Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tumbling Blocks

Before I leave on vacation, I wanted to get in a quick review of Tumbling Blocks by Earlene Fowler which I just finished. Just to warn you, I tend to like mysteries in a series and have read most (I won't say all because I probably missed a few along the way) of the Benni Harper mysteries. These are my lazy summer reads. So, with that said:

Strengths of Tumbling Blocks: Having read most of the series makes me comfortable with the characters and setting of Benni's world. In this book, I especially enjoyed the information about "outsider" art and the growth exhibited by Benni's husband, Gabe. Fowler's writing is like being wrapped in a cozy quilt (Yes, I know ... the titles) on a cold evening ... it's comfortable, familiar, and predictable. I always enjoy the humor in the writing and can appreciate the relationship between Benni and her best friend.

Weaknesses of Tumbling Blocks: I pretty much had the mystery solved by the middle of the story and got a bit annoyed that Benni was being so dense. Also, the ending was too quick and easily resolved. Maybe I expect a bit more from the endings of novels ... it did tie up the loose ends, but I prefer a bit more suspense at the end of a mystery.

That being said ... it's a fun beach read and would be a great companion on a quilter's weekend. Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Something About Me Reading Challenge

I found a reading challenge which asks people to submit a list of five books that in some way define themselves. Then, each person is supposed to select books to read from other people's lists. I wasn't going to do this, but I found myself thinking about books and how I define myself so here it goes:

The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, No 1)
The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, No 1) (Juv Fic)

This is the first Nancy Drew book I ever read. It was handed to me by my babysitter one hot summer day when I was eight or nine. I was instantly hooked and, luckily, she had the whole series so I spent most of that hot summer reading my way through (in order, or course). I begged my parents to buy them for me so I could read them all over again. These are the only books I've kept for my own daughter. I think that was the summer that made me a reader!

Paula by Isabel Allende (NF)

I am a huge fan of Allende's writing ... her prose is magnificent, but this one was different for me. It is the story of her adult daughter's untimely illness and ultimate death. It is funny and touching and mystical. I will never forget reading late into the night with my eyes so full of tears that I could barely see the page, but I had to keep going. It wasn't just Paula's death, but the eloquence of the writing and the eternal bond between mother and daughter. This book makes me appreciate my daughter in ways I hadn't before I read it.

Among Schoolchildren
Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder (NF)

I read this book probably fifteen years ago near the start of my teaching career. It energized my passion to teach as well as my passion to be a lifelong learner. Kidder also opened my heart and helped me interact with children and their families in a different way.

Hiroshima by John Hersey (NF)

When I was in Junior High, I had a pair of English teachers who used a point system to track our monthly reading assignment. Books were assigned point values, and to earn a certain grade you had to read books based on the points. Well ... I digress ... this book was part of that library, and I picked it because (believe it of not) it was the right number of points. I remember being shocked and outraged by this account of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It sparked a couple of things in me ... first, I couldn't look at the world in quite the same way and, second, I learned that my father was stationed in Korea at that point of WWII and would have been part of the Japanese invasion force. I don't think I would ever have heard that story if I hadn't been reading this book.

A Hard Light: A Maggie MacGowen Mystery
A Hard Light: A Maggie MacGowen Mystery (Fic)

This choice is for a number of reasons, but one is that I truly enjoy mysteries of any kind. It probably goes back to my Nancy Drew days. But, more importantly, the author is a friend and reminds me that people are not destined for only one thing in life, but that we are more complex and play a multitude of roles.

I'd be curious what anyone else would select. Happy reading!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Daddy's Girl

I just finished reading Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline. I don't like reviews that simply recap the story so you're just going to get my opinions. But first, I should say that my husband always tells me that my taste in everything - books, movies, and television shows - declines in the summer so I tend to read books that are quicker and more fun to read. So, with that said:

Strengths of
Daddy's Girl: It's a fun read with lots of exciting twists and turns. I quite liked the heroine - probably because she's a law professor who is honest about her struggles in the classroom. I can appreciate that as well as Scottoline's book dedication to teachers. Thanks for the recognition. I also enjoyed how she injected humor into the minor characters, even when the action got quite tense. The character of Nat showed growth and development throughout the story which is unusual in today's literature. She ended up being a person who would be enjoyable at a dinner party, and she reads a lot of books. Good for her.

Weaknesses of
Daddy's Girl: The concluding plot twist (which I won't reveal so I don't wreck the book for anyone) came a bit out of left field. Maybe I missed some clues earlier in the plot, but I really didn't see it coming. I don't need to have happy endings, but this one didn't quite work for me. It didn't feel in tune with the characters.

Overall, it's a fun summer beach read. If anyone has insight into the ending, I'd appreciate your comments. Happy reading!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Life, Death and Hives

It's been a long weekend as "Spots" recovers from the hives, which, unfortunately, cancelled a long-planned trip to Disneyland. After almost an hour of tears this morning, it was clear that this was the end of the world to her eight year old mind. A visit from Grandma and Grandpa and $20 did a lot to erase that thought.

It got me to thinking that what seems truly significant, at the time, isn't. That hit home with me as I've been following the tragic story of the suicide attempt of opera tenor Jerry Hadley. He was not one of the mass-marketed singers, but I had the chance to hear him live in duet with Thomas Hampson at the San Diego Opera. He was sublime, and their duet from The Pearlfishers can bring tears to your eyes.

The last I read, he's in a coma after shooting himself in the head with an air rifle. What a waste of a life and a talent! My thought are with his friends and family.

It brings the hives into perspective. "Spots" will recover, and I've had a weekend to spend with her. What a blessing!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday's Six

OK this one sounds like fun! This is Saturday's Six!

1. What is your absolute favorite dessert?

Any homemade and decorated cake

2. When is the last time you had it?

About one month ago

3. If you had to give up one of the following for life: cookies, cake, ice cream, pie, or chocolate, which would you choose never to try again?

I could easily give up pie ... it's not my favorite. But not chocolate ... I think chocolate should be a food group.

4. Take the quiz: What flavor of ice cream are you?

You Are Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

You are kind, popular, and generous.
You tend to be successful at anything you try.
A social butterfly, you are great at entertaining a crowd.

You are most compatible with strawberry ice cream.

5. If you attempted to make the dessert you like best, how well do you think it would turn out?

I make great decorated cakes ... out of the box but the decorations are great!

6. If you were going to invent your own flavor of ice cream to be carried by a company like Ben & Jerry’s, what ingredients would you require?

Chocolate. chocolate and more chocolate. No nuts or strawberries because that's just wrong. Maybe some whipped cream and cherries so it's more like a shake.

Booking Through Thursday - But Late!

I've spent most of today sitting at home with "Spots" - the child who has hives. She's finally asleep after a movie marathon and I was intrigued by this meme. So I thought I'd give it a try

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?

There are a couple that come to mind but I was very impressed with the film version of The Shipping News probably because it exceeded my expectations. My picture of Quoyle was not Kevin Spacey, but I came away with a new appreciation for the power of E. Annie Proulx's writing. A close second, but probably because it was the first time I'd really thought about the power of literature as film would be Gone with the Wind (1939). That was the movie that taught me how to read with the "movie in my head." And that's how I teach students to read to this day!

2. The worst?

There have been so many ... I tend to be very disappointed when the actual movies don't match my mental images. But the worst for me .... 1. The Da Vinci Code (2006) because Tom Hanks was not who I fell in love with during the book and 2. The House of the Spirits (1993) because Allende's book was so mystical which the movie ignored!

3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.) And, by all means, expand this to as long a list as you like. I’m notoriously awful myself at narrowing down to one favorite ANYTHING. So, feel free to list as many “good” or “bad” movie-from-books as you like. (Heaven knows that’s what I’ll be doing….)

I almost always read a book before seeing a movie, because I read way more books than go to movies. I also tend to hate children's books that are made into movies with Bridge to Terabithia (2007) being a notable exception.

It's a little late but I'm celebrating Thursday on Saturday this week.