was very worried that this was going to be another Outlander when I had a word on the very first page, but luckily it didn't turn out that way.

sabot p. 3
"The woman in the lane carries herself with dignity, and she isn't wearing the shabby apron and wooden sabots of the village."
a shoe made of a single block of wood hollowed out, worn esp. by farmers and workers in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, etc. (see picture)

alizarin p. 18
"Robert's clothes were stained with oil paint, smudges of alizarin, cerulean, yello ochre - colors vivid against that determined drabness."
a solid appearing reddish-orange as crystals and brownish-yellow as powder, C14H8O4, one of the earliest known dyes, formerly obtained in its natural state from madder and now derived from anthraquinone: used chiefly in the synthesis of other dyes. (this wasn't very helpful, please see picture)

pellucid p. 357
"The morning was gray with mist, clearing in uneven patches overhead to show pellucid sky."
allowing the maximum passage of light, as glass; translucent.

sea-wrack p. 357
"I came out onto a stony beach, to the slop of water and sea-wrack, the bubbling tide among gray fingers of land."
seaweed or other vegetation cast on the shore.

TGVs p. 544
"But there were only three sleek, space-age TGVs pulled up to the near end of the rail, and the interior echoed with unintelligible departure announcements."
a high-speed French passenger train that runs on a separate track and is capable of a top speed of over 200 mph

Audio Books Challenge

I was recently chatting with BookNAround about how she's still signing up for Challenges, and since this is my first year blogging and doing challenges I wanted to just stick to the ones I'd signed up for in December/January. Then today I run across this one that I really like and I'm signing up for it. Partly, it's because I have already listened to 3 audiobooks this year, and am participating in Audiosynced, the round-up of audiobook reviews hosted this month by Abby (the) Librarian. Also at the recommendation of a previous boss, I signed up for an Audible membership a few months ago. Between marathon training and driving and gardening (which I hate, listening to podcasts and audiobooks makes weeding bearable), I am listening to more this year. So here's the latest (and hopefully last) Challenge for me:

Audio Book Reading Challenge
hosted by Royal Reviews

There are four levels:
-- Curious – Listen to 3 Audio Books.
-- Fascinated – Listen to 6 Audio Books. This will be my goal since I've already hit Curious but want to keep things manageable.
-- Addicted – Listen to 12 Audio Books.
-- Obsessed – Listen to 20 Audio Books.

Audio books only (natch). You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you. January 1st thru December, 2010.
So far:
You Were Always Mom's Favorite by Deborah Tannen
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Review: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

I was a little worried this book was over-hyped, but I liked it pretty well. A friend recently mentioned people either seem to love it or hate it, but in the spirit of obstinacy, I fall in between the extremes. I liked it pretty well but I wasn't bowled over.

I did not read The Historian so I can't compare the two. But oddly, a comparison that came to mind was The Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. I know that comparison might seem odd, but they both are stories told through multiple points-of-view, contemporaneously and in the past, about ferreting out a secret that would significantly change the way certain things are viewed if it ever comes out, alongside of course finding love.
Briefly, the plot: after an artist, Robert Oliver, attacks a painting at The National Gallery, he is arrested and committed. His psychiatrist, Marlowe, is an artist as well, and determined to get to the bottom of Oliver's problems which seem to stem from an obsession with a woman. However since Robert refuses to talk, Marlowe has to do a lot of investigating to get answers.

Initially, I was worried about Kostova's main character being male. That rarely bothers me but this guy seemed really soft. However, with his artistic tendencies and his career in psychiatry, it did seem in the end to work. Though, unusually, the book was filled with men who'd long outlived women (Marlowe's father, Henri), not to mention how everyone today hates email and communicates by letter (Marlowe, his father, Mary, the translator - although Marlowe did ask her to mail the letters.) I'm not entirely sure why this was set in 2000 instead of in 2009 or 2010. The foreshadowing created by Marlowe's mentioning of "my wife" was effective if obvious, but that still could have been accomplished if the events had happened just last year. I don't know what that contrivance accomplished.

But overall, the mystery of the woman Robert was obsessed with kept me enthralled. The characters are well-drawn, the discussions of art were both accessible and yet not dumbed-down. There were a few eye-rolling moments for me but luckily they were far-between and minor. Ms. Kostova was effective at bringing to life the fringes of the French 1870s art scene, at describing the gradual consequences of manic-depression (though I don't know why she couldn't ever name it), and at capturing the burgeoning romance of Marlowe and his future wife (to continue the foreshadowing and not give away spoilers). Several characters are brought out for just one purpose, and then they just disappear, never to be heard from again (the translator, the colleague who'd recommended Marlowe take Robert's case, even Kate to an extent) and I wish there's been a little more balance to that structure, but that's a pretty minor quibble.

I think most readers will love this romantic mystery, peppered with art and obsession. I liked it quite a bit and it's really gotten me in a mood to read more art-centered books.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Argh, for the first time I had a mishap with this meme. I jumped ahead in my book to pull a teaser and unfortunately I gave away to myself a really crucial plot twist! I think from now on in novels I should stick to the part of the book I've already read, provided I'm further than 10 pages in, for the Teaser.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
p. 80

"But I shouldn't complain," said Johannes. "At least there's no physical danger, no chemicals, and no scalpals involved."

Monday, March 22, 2010

For anyone who missed the Austen exhibit at the Morgan Library

A pretty cool video, did you know Cornel West was an Austen fan? Also Fran Lebowitz.

Musing Mondays

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about tbr books.

Where do you keep the books on the top of the tbr pile? Not the bulk of the mountain, but just the tip of the peak – the ‘almost up to’ books?

Well, almost all of the books in my house are TBRs (I try to get rid of most books once I've read them, with notable exceptions) so I get to look at them a lot. For some inexplicable reason the second shelf from the top on my right-hand bookcase seems to get the majority of the most recent and most tempting TBRs, but there's no real thinking behind that. I also try to keep them kind of organized on my Goodreads TBR page. But for the most part, what I decide to read next is mostly based on my mood and whim, so even a book at the "top" of my TBR list could go unread for years. (Exceptions: book club, having borrowed a book.) I've tried before to keep a more organized top of the TBR pile, but it hasn't really meant that I've read in an any more organized fashion.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey through a World of Books.

Books completed last week: grrr, none. On my long flight I had A) too much work to do, B) was too tired and, C) had chatty, nice seatmates on 2 legs. Plus my book club book snuck up on me. Which is why I'm doing something I normally don't do:

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

Books I Still Need to Write Reviews On: N/A (since I didn't finish any, grr)

Up Next (Still Hachette books for March):
The Evidence Against Her by Robb Forman Dew
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ten Random Things

I found this fun 'ten random things' meme at Stuck in a Book a month or so ago. She put a little spin on it. And invites us to do the same...

1.) Go to your bookshelves...
2.) Close your eyes. If you're feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or... basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself - where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc. etc.....
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn't matter if you've read them or not - be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to...

What I did was go to a randomizer, put in the number of books I have on my Goodreads list (using Excel I could just create a list of 1601 consecutive numbers in a few seconds), sorted my list of all books by date added (which already randomizes it a bit) and then just pulled each book according to the number. This list really is random.

1. 63
Morgan’s Passing by Anne Tyler
After college, I was really struggling with what to read, how to find out about new books to read, how to choose books. I discovered Anne Tyler, and so I bought and read all of her books. Yep, you heard me, all of them. This one in particular I don’t remember details of (I have a very bad memory) but I liked all of them. Since that binge, I continue to acquire her books but have only read one. I hope to rectify that this year.

2. 207
I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
At the height of chick lit, it started to splinter. This was the ne plus ultra of the “mommy lit” subgenre of chick lit. I read it when it was first out, thought it was cute, and in fact this book showed up at my book swap on Tuesday and I recommended it to a friend. I remember liking it a lot, although thinking the protagonist was a tad too worried about what others think of her. Still, that is likely a concern of most moms (which I am not).

3. 707
The Pit and the Pendulum and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe
I believe this was summer reading for 9th grade. I was switching from Catholic school to public high school and suddenly went from about 3 summer reading books to about 8. It was a fun book. I particularly liked The Fall of the House of Usher. My book club is talking about reading this around Halloween. I would very much like to revisit this as an adult as I imagine I’d have a very different take on it since I’m no longer 13.

4. 663
Watership Down by Richard Adams
This was also during my post-college floundering period. I was actually working at TicketMaster in a phone room taking orders. It was very, very busy in the mornings, and then at 2:00 calls dropped off significantly. We had dumb terminals so no internet surfing. We were tethered to our phones (literally with our headsets). Entertainment options for between calls were very limited. I have no idea how I ran across this book but it was really great and just right for me at that time. I still sometimes want to call my car a “hrududu”. It IS a better word. Later, while working at a bookstore, I was incredibly glad I had read this as I could pry it out of the hands of loving but misguided adults who thought that since it was about bunnies, it was appropriate for 11-year-olds.

5. 987
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
I read this is a fabulous college course called Studies in Literature by Women. I don’t remember much about it but it was well outside of my norm and was pretty eye-opening. Plays are not something I read on my own and maybe that's something I should consider doing. It was contemporary, and was helping pull me into reading books NOW instead of books then.

6. 1166
Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice
I honestly don’t remember if I read this before or after I saw the movie. But I remember I was at my summer job in the campus bookstore, and I also read the first sequel. She is one of my youngest sister’s favorite authors, but the two books, while I enjoyed them, were sufficient for me. A good beach read.

7. 876
The Riverside Shakespeare by William Shakespeare
Another college book, this one being a lovely, huge complete leather-bound volume. In my Shakespeare class we read about 10 plays which didn’t even make a dent in the book. I will keep this forever, but I really doubt I’ll ever read another play. Unless there’s another Shakespeare movie as seminal as “Romeo + Juliet” and it is based on a play I’ve not read. (I did actually break this book out once while watching that movie.)

8. 1189
Nancy’s Mysterious Letter (Nancy Drew #8) by Carolyn Keene
When I was about 10, I read roughly the first 100 books in the Nancy Drew series. They are well-written (especially the first 20), escapist fantasies. I think every single girl has read these and that’s just what they deserve. The first 20 books were hand-me-downs from one of my aunts, and so they were the 1960s edition.

9. 1380
Time and Again by Jack Finney
Before I moved to New York, I was told that I absolutely had to read the book. It was cute and I enjoyed it. I really liked the details both in how the experiement worked, and then in the historic period. I loved the illustrations which are so unusual in an adult novel. Then last year, it was picked for my book club so I reread it 10 years after the first read, which is not something I usually do these days. But I’m glad I did. It’s not a genre I usually delve into and I do frequently try to expand my literary horizons. Pretty much everyone in my book club liked it too. I’ve owned the sequel for probably 8 years, haven’t read it yet though.

10. 1409
She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
This is the one TBR that popped up on my list. Haven Kimmel has been on my radar for about 10 years. A couple of years ago I bought A Girl Called Zippy at a used book store, and last year I read it and loved it. This is the sequel which I really would like to read. She’s got a great voice and a quirky family. I haven't bought it yet but it's on my list ao when I do run across it I remember it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book Review: Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

I will admit, I had never read these books. So I’m starting with the first one, and it was adorable.

For those (like me until this morning) who are unfamiliar:
Betsy and Tacy are five-year-old best friends in the early 1900s in a small town. They climb trees, start school, play dress-up, and deal with the death of Tacy's baby sister. This is the first in a 10-book series that follows the girls as they grow up.

I love that the book is called Betsy-Tacy because the two girls were always together so when their families would call for them, they’d call “Betsy-Tacy!” I can actually hear that call in my head and it makes me smile. I also loved how Betsy basically just decided she was going to be friends with Tacy, and aside from their initial disastrous meeting, that’s exactly what happened. Children can be so determined and open that way. I wish I’d had a piano box to play in, and their dress-up clothes sound fabulous (although my Mom’s old ‘60s/’70s clothes were pretty fun too.) The book gives me the warm, homey feeling of Our Town. I wish I could climb trees, have picnics, and play paperdolls with Betsy and Tacy. The very end when Tacy helps reassure Betsy after her baby sister is born really is what makes the book perfect, as it shows there is balance in the relationship, and it’s not just Betsy bossing Tacy around. I am eager to read the rest of these darling books.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

"Joan Ganz Cooney walked toward the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street, lost in a fog of grief."

So sad, she's heading to the funeral of Jim Henson who died unexpectedly of an untreated strep infection.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Favorite Reads: Candy and Me

My Favorite Reads

Each week I am featuring one of my favorite reads from the past. March is National Nutrition Month so I am featuring books on food & wine. This week is Candy and Me (A Love Story) by Hilary Liftin

Summary (from the publisher):
As a seven-year-old child, Hilary Liftin poured herself a glass (or two) of powdered sugar. Those forbidden cups soon escalated to pound bags of candy corn and multiple packets of dry cocoa mix, launching the epic love affair between Hilary and all things sweet. In Candy and Me: A Love Story, Liftin chronicles her life through candy memories and milestones. As a high school student, Hilary used candy to get through track meets, bad hair days, after-school jobs, and her first not-so-great love. Her sweet tooth followed her to college, where she tried to suppress the crackle of Smarties wrappers in morning classes. Through life's highs and lows, her devotion has never crashed -- candy has been a constant companion and a refuge that sustained her.

As Liftin recounts her record-setting candy consumption, loves and friendships unfold in a funny and heartbreaking series of bittersweet revelations and restorative meditations. Hilary survives a profound obsession with jelly beans and a camp counselor, a forgettable fling with Skittles at a dot-com, and a messy breakup healed by a friendship forged over Circus Peanuts. Through thick and thin, sweet and sour, Hilary confronts the challenges of conversation hearts and the vagaries of boyfriends, searching for that perfect balance of love and sugar.

Written with a fresh dry humor that will immediately absorb you into Liftin's sweet obsessions and remind you of your own, Candy and Me unwraps the meaning found in the universal desire for connection and confection. Treat yourself to Candy and Me -- being bad never read so good.

Why I chose this book:
I have an enormous sweet tooth. I used to bake cakes for my dentist in my Easy-Bake Oven. And I love Ms. Liftin's writing. I had read and loved Dear Exile a few years earlier. When I heard this book was coming out, it was like Halloween (my favorite holiday)! Even though I read the book nearly ten years ago, I vividly remember Ms. Liftin talking about when she first ate real fruit - she was in her teens - and she was disappointed that they didn't taste like "grape" and "orange" flavored candy. And the story about how her now husband proposed was insanely sweet (with both meanings of the word.) I immediately went on a hunt for Giant Sweettarts after I read this book, and I continue to this of this book every time I eat them (which is most every time I go on a car trip.) I wish the Giant Sweettarts still came in the old-style option of not Chewy. I wish I could find Bottlecaps. Ms. Liftin writes wonderfully, with a light hand that takes her candy obsession seriously but not too seriously. It is a hilarious, fun read for every sugar addict who knows all the symptoms of pre-diabetes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ouch, my poor library!

Just found out my poor local library (Charlotte & Mecklenburg County) had their budget slashed by $2 Million last night (that's for the current year, not next year) which means 140 people will be laid off and 12 branches will be closed. This is after a $4 Million budget reduction since January 2009. While I personally am not a library frequenter as I get so many books elsewhere, my very, very first job in the book biz was at my college library, I have volunteered at the library back home when I (very briefly) didn't work with books, and I volunteered at this library for 4 years when I first moved to NC.

I just donated through the easiest donation website ever, as this just hurts my heart. I spent so many wonderful hours at the library as a child, it introduced me to so many wonderful authors and ideas, and I can't imagine a world without libraries. I'm sure many libraries are going through this same crisis around the country but it always hurts most when it hits home.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

I did not include the words for flowers, birds, herbs, swearing, Gaelic, Latin, or French. This is my last post where all the words are from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I don’t know if it’s mostly the Scottish that made so many of these pop up for me, or the historical, though I suspect it’s both. Thankfully I found a couple of sources of Scottish slang as many of these words were not found in dictionary.com. I only listed words once, the first time I ran across them, regardless of how many times they appeared.

Brose (653)
“On one occasion, I had left the table to fetch a brose pudding for dessert.”
a porridge made by stirring boiling liquid into oatmeal or other meal.
Addlepated (749)
“This made him look so like an addlepated tiger that I burst into half-hysterical laughter before I could stop myself.”
Costive (759)
“At least I’ll not be costive for a bit.”
suffering from constipation; constipated.
Bothies (765)
“We passed a few scattered bothies, smoke rising from the thatched roofs.”
a hut or small cottage.
Caudle (777)
“He emphatically refused any suggestion of caudle or broth for breakfast.”
a warm drink for the sick, as of wine or ale mixed with eggs, bread, sugar, spices, etc.
Ogives (779)
“The library was beautiful, high-roofed, with soaring Gothic columns that joined in ogives in the mutichambered roof.”
a pointed arch. (see picture)
Sortes Virgilianae (796)
“I was hardly the first person to have recourse to the sortes Virgilianae in time of confusion or trouble.”
a form of divination by bibliomancy in which advice or predictions of the future are sought by randomly selecting a passage from Virgil's Aeneid
Ciborium (800)
“Abbot Alexander sat at the bed-side, accompanied by a monk who held a tray with a covered ciborium, two small silver bottles containing holy water and chrism, and a whit cloth draped across both forearms.”
any container designed to hold the consecrated bread or sacred wafers for the Eucharist.
Posset (817)
“He was sick of broth, posset, and milk.”
a drink made of hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or the like, often sweetened and spiced.
Oriel (849)
“Here an ancient oriel window opened glassless to the sky.”
a form of bay window commonly found in Gothic revival architecture, which jut out from the main wall of the building but do not reach to the ground (see picture)