Monday, January 28, 2008

Banned Book Challenge

I told myself that I wasn't doing any more challenges, but I have to participate in this one. I can't stand the prospect of book banning and firmly believe that everyone has the right to read, or not to read, anything they'd like. This challenge is sponsored by the Pelham Public Library. I heard about it at Juli's blog Can I Borrow your Book?

The rules:

1. Select a number of books you'd like to read from banned book lists. The Pelham site has a good list.

2. Register at the Pelham blog.

3. Reading is done between February 24th and June 30th.

My choices are:

1. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (this is cross-listed with the A to Z Challenge)

2. Dance Me Outside by W.P. Kinsella (which will also apply to the Canadian Book Challenge and is listed on the A to Z Challenge)

3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eva's Book Meme

I got tagged for this one by John who mildly threatened to stop reading my blog if I didn't respond. Actually, he'll keep reading because I'm 2/3s of the way through with another Carol Shields book, and I'm sure he's curious to read the review. He got it from Eva at A Striped Armchair. Anyway, here it is:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

I've had The Road on my TBR list for awhile but every time I got to pick it up, I can't even face the cover. I actually left one copy in Hawaii and had to mooch a second, which I still haven't read.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

1. Clara Trueba from The House of the Spirits because I'd love to experience her incredible abilities.

2. Rachel from The Poisonwood Bible to experience her vapidness.

3. Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief because her spirit astounded me.

Obviously, we'd have a ladies tea because I think this group would kill each other on a deserted island!

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it's past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

I'd have to say Smilla's Sense of Snow which my husband gave me to be nice. I really hated the first twenty pages, and think it would be misery to read the whole thing.

Come on, we've all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you've read, when in fact you've been nowhere near it?

I'm drawing a blank on this one. If I haven't read it, I'm usually honest about it. There are classics which I can't finish, but that's not the same thing.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to 'reread' it that you haven't? Which book?

I tend to get the plots of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility mixed up. I have read them both, but when I read reviews of them I can't keep them straight.

You've been appointed Book Advisor to a VIP (who's not a big reader). What's the first book you'd recommend and why? (if you feel like you'd have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)

I'd have to hand them a copy of The Book Thief because it's sense of humanity is amazing. I'm probably thinking of a VIP who is also a world leader. Maybe they need to think more and react less.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Spanish! I'd love to read Isabel Allende without translation.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Wow, there are a lot of choices. I could reread The House of the Spirits, The World According to Garp, Paula, or The Book Thief anytime!

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What's one bookish thing you 'discovered' from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I don't think I've discovered any new genres, but I have found authors. Carol Shields is one of the people I've read because of book blogs. I don't think I would have found The Book Thief on my own either. I've found that book blogging has pushed me out of the comfortable mystery genre and gotten me to read many more things. Thanks to everyone for that!

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

I don't think it would be about the books, but the place. I'd love to have a reading room. I'm picturing a few bookshelves, a great cozy chair with a table next to it, a tall reading lamp, and a door for quiet and privacy. That would be a dream come true.

I guess I'm supposed to tag some people so CJ, Literary Feline, Presbyterian Gal, and Alison consider yourselves tagged!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. My husband makes me happy.
2. I would like more sleep and time, please.
3. Chocolate (and Starbucks!) tastes SO good!
4. Thursday is my favorite day of the week because I'm starting an Artist's Way class.
5. I have no idea ... I'm too tired to think of my best feature.
6. We could learn so much from children.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to prepping my Girl Scout troop for a presentation, tomorrow my plans include the Girl Scout presentation and going to the symphony and Sunday, I want to kick back and relax but it's Open House at my school!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Huh?

Here is this week's BTT question:

What’s your favorite book that nobody else has heard of? You know, not Little Women or Huckleberry Finn, not the latest best-seller . . . whether they’ve read them or not, everybody “knows” those books. I’m talking about the best book that, when you tell people that you love it, they go, “Huh? Never heard of it?”

This is going to be a short and sweet answer because I just got home from work after a full teaching day and an evening parent meeting. My choice is Paula by Isabel Allende. Most people have heard or, or read, something by Allende, but when I mention Paula no one seems to have read it or know about it. It is Allende's account of her adult daughter's sudden illness and ultimate death. It is one of the few books that I have weeped during. I can't read the last few pages without tears in my eyes. Not because it is so overwhelmingly sad, which it is, but because of the beautiful way in which Allende immortalizes her daughter's spirit. It really is breath-taking. I think my copy may even have tear stains on it. As many of you know, I don't tend to keep books that I've already read. I pass them along to others. This is one of the books that I have kept. It is also one I don't tend to loan out because I'm afraid of losing it. I actually bought someone their own copy rather than lend them mine!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book came very highly recommended from many of my fellow bloggers, and I read it for the A to Z Challenge. Right away, I want to say WOW - everyone was right. This is an excellent book. It is definitely a 5 star book in my rating system this year. I said I'd reserve 5 stars for books that blew me away, and this one did it.

For those of you who don't know, this book is set in a small town in Nazi Germany during World War II and tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a German teenage girl, as told by Death. Death is the narrator and a major character in the book. It is also the story of the people who live in her street and in her small town. Yes, it is a Holocaust story but not in the same way as many of the books I've read.

In the past, I've had the good fortune to teach Number the Stars and The Diary of Anne Frank to groups of young people. This book needs to join that literature group for young adults. It is the first book I've read where I truly understood the terrors faced by the German population at the time. I've always thought how could anyone let such horrendous things happen, but Zusak showed me a different view of humanity - the humanity of the average German who truly had no choice.

STRENGTHS OF THE BOOK THIEF: There are so many. First, I think Zusak has created one of the all-time great characters/narrators in Death. I know that sounds funny, but Death, in this story, is human, humane, compassionate, and a bit humorous. At the end of the book, Death says, "I am haunted by humans." In some ways, I think Death is haunted by humanity - both the good and the bad parts. When Death does take children in the story, his compassion and gentleness moved me to tears.

Another strength is how Zusak created the characters of Liesel and her foster father, Hans. The depth of their relationship is clear, but so is their humanity. At one point in the book, they shelter a Jewish man in their basement. I don't want to give away anything in the book, but Death does say that all people die. I was quite taken with Death's descriptions of both Liesel and Han's souls. That also brought me to tears.

Zusak was also able to tie all the pieces together, and the book didn't feel like over 500 pages. Everything happened for a reason which helped move the plot along elsewhere in the book. Each of the book thieving incidents by Liesel were turning points in the plot. I actually reread the first twenty pages of the book after I finished it because Death alludes to a lot of these points right at the start of the story.

WEAKNESSES OF THE BOOK THIEF: My first instinct is to say NONE, but, after a discussion of the book with my husband, I did realize one thing about it. It required that the reader had some basic knowledge of the rise of Hitler in Germany, the horrors of the concentration camps, and the way war was fought in World War II with bombers etc. It didn't even occur to me since I always assume that this is knowledge that all educated people possess. However, my husband reminded me that there are schools were the Holocaust is not discussed and where American and World History courses never get to World War II. I hope teachers find this book and use it to inform students.

Overall, what can I say. WOW and again WOW. I don't keep many books - I pass them along for others to read. This is going to be one of the few that I put my name in because I want my daughter to read it when she's old enough. I've read many blogger's reviews of this one, but please feel free to leave me links to your reviews. I want to reread them now that I've read the book.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. The last compliment I got was from a parent; he/she said that they were pleased with the way I handled a difficult situation.
2. I'm reading The Book Thief which has been highly recommended on a number of blogs.
3. I woke up today and thoughtthree day weekend coming!
4. Why does it always seem like good or bad things happen in threes!.
5. The last thing I ate was an ice cream sandwich called an Its It.
6. January... cold and Open House time at school.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to movie night (it was Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone), tomorrow my plans include taking in a jazz concert for date night and Sunday, I want to do nothing but I really have to help Surfer Girl finish her science project and we still need to take down the Christmas tree!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

This is a book for the A to Z challenge as well as a Pulitzer Prize winner so I'm using it for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. I've read so much about this one on various blogs that I had to give it a read.

It is the story of three women in three different time periods; Virginia Woolf as she's writing Mrs. Dalloway (which is a book I highly recommend), Clarissa Vaughan as she's planning a party for a friend dying of AIDS, and Laura Brown, a suburban 1950s housewife. Cunningham interweaves the three stories in alternating chapters. I read Mrs. Kimble for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. It is also the story of three women yet their lives are intertwined with a shared husband, and they do interact in the book. The women in this book live in different times and places. Yet, Cunningham is able to make them seem remarkable similar.

Strengths of The Hours: The fact that he was able to make me care about these three very different women in only 200 pages is amazing. He basically told the story of one momentous day in each of their lives. I say momentous because it is dramatic in one story but less so, outwardly, in the others. There was a sense of depression and desperation running through the three stories yet I felt the most positive about Clarissa, even though her story is the most obviously tragic. Cunningham was able to give her a strength that was lacking in the other two. I felt quite depressed at the sameness between the state of Virginia and Laura. It was especially interesting to see how Cunningham made it clear that they were, in some way, beholden to, or controlled by, the men in their lives. Each experienced a true sense of despair in life. I can't say I enjoyed this part of the story, but it did make me think and reflect. Maybe that's the point.

Weaknesses of The Hours: This may be a very personal response to the story - and quite secondary to its power, but I had trouble with Richard. He is the poet and writer in Clarissa's life who is dying of AIDS. It is probably the fact that Cunningham choose to give him AIDS that affected me. The chapters that featured him were quite difficult to read because I have lost friends to AIDS, and it truly is a horrible disease. I wonder if I would have felt the same way if it had been a different disease. I'm sure this is not an issue for others - like I said, this is a very personal point of view.

Overall, I'd give The Hours 4 stars out of 5. I almost gave it 5, but I'm trying to hold my 5 stars for books that truly blow me away in every way. It was make into a movie with Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep which I haven't seen. I've heard mixed things about it, but I'm adding it to my Netflix list because I'm curious. Let me know if you've read this one and have an opinion, or if you've seen the movie.

Book Awards Reading Challenge - Midway report

It seems we are midway through the time for this challenge and it's time to update my progress.
I've finished 8 of the 12 books on my list, and loved most of them. I even got my book of the year from this list. I have four to go and may make a substitution. I'm almost done with The Hours which qualifies as a Pulitzer Prize winner. I will probably substitute it for The Road because that one seems to be getting buried on the TBR pile.

So here's the finished list:

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Pulitzer Prize, 2003)
2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Man Booker Prize, 2002)
3. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (Newbery, 2004)
4. Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (PEN/Hemingway, 2003)
5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Book Sense Adult Fiction Winner, 2000)
6. City of Bones by Michael Connelly (Anthony Award, 2003)
7. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (Pulitzer Prize, 1995)
8. California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker (Edgar Award, 2005)

Here's the TBR list:

1. Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (Newbery, 2006)
2. Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Newbery, 2007)
3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer Prize, 2007)
Possible substitution of The Hours by Michael Cunningham
4. March by Geraldine Brooks (Pulitzer Prize, 2006)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. My favorite book of 2007 was The Poisonwood Bible.
2. I'm most tempted by a bookstore full of books.
3. Today I want to spend time with my family.
4. The last thing I took a picture of was either a child in my class or my daughter.
5. You and I have memories of a lot of fun times and vacations.
6. The most recent movie I’ve seen that I really enjoyed was The Water Horse.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to movie night with the family (It's Annie tonight) tomorrow my plans include seeing Chinese acrobats and Sunday, I want to have some quite time to read.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Introductions

Here's this week's BTT questions:

  1. How did you come across your favorite author(s)? Recommended by a friend? Stumbled across at a bookstore? A book given to you as a gift?
  2. Was it love at first sight? Or did the love affair evolve over a long acquaintance?

Wow, these are good ones. Two of my favorite authors are John Irving and Isabel Allende. I was given a copy of The World According to Garp by a friend who insisted I read it. This was probably my first year in college (but my memory gets hazier as I age LOL). This one really was love at first sight. I then read everything I could find. Unfortunately, the love affair has faded recently. I haven't liked his more recent works nearly as much as his earlier books. I guess love can be fickle.

My husband read a review of an Allende novel and urged me to read it after he was done. It was The House of Spirits which I did like though I'd say this author has grown on me over time. I absolutely adored The Infinite Plan and Paula is probably my absolutely most favorite book.

I have to say that I don't really have any other favorite authors. I tend to move between a variety of different authors. I've found I'm more drawn to a story than the author. There are many authors where I've only read one book, liked it, but never decided to pick up anything else by the author. Maybe I'm tough to court. I have so many books I want to read that I will move on quite rapidly unless an author's style really holds my attention.

I'm off to see what other people had to say!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Blog Readability Level

cash advance

Online Payday Loans

This is quite an exaggeration!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Blood Work by Michael Connelly

This is my first review for 2008 and part of the A to Z Challenge. Blood Work is the story of retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb. The reader meets Terry, in this book, after a successful heart transplant when he is confronted by his heart donor's sister. It turns out the sister was murdered, and the case has not been solved. The book revolves around Terry's attempts to solve the murder case while still recovering from the heart transplant surgery.

Strengths of Blood Work: I loved the main character. Terry was very likable yet vulnerable. He was not the hot shot perfect detective you meet in some novels. He was flawed and not all his ideas were correct. The heart transplant also added complexity to his character. According to the author's notes, Connelly talked in detail with a heart transplant patient to portray Terry's physical and emotional responses correctly. The title is also a good play on words and relates well to various points of the plot.

SPOILER ALERT: SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT A MAJOR PLOT POINT REVEALED. Another strength was the plot. Connelly ties the donor's murder to two other murders. He then, further, ties them to an old unsolved case of Terry's from his FBI days. He is able to build a good deal of tension in the story as the layers are revealed. Terry's final confrontation of the killer comes at breakneck speed after the reader thinks it is all over. The last few chapters race by! SPOILER ENDED.

Weaknesses of Blood Work:
I really didn't like the romance between Terry and the dead donor's sister. It seemed liked a forced subplot where the author tried to give him redemption for his actions. There was a lot of talk of losing, and regaining, faith. It felt a little too forced to me.

Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was an exciting read. I'd probably give it a 4 out of 5 - I'm going to experiment with a scale in 2008 to see how I like it. Let me know if you've read this one. I'm also curious. Does anyone know if McCaleb's character is from another of Connelly's books?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. This year, I'd like to spend the summer traveling.
2. Having lots of spare time is what I daydream about most.
3. My husband is a great cook.
4. I would like to have more laughter in my life.
5. I love to have lots of friends around the house.
6. My daughter makes me smile.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to movie night at home, tomorrow my plans include attending a baby shower and Sunday, I want to spend a quiet hour all by myself!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Blogger Secret Santa

I was going to post a picture of my gift but I'm having camera technology issues so I wanted to let everyone know what I got. My secret Santa was Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit. I'm very excited about my gifts. I got a package of dark chocolate truffles (very yummy!) and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. In my description, I asked for someone else's favorite book so I'm pretty sure this is a favorite of Serena's. I haven't read this one in 20 years so it's time for a chocolate and toasty fire reread!

Thanks to Nymeth for putting this whole thing together. It was lots of fun!

A to Z Challenge List - Revised

Thanks to all the suggestions I've filled in more titles.

This week's BTT question asks about reading plans for 2008. Since I just wrote this post, it seems to answer the question because these are the books I'm looking forward to reading in 2008.

I found this challenge at Joy's and thought I'd join in. It runs all of 2008 so I might have a chance to finish it. As you can see, I don't have a complete list yet so I'm open to suggestions.


A American Gods by Neil Gaiman

B Bloodwork by Michael Connelly COMPLETED

C Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
D Damage Control by J.A. Jance


F Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich COMPLETED

G Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson COMPLETED

H Hold Tight by Harlan Coben COMPLETED

I I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak

J Julia's Chocolate by Cathy Lamb

K Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

L Literacy and Longing in L.A. by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack COMPLETED

M My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult COMPLETED

N North of Montana by April Smith COMPLETED

O Odd Hours by Dean Koontz COMPLETED

P Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult COMPLETED

Q Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman

R The Road by Cormac McCarthy

S Step on a Crack by James Patterson

T The Town that Forgot How to Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey



W The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt


Y Yellowknife by Steve Zipp

Z Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunsmore


A The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende COMPLETED

B The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares COMPLETED

C The Hours by Michael Cunningham COMPLETED


E Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich COMPLETED


G Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore COMPLETED

H A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini


J A Certain Justice by P.D. James COMPLETED

K The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn


M A Girl Could Stand Up by Leslie Marshall

N The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

P Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult COMPLETED

R Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

S The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

T The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle

U The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett


W The Sculptress by Minette Walters



Z The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Blogger Blessings

I was just tagged by my friend Presbyterian Gal for a blogger blessing. The idea is to bless and celebrate the people we've come to know in the blogging world and keep the blessings moving. The original thread can be found here.

Here's the description:

The idea… it’s a game of tag with a difference, rather than looking inwardly, we look outside ourselves and bless, praise and pray for one blog friend. By participating in this endeavour we not only make the recipient of the blessing feel valued and appreciated, but we are having some fun too. We’re going to see how far the bloggin’ blessings can travel around the world and how many people can be blessed! Recipients of a bloggin’ blessing may upload the above image to their sidebar if they choose to. If you recieve a bloggin’ blessin’ please leave a comment on this thread here so that we can rejoice in just how many blessings have been sent around the world!

So I get to choose three people to bless - so I'm sending Happy New Year greetings to these three book bloggers because I enjoy reading their blogs and value their contributions to my blog with their comments.

So, please know you are blessed and appreciated:

CJ from My Year of Reading Seriously

Alison from So Many Books, So Little Time

Literary Feline from Musings of a Bookish Kitty