Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What I Read in 2008

Assuming I remembered to log everything in LibraryThing, here is what I read this year (alphabetically, since I don't always remember to put in the date)! 

  1. 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson (children's)
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA)
  3. A Doll's House (Sandman, Vol. 2) by Neil Gaiman
  4. All Year Long by Kathleen W. Deady (picture book)
  5. The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman (audiobook; YA; re-read)
  6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  7. Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (picture book)
  8. Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher by Lenore Hart
  9. Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley (children's)
  10. Big Chickens Fly the Coop by Leslie Helakoski (picture book)
  11. Black Ships by Jo Graham
  12. Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
  13. Bobbie Dazzler by Margaret Wild (picture book)
  14. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly 
  15. The Braid by Helen Frost
  16. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (audiobook)
  17. Chicken Boy by Frances O'Roark Dowell (children's)
  18. The Crocodile Blues by Coleman Polhemus (picture book)
  19. Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son by Martin Booth (audiobook; children's)
  20. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (audiobook)
  21. Dreamers of the Day: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell
  22. Fame Junkies by Jake Halpern (YA)
  23. The Field Guide (Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1) by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi (children's)
  24. Firegirl by Tony Abbott (children's)
  25. The Ghost's Grave by Peg Kehret (children's)
  26. Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield (technically, I finished this one in 2009, but I only had about 40 pages to go this morning and will count it as a 2008 read)
  27. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (audiobook; YA; re-read)
  28. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (children's) 
  29. The Graveyard Box by Neil Gaiman (YA)
  30. Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill
  31. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (audiobook; YA)
  32. Hubert Invents the Wheel by Claire and Monty Montgomery (children's)
  33. Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  34. Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir (audiobook)
  35. The Ironwood Tree (Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 4) by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi (children's)
  36. It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris (YA)
  37. Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon (picture book)
  38. Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
  39. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (YA)
  40. The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis (YA)
  41. King Dork by Frank Portman (YA)
  42. Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye (children's)
  43. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (audiobook; YA)
  44. Life on the Refrigerator Door: Notes Between a Mother and Daughter, a novel by Alice Kuipers
  45. Little Bitty Mousie by Jim Aylesworth (picture book)
  46. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  47. Look Out Jack! The Giant is Back by Tom Birdseye (picture book)
  48. Love Marriage: A Novel by V. V. Ganeshananthan
  49. Lucinda's Secret (Spiderwick Chronicle, Book 3) by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi (children's)
  50. Masterpiece by Elise Broach (children's)
  51. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
  52. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
  53. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (YA)
  54. No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure by Susan Hughes (children's)
  55. On the Road (Down Girl and Sit) by Lucy A. Nolan (children's)
  56. One Good Punch by Rich Wallace (YA)
  57. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
  58. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
  59. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (children's)
  60. Pompeii: Lost and Found by Mary Pope Osborne (children's)
  61. Preludes and Nocturnes (Sandman, Vol. 1) by Neil Gaiman 
  62. Previously by Allan Ahlberg (picture book)
  63. Prey by Lurlene McDaniel (YA)
  64. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (children's)
  65. Punk Farm on Tour by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (picture book)
  66. Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity by Elaine Pagels
  67. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  68. Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (children's)
  69. Rules by Cynthia Lord (audiobook; children's)
  70. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) by Rick Riordan (children's)
  71. The Seeing Stone (Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 2) by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi (children's)
  72. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  73. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  74. The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore
  75. The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (audiobook; YA)
  76. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (YA)
  77. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  78. A Thousand Veils by D.J. Murphy
  79. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson
  80. The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3) by Rick Riordan (children's)
  81. Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black (YA)
  82. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
  83. Truckers by Terry Pratchett (children's)
  84. Wait for Me by An Na (YA)
  85. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  86. Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata (children's)
  87. The Wrath of Mulgarath (Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 5) by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi (children's)
Breakdown - some cross-categorization:

25 children's chapter books
18 YA books
10 picture books
10 audiobooks
7 nonfiction
2 memoirs


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reading plan for 2009

Again I've become overwhelmed with all I want to read. My personal collection has become ri.dic.u.lous! So in 2009 my plan is to make a dent in my TBR mountain. I have other things I want to read, though, so I have to work those in somehow. In addition to my personal books, I have my Amazon wish list (which is really just a TBR list of books I don't yet own) and a YA suggested reading list. I also would like to add in some nonfiction and just books I see at the library every day that I want to pick up (I call this my "judge a book by its cover list"). So, my plan (and I am really going to try to stick with it) is to read 1 books from my defined categories for every 3 books I read from my personal collection. I will consider any Library Thing Early Review copies I receive as part of my personal collection, and they will get sent to the top of the list as soon as received.

Welcome to my crazy brain. :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jonesin'

My day started out pretty rough yesterday, and while it didn't get any worse, it never really seemed to get that much better. I guess the biggest factor was having to work the day after Christmas. By the time 4:00 came around, and I was in my last hour of work, I was dead tired. I was shelving nonfiction books, and it occurred to me that what I really needed was some Half Price Books time. And for the next hour, all I could think about was the *need* to get to Half Price Books! 

We had plans with friends for dinner, so after a very nice dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, I proposed a trip to the bookstore. Being with bookies, this wasn't hard to sell. For the next 30-45 minutes, I browsed the fiction shelves in bliss. Just what I needed after a hard day. I was good, too, only waiting for the books that just absolutely cried out to me. I got 4 books. 

The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: A Gallery of Notorious Knits by Stitchy McYarnpants - total silliness and horrid, horrid, horrid pictures of bad knit/crochet garments

The Terror by Dan Simmons

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue 

Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey

Slammerkin and Rules for Old Men Waiting already had good prices ($2.98 and $2.00, respectively), but on top of that Half Price Books was having a 20% off sale on everything in the store. 

My day ended on a much better note than it started. :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson (a guest review)

I recently received a copy of The Pluto Files as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. While I have every intention of reading this eventually, my reason for requesting this book was so that, if received, my husband, who teaches astronomy at the high school level, could read it and review it. He did, and here is what he had to say.

"Astronomers of all ages and levels of skill are benefiting from an explosion of knowledge on topics ranging from possible life on Mars, to the influence of dark matter on the universe, to frequent reports about newly discovered exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars). The deluge of data has resulted in a whirlwind of new ideas and the inevitable changes to the scientific status quo. Pluto's recent change of planetary status and the cultural and scientific turmoil that led up to its demotion stem directly from our attempts to get a handle on the latest discoveries.

Neil deGrasse Tyson's book "The Pluto Files: the Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet" does a wonderful job of putting all the scientific and cultural issues into a fun, well-balanced and very readable volume. The science in the book is easy to follow and presented in a very balanced way. Dr. Tyson presents the facts in the context of culture and history throughout the tale of the beleaguered Pluto. It is an approachable book and very readable. The inclusion of many humorous comics and images of the prominent players in this tragic drama makes it seem more real. You get a sense of the human element. After all, this is a story about how humans react when science and sentimentality don't get along.

Dr. Tyson makes his opinion very clear, but he is willing to admit that the topics bear more discussion. What about Sedna, Eris, and the other "new planets" that make the inclusion of Pluto a sticky problem for planetary scientists? In the end he suggests the issue isn't whether or not Pluto should be a planet, but that astronomers should do a better job of attempting to handle the newcomers to our celestial party. Can we really do science by committee? Is science meant to be a democracy? Shouldn't careful science be the way things are done? Perhaps we have all been too hasty in taking sides on the issue of Pluto's planethood. Maybe we should have a few more planets in our list or leave the number at 8. Either way, we need to understand how all the parts of the solar system work, regardless of what classification we use.

Yes, it is true that Pluto clearly doesn't fit with the terrestrial planets of the inner solar system nor with the gas giants of the outer solar system. But it matters less what name we use to describe Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Sedna, and the others yet to be discovered and more what we do as a culture with our new information. After all, Pluto's story is our story regardless of what label we use to describe it.

So even if you are not a fan of Pluto or an astronomy buff, go out and get a copy of this delightful book, and I promise you will laugh and likely learn some fun stuff, too."

Thanks, Jimmy, for letting me post your review here!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Secret Santa

Yesterday was my late night at the library, so I didn't get home until about 9:30. Imagine my delight when I saw a package waiting for me on the bed! I actually slowed myself down enough to take pictures. Enjoy seeing how my Secret Santa, Lisa at Books Ahoy! spoiled me! (Forgive the terrible pictures - I had to use the camera on my phone.)

Here's what I saw when I opened the package. So carefully packed!


Here's everything laid out before I unwrapped the gifts. Already we can see a cute little jingle bell pen, a yummy-looking caramel lollypop (the goodie that looks like a little house), and a cute little bucket filled with chocolates. I've sampled the chocolates now, and they're delicious!


Inside the first and second wrapped gifts I found the following books, both of which I have had on my wish list for ages: Fasting and Feasting by Anita Desai and Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. The Bryson is actually a UK edition, which adds to the charm. Can't wait to read them both!



And the last gift was this little book, The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon, which appears to be a touching story about the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in NYC.



Thank you so much, Lisa. This package was perfect!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Best of 2008 list

In hopes of kickstarting my blogging again, I'm going to compile my best of list for 2008. The only requirement for inclusion for this list is that I finished it in 2008 - copyright date is irrelevant.

Here, in no particular order besides, perhaps, the order I read them in, are my favorite books of 2008:

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black
Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher by Lenore Hart
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (audio version)
Black Ships by Jo Graham
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Friday, December 5, 2008

So sad

I've been so behind in my blog reading lately, and I was completely blind-sided when I decided to check out a few last night and found that Dewey had passed away. Dewey's blog really introduced me to the world of book blogging, and even though I know she didn't know it, she was one of the reasons I started mine. Her blog was also the first book blog I ever commented on.

I had the pleasure of participating in one of Dewey's read-a-thons, along with my then-11-year-old daughter. Laura was actually just asking me within the past couple of weeks when there would be another one. She was very sad last night when I told her that Dewey had died.

I will miss Dewey's posts and her enthusiasm. My blogroll will have a huge hole for a long time to come.

RIP, Dewey.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis


After starting and stopping two books (A Prayer for Owen Meany and Alice's Tulips), I finally finished a book!
The Killing Sea is "a novel about the tsunami that stunned the world" (from the cover). The author, Richard Lewis, is the son of American missionaries who lives in Bali, Indonesia and helped out in Aceh after the 2004 tsunami. His firsthand experience really shows in this novel.
This book is intended for readers ages 12 and up, and the difficulty level reflects that. It is not a challenging book in that way, but Lewis doesn't hold back on the subject matter. Emotionally, there are some challenges in this book, but they were handled with care. The book is a very quick read and short, at just under 200 pages. The story is gripping and characterization is well done.
Oh yes. The story. Ruslan is an Indonesian teenager whose father is the local mechanic. On Christmas Day in 2004, a Western family approaches him for help fixing their yacht. Ruslan is immediately fascinated with Sarah, the blond-haired, blue-eyed American girl. Fast forward to the next morning, when an earthquake shakes the area, and, minutes later, the land is swept by a monstrous wave. Sarah's family was anchored on an island off shore, and, while trying to get away, her father breaks his leg. Sarah's mother tells her to run for high ground with her brother, and, Sarah and Peter are separated from their parents. Meanwhile, Ruslan's father was meant to be repairing a tanker offshore, and Ruslan assumes he was lost, until he finds a note from his father saying that he had gone to Ie Mameh to talk with Ruslan's late mother's rebel family, and he hadn't wanted to tell him. Ruslan is relieved to learn that his father could still be safe and sets out towards the other village. Naturally, along the way Ruslan's and Sarah's paths cross and they travel together. I won't say anymore, except (and this could be considered a small spoiler) the ending was one of the most satisfying endings I've read in a long time. Very well done!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Secret Santa

I'm so behind on my blog reading, and I'm so glad I caught this post from Dewey before the deadline!


This Secret Santa swap sounds like a lot of fun! I'm in!

John Irving is not for me

Several years ago, I started The Cider House Rules, and I just couldn't get into it. I had hoped it was just that book, and, having heard rave reviews, I picked up A Prayer for Owen Meany. Couldn't get into it, either. I recognize both as having good stories, but Irving's writing just plods along. I enjoyed the movie of The Cider House Rules, and I would really like to know the full story of A Prayer for Owen Meany, but I just can't find it in me to finish it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Thousand Veils by D. J Murphy

A fellow Library Thing user passed this book, which she received from the author, on to me. I really appreciate the opportunity to read this book!

Fatima Shihabi had a happy childhood in Kassim, Iraq. She was educated in the same way her brothers were, and she was encouraged by her father to indulge in her love of writing. As an adult, after her abusive husband divorced her for not bearing him sons, Fatima is hired as a journalist for Babel, an Iraqi newspaper directed by Uday Hussein, son of Saddam Hussein. When Fatima's writing begins to disclose too much about the plights of her fellow Iraqis after 9/11, she becomes a target of Saddam's Mukhabarat (secret police) and must escape from Iraq if she is to survive.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Charles Sherman, a corporate lawyer with former dealings with Saudi Arabia, gets drafted to assist Fatima in her quest to get to America and her older brother, a professor at Columbia. In the midst of a major deal with important clients, this is the last thing Charles needs, but the humanitarian side of him wins out and he tries to help Fatima.

A Thousand Veils is fast-paced and exciting, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The only beef I have with it is that the dialogue just didn't seem realistic. I thought the narrative portions of the book were very well written, but the conversational parts seemed stilted.

A Thousand Veils is the first book for D. J. Murphy, a former international lawyer, and he is obviously quite talented. I definitely recommend this one and look forward to future books.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Library Thing Early Reviewers

I finally got matched with another LT Early Review copy, after several dry months! I'll be getting Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield. You can read the first chapter via the link. This sounds like it could be really good or supremely bad!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Truckers by Terry Pratchett

Truckers is the first book in Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy, which is geared towards a children's/YA audience. This was only the 2nd Pratchett book I've read, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did Going Postal. 

The book begins with a group of nomes who decide to abandon their Outside habitat in favor of something safer. They hitch a ride on one of the trucks that they have watched and end up inside the Store (Arnold Bros. (est 1905)). What ensues is basically a parody of the early Church, and it is delightful. I need to obtain a copy of Diggers, the next in the trilogy. Perhaps I'll luck out on my trip to Half Price Books this morning.

This will fulfill my "P" author in the A-Z challenge (the completion of which is looking quite grim...)

Friday, October 31, 2008

RIP III Challenge wrap up

I'm not on my laptop, so I don't have all my cool graphics. But I wanted to make sure to post my wrap up for this challenge today.

I did Peril the First, which challenged us to read 4 books. And I did that and then some! I thought I had read 5, but then I remembered that I finished Tithe after the challenge started. So here's my list:

1. Tithe by Holly Black
2. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
3. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
4. 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson
5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I did read some short stories here and there throughout the past 2 months, too, which added to the atmosphere. This challenge is so much fun! I sure hope Carl hosts it again next year!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


I don't know what I can say about The Graveyard Book that hasn't been said already. Bod (short for Nobody) is taken in by a local graveyard after his parents and sister are murdered and raised by the "locals" - a la Mowgli in the jungle book. Bod is granted the Freedom of the Graveyard and thus is able to do things like pass through walls and "fade" so that he is not easily noticed. As Bod learns what happened to his parents, he decides he will one day exact revenge. Does he succeed? It's Gaiman, what do you think?
Another winner from Neil Gaiman. And a bonus book for me for the RIP III challenge!

100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson

I finished 100 Cupboards last week, but never got around to writing my thoughts. (I hesitate to call what I write "reviews.") I read this for the RIP III Challenge, and it definitely fits. It, however, was not nearly as creepy as I expected based on other reviews I had read. Mysterious, yes. Exciting, yes. Scary - only sometimes.

Henry finds himself living with his aunt and uncle in Henry, Kansas after his parents are abducted in South America. After settling into his attic bedroom, he notices the plaster on the walls starting to chip and a knob sticking out of the wall. After a bit of chipping away, Henry discovers that his whole wall is covered in cupboards of various sizes - a total of 99 cupboards. When he peers into one to find that it leads to another world, he is puzzled (well, obviously!) and begins to investigate, along with his cousin Henrietta. And he discovers more than just the cupboards.

This is a quick read, and it is the first in a series. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series eventually!

This was my (official) final book for the RIP III Challenge - although I did get one more read before the deadline! Another review to come today, hopefully.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

How shameful that I haven't posted in a week!

Today I am in a graveyard in England; no, actually, I believe I am currently at a pizza parlor in the Old Town near the graveyard. As I am about 10 pages shy of finishing The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, I won't say anymore so as to avoid spoilers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Tuesday, where are you?

Well, I finished 100 Cupboards today and haven't started my next book yet, but I really want to get back on track with blogging, so I'll say where I was today.

I was in Henry, Kansas fighting a witch and finding out a bit about where I came from and trying to stay out of more trouble.

By the way, I really enjoyed 100 Cupboards and look forward to reading the next in the sequel at one point. Hopefully a better review will follow soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Well, I tried

I decided to try to read for a few hours as a half-hearted participation in the readathon and did get a little over an hour of reading in. Then I spent the next hour and a half seething because my 10-year-old boy didn't come home when I told him to. By the time I finally was in a mental place to read again, I was zonked and fell asleep within a few minutes. I really hope I'm available next time!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Read-a-thon

I hear there's another fabulous Read-A-Thon going on today, hosted by the equally fabulous Dewey, author of the hidden side of a leaf blog. I, unfortunately, am at work all day today, and then have to work again tomorrow afternoon, so there will be no read-a-thoning for me this go 'round. There is a possibility I will be home this evening while my husband does his stargazing thing (I'm trying to decide if I want to go or if I want to recharge after working), in which case I think I will use my time reading along for a few hours. We'll see. I hope everyone is having a great time, and I hope to be able to join you the next time!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin



This was just such a fantastic book! I had read wonderful reviews, and I was not disappointed in the least. I used to be a huge Patricia Cornwell fan (back in Kay Scarpetta's good ol' days), and I love historical fiction. This was a combination of both. Best of both worlds!

Someone is killing children in Cambridge, and the Jews are being blamed. As this is inconvenient for Henry II (who depends on the Jew's money), he asks the King of Sicily to send an expert from Salerno, the hotbed of medical knowledge at the time. The King sends Simon of Naples, a renowned investigator and a Jew, and Adelia, a "doctor to the dead," along with their Saracen companion, Mansur, to England to help. 

This book is not for the weakhearted (or weakstomached), but if you enjoy forensic mysteries and/or historical fiction, you are bound to enjoy this book!

This is book 3 of 4 for the RIP III challenge!



Sunday, October 5, 2008

Short Story Sunday

I haven't read any spooky stories the past few Sundays because, well, I forgot. Yesterday I brought home two books from work (oh, the joys of working in a public library): Scary Stories, which is an anthology with stories from a wide range of authors, from Dean Koontz and Stephen King to Edgar Allan Poe. I read two from this book so far: "Kittens" by Dean Koontz and "Genesis and Catastrophe" by Roald Dahl. The Koontz was creepy, but the Dahl was just weird.

The other book I brought home is Weird Hauntings: True Tales of Ghostly Places. I haven't read any from this book yet, but they're short and I figure I'll read a few later on.

In other RIP III news, I'm really enjoying Mistress of the Art of Death, although I've had a hard time finding time to read this week. Things are finally settling back to normal this week, after the hurricane - this will be my first week at my new(ish) job working my "normal" schedule, and I'm so glad to finally be able to settle into a routine. I think my family will be glad of that, too.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Weekly Geeks #19

This week's theme was to create a list of best books of 2008 (so far). These must be books that were published in 2008 or at the very least late 2007. Here's my list:

Black Ships by Jo Graham
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (late 2007)
Masterpiece by Elise Broach
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

And, while I haven't yet finished it, I feel fairly certain Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin will also make this list.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

To Spook or not to Spook

I've been reading Spook by Mary Roach for maybe a week now, and I think I have to put it down. I enjoyed it at first, but now I keep finding myself glazed over and bored. Too bad - I was really looking forward to this book. Don't you just hate it when a book you had high hopes for disappoints?

I think I'm going to pick up Mistress of the Art of Death now instead. I've heard great reviews of this one, and I think maybe I'm just more in the mood for fiction.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

I guess the best way to describe how Heart-Shaped Box made me feel is to put it into the context of the hurricane. I started the book several days before Ike showed up, so I was fully aware of the scare-factor. Friday evening, as Ike was moving in and the wind was picking up, I tried to curl up with the book to "relax." Bad move. I had to put it down, because I was already scared enough with the gusting winds that I couldn't handle the anxiety of the book on top of that.

If you're in the mood for a good chill, Heart-Shaped Box is perfect. Hill doesn't dilly-dally. The book starts getting creepy within the first few chapters. There were parts that had my eyes wide with fear. That said, I feel that the first half of the book is scarier than the second half.

What impressed me most about the book is how real the characters were. The main characters are not the type I would normally choose to read about; the main character was the aging lead singer of a Black Sabbath-type band and his girlfriends tend to be on the young side and were typically groupy, stripper-type girls. They're gritty. But by the end of the book, I really, really cared what happened to Jude and Marybeth (aka Georgia). The book nearly brought me to tears several times (but maybe that was the stressful month I've had...).

I thought this book was great and give it 4 stars.

This counts as book 2 for the RIP III challenge.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekly Geeks #18 and other stuff

Weekly Geeks theme this week is to catch up on "something." (There's more to it, but I'm trying to be concise.) I've already caught up on my book blogs, and I did it over the weekend, so that counts. I also plan to catch up on the rest of my Google Reader, both on my "home" account and my work account. Things have been so out of whack since Ike that I have quite a bit to catch up on. I'm also planning to catch up on my reading, in general. You'd think that with having no power for over a week that I would have gotten a lot of reading done, but no. I was just too distracted to want to do much of anything. I didn't even knit or crochet! I'm not actually sure what I did! Anyway, my goal is to finish Heart-Shaped Box this week and start either Spook (which I picked up at Book People in Austin today) or Mistress of the Art of Death, which I found on the bargain table at Borders recently. That will get me caught up on the RIP III challenge.

I'm bummed that I can't participate in the read-a-thon this go 'round. I have to work that day. Maybe I'll sign up to be a cheerleader in the evening.

We went to Austin this weekend to get away, since we were still without power. We came back home to no power, but we got it back within 30 minutes of our arrival. Yay! I'm so looking forward to curling up with a book tonight!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

yIKEs!

I haven't read more than a handful of book blogs in the past week, thanks to dear old Ike, so I just, sadly, marked them all read. Hopefully now I can start fresh and keep up.

We made it through the hurricane ok here just outside of Houston. We're still without power, so I'm checking in here and there at work. I've hardly read anything at all since last week - maybe a chapter of Heart-Shaped Box. Hopefully today I'll get some reading in...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Weekly Geeks #16

This week for Weekly Geeks, I interviewed Bart from Bart's Bookshelf about The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and he interviewed me about Tithe. Here are both interviews.



The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Somer: Do you think the storyline in The Invention of Hugo Cabret could have effectively stood on its own, or do you think its success was wholly a product of the illustrations?

Bart: Hmm... Good question! There's no doubt that there would need to be some work added to the story as, so much of it is conveyed in the images, and despite the size of the book, it is actually quite a slim story (and I don't mean that in a derisory manner as it is only intended to be a short story, not an epic!) even with added text though, I think it would suffer, as the story itself is about a visual medium (film). It'd be a bit like a recipe book without pictures, it'd work, but...

Somer: Do you think that your impression of the book as an adult is different than that of, say, a 10-year-old boy?

Bart: Yes, I don't think (at least I know I would not have at 10!) a ten year old would appreciate the detail in the artwork, and the cleverness of it's execution in quite the same way ;) However I think that as an adult, in that appreciation, I miss out on the simple "Cor! this is cool"-ness (or whatever phrase the hip-kids are using) of it all.

Somer: Avoiding spoilers, as I have yet to read the book, what was your favorite part?

Bart: The art-work, easilly the art-work, you really do have to sit down and 'read' the book to appreciate it fully, you can stand in the bookshop and look at it, and ooh and ahh, all you like, but the moment you sit down to read and see it working properly, it takes it to a whole other level of brilliance.

Somer: This book is huge, and the size could be intimidating to a reluctant reader. How would you convince a young reader to pick it up?

Bart: I don't know, after Harry Potter and Twilight, are big books as intimidating as they used to be? Even if they are, it's not an intimidating book when you start to flip through it, the vast majority of pages have no text on and those that do have nice large print and lots of 'white-space'. I'd probably ask them to just have a look at the pictures on the first few pages, honestly if you can get them to do that, you won't need to do anything else.

Somer: Have you read anything else by Brian Selznick (or illustrated by Selznick), and, if so, how does Hugo Cabret compare?

Bart: No, I've not read anything else he has been involved in. 

Tithe by Holly Black

Bart: What made you read Tithe? Was it the book itself or had you read some Spiderwick stuff?

Somer: I don't actually remember how Tithe originally made it onto my TBR stack. I think the cover must have caught my attention at some point, and I added it to my Amazon wishlist. I got the book as a Christmas gift in 2006 (thank you, LibraryThing tags!). Libba Bray (author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and sequels) has raved a lot on her blog about Holly Black, which also influenced my decision to read Tithe. Even though I realized Holly Black co-authored Spiderwick, it really didn't have anything to do with my decision to read the book at all.

Bart: How would you describe the atmoshere of the book? (Scary, disquietning, moody etc.)

Somer: Overall, Tithe is very dark. The main character, Kaye, is a high-school dropout with a troubling homelife. That sort of sets the tone for the whole book. 

Bart: What was your favourite bit and why?

Somer: I always have a hard time with this type of question. I really enjoyed the entire book. I think my favorite parts were any of the parts set in the faery realm because I like the departure from reality.

Bart: And what as your least favourite bit and why? (I'm thinking here not so much of something that was wrong or did not work, but more of something did exactly what the author wanted it to and either scared you or squicked you out etc. :o) )

Somer: Well, I don't want to give spoilers, so I'll do the best I can. To tell you the truth, my least favorite aspect of the book is the switching of the princes in the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. This is an important part of the book, but I had a really hard time keeping track of which courth Nephamael and Roiben actually belonged to and which queen they were serving. But that may have just been me. 

Bart: And finally, who would you recommend read this book to and why? And/or who would you not recommend the book, and why?

Somer: Anyone who enjoys urban fantasy would likely enjoy this book. Fans of Libba Bray, who haven't already discovered this would probably like it. Kids who have outgrown Spiderwick. I wouldn't recommend this for tweens, as it's just a bit too gritty (speaking as the mom of an almost-12-year-old). Teens, yes, but I would probably want my daughter to wait until she was 13 or 14. Mainly because there are some mature themes (a mom that parties a lot, some sexual content (though no actual sex that I can remember)).


Friday, September 5, 2008

The 39 Clues

I just read this article about The 39 Clues, Scholastic's new series that combines reading, online gaming, and card collecting. I was already thinking this sounded like something Eli might actually get into (he likes to read, but it really has to grab him!), and then I saw that the first book in the series will be authored by Rick Riordan. Yes! Eli has loved the Percy Jackson books so far (we're 1 chapter away from finishing Sea of Monsters, and I've already brought home The Titan's Curse from work). I think we may have a winner.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart


I enjoyed this book by Leah Stewart. Sonia and Cameron became friends when they were 14 years old and quickly became inseparable - in fact, they often referred to themselves collectively as "Cameronia." In the beginning of the book, Cameron is living in Oxford, Mississippi where she is the assistant for an aging historian. A letter from Sonia sparks the curiosity of Oliver, Cameron's boss, and, when Oliver dies, she finds herself charged with the task of delivering a wedding gift to Sonia from Oliver. Over the rest of the book, we learn all about Sonia and Cameron and the downfall of their friendship. Stewart does a fantastic job of recreating the love between two closer-than-close teenage girls, as well as the love between the girls and various other characters. I felt like I knew both Cameron and Sonia by the end of the book.

I listened to this on my commute, so this is my impression of the audiobook. The narrator was ok, but at times, the book felt a bit slow, and I think this was a product of the narration. I also didn't think the narrator's Southern accents were particularly convincing, but this was a minor complaint.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Short Story Sunday...err Monday


I forgot yesterday that I had planned to devote my Sunday reading to short stories, so, since it was a long weekend, I decided to do it today instead. I read a handful of stories from Nocturnes by John Connelly.

1) "Mr. Pettinger's Daemon" - mildly creepy; short enough that I don't want to tell anything about it other than the title for fear of giving away details
2) "The Erlking" - This one reminded me a little of The Book of Lost Things. A little creepier than "Mr. Pettinger's Daemon."
3) "The Inkpot Monkey" - This one has a traditional theme, I think, but I can't think of another story like it off the top of my head. An author with writer's block acquires an unusual inkpot, which cures him of his affliction, but at a price.
4) "Some Children Wander by Mistake" - This one was the creepiest of the bunch. Clowns. Enough said.

I think I'll wrap up the evening by reading a bit of Tithe, which I've gotten about halfway through since Friday. I brought home Heart-Shaped Box from work in case we got hit by the hurricane (we didn't see even a drop of rain), so that's next up.

Michelle Moran book giveaway

Lezlie at Books 'n Border Collies is hosting this awesome book giveaway!

Grand prize: Personally autographed hardback copy of Michelle Moran's new book, The Heretic Queen, sequel to Nefertiti. Also included is a hardback copy of Nefertiti with an autographed bookplate.

Second prize: paperback copy of Nefertiti with an autographed bookplate

First prize: Paperback copy of Nefertiti

To win, visit Lezlie's blogs and comment on the giveaway post. You can get more entries by posting on your blog and referring people back to Lezlie's blog. (So, if you head over after reading this post, please say I sent you!)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Horror by Christopher Moore

I think my tags for this book in Library Thing say it all: Christmas, humor, fiction, Santa Claus, zombies

How can you not love any book that matches Santa Claus with zombies???

This is only the 2nd book I've read by Christopher Moore, but I have every one on my wish list on Amazon, and I can't wait to read them all. Moore is brilliant.

In this book, the Angel Raziel comes to Earth to perform a Christmas miracle and sort of flubs it up a bit. A little boy's wish that Santa, who he saw killed, be brought back to life. This, of course, leads to mayhem.

I particularly liked the fruit bat named Roberto.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

Sour Nerds? Cinnamon Geeks? Or Gummy Boogers? Sam Applebaum's mom was picking out a "nice" reasonably priced Cabernet, and Sam was allowed one item of candy from the rack at Brine's Bait, Tackle, and Fine Wines. Of course the Boogers would last the longest, but they were all mundane green-apple finish, while the Nerds proffered a fruity variety and an impudent little top note of tang. Cinnamon Geeks had a rich nose and a bit of a bite up front, but their tiny certified-public-accountant shape betrayed their bourgeois origins.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

R.I.P. III Challenge


It's that time of year again, and I'm so excited! Carl V's challenges are so much fun! The R.I.P. II challenge last year was one of my first challenges, and while I didn't care for the one book I chose (House of Leaves), I did enjoy taking part. So here is my game plan.

I hope to read 4 books this year. I'm still up in the air about which pool to pick my books from - only ones I have at home or should I allow myself to branch out to the library? Since I work in a public library, I won't have any problem getting pretty much any book I want, so I think I'm going to make my list and let the randomizer do the rest of the work.

Here are the books I plan to choose from (subject to change).

From my own collection:

100 Cupboards
Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet
Tithe
Witch Child
Nature of Monsters

From the library:

The Sister
Heart-Shaped Box
The Bone Key
The Terror
Gil's All-Fright Diner
Mistress of the Art of Death
The Ghost Writer
World War Z
Anna's Book
Wicked Lovely
Spook

I noticed that there's no official short story portion of the challenge this year, which was one of my favorite (yet largely unsuccessful) parts of the challenge last year, so I'm going to create my own "short story sunday." I have several books in the house that fit this category this year: a couple of Neil Gaiman short story collections, John Connelly's Nocturnes, a Stephen King collection, and a dark faery story collection (Black Pearls).

I'm almost finished with The Stupidest Angel, which technically fits the challenge, but I'm going to be a purist and only count books I started after the challenge was announced. So I will dive into my first challenge book tomorrow, which will be Tithe.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Libraries

btt button

Inspired by Booksplease

Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

Well, since I'm a librarian, I couldn't pass up this question (even if it's a few days late).

My earliest library memory is browsing in the children's section when I was probably in kindergarten, maybe a little younger. I can remember my mom showing me
Madeline and Make Way for Ducklings. (Funny, until now, I wasn't sure if that was the same memory or maybe even a false memory, but seeing that they both start with MA, I think I'm probably remembering correctly.) I know for certain I was a regular at the library before then, since I have pictures to prove it. I also can clearly remember the chairs that were in the children section: they had a white wire frame with green fabric cushions. I can even remember how they felt.

Funny memories of the library? Hmmm...the only thing I can remember is when I was in maybe 4th or 5th grade, certainly after my mom and I had "the talk" (I got "the talk" when I was in 3rd grade after a 14-year-old classmate of my brother's got pregnant), I checked out some type of "how babies are made" book. The librarian in my small-time library asked, incredulously, "Does your mother know you're checking this out???" (such a bad library practice!) to which I calmly replied with something along the lines of "Oh, she doesn't care."


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini


Unlike most of the reviews I've read (which I admit are few), I actually like Kite Runner better than this one. It's been a few years since I read that one, so I can't really pinpoint why this is, but there ya go. I think Kite Runner was more plot-driven, while A Thousand Splendid Suns was more character-driven, and while reading this one, I just kept waiting for something to happen.

That said, I really enjoyed this book. I thought Hosseini (a man, if you don't know), did a remarkable job writing as two separate women, with two separate voices. If you've read my blog long enough, you probably know I don't like to give away too much of the book in my "reviews," so I won't go into much detail here. If you don't much about this book, here's a brief synopsis. The book is set in Afghanistan and focuses on two main characters, Mariam and Laila, whose lives intersect. The book opens while one of the main characters, Mariam, is still a child, in the 1960s, but it covers the period from then up until almost-present-day. As you can imagine, the book is wrought with the horrors of the war-torn Middle East, and it isn't always easy to read. It is, however, a quick read and very well-written. I do highly recommend this one.

This book will fill the "T" title slot in the A-Z Challenge.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff


I listened to How I Live Now on my commute this week, and I have to say it wasn't really my cup of tea. Parts of it reminded me a bit of Life As We Knew It, but I liked Life As We Knew It much better. The basic plot is that Daisy, a 15-year-old American girl, is sent to live with cousins in England, due to family problems at home. While she is in England, war breaks out, and she and her cousins have to survive. The book starts out pretty well, but it becomes bleaker and bleaker as it goes on. This is the nature of the story, not a flaw with the book. There were a couple of very violent scenes, which I find harder to deal with in an audiobook than in print, because in print you can sort of skim over them. Not so easy with audio. Another major theme in the book was Daisy's eating disorder, which while it was important (it is used as a plot device in a couple of places) I sort of felt that it was shoved in in places that weren't necessary. Overall, I just didn't care much for this book.

If you've reviewed this one, let me know in the comments, and I'll link to your review.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert


Don't assume by the length of time it took me to read this book that I didn't like it. I started it sometime last week and fully expected to finish it by the end of the week. However, life got in the way, and it took me almost a full week longer to finally get it read.

Moloka'i is the story of Rachel, a Hawaiian girl who develops leprosy at the age of seven and is sent to the island of Moloka'i which is the site of a leper colony. I was afraid the book would be depressing and bleak, but it really wasn't. I learned so much from this book. I wasn't aware that the Hawaiian people were (are?) very susceptible to developing leprosy and that there was such an epidemic of the disease. I loved this book - in fact, it makes my list of favorites. Don't be dissuaded by the subject matter - this is a lovely book.

Also reviewed by Stephanie.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

For the last (finally!) installment from Weekly Geeks a few weeks ago, here are the answers to your questions regarding Peter and the Starcatchers. But first, a quick story. At the Texas Library Association conference in April, I had the pleasure to hear Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson speak. I learned that the idea for this book came about when one of the authors (I can't remember which now...) was reading the Disney picture book version of Peter Pan to his daughter, and his daughter asked him how Peter learned to fly. This is his answer to that question. As you may know (and this will answer Dewey's question, "Is this the same Dave Barry that is the humor writer?"), Dave Barry is a humor columnist and book author, while Ridley Pearson writes thrillers. Whichever author it was had a dilemma in that he didn't know how to write this type of book, and he sought the help of his friend, the other author. (The authors, by the way, have played in a band which consists of such other authors as Stephen King and, if I remember correctly, Amy Tan.)

1. Was, Peter and the Starcatchers, worthwhile or would it have been better to leave the world of Peter Pan, alone?

The book was fun, and I think it is worthwhile, if you take it for the whimsy that it is.

2. Did you like what the authors did with the Peter Pan story in Peter and the Starcatchers?

In some ways yes, and in some ways no. It was kind of fun to hear a story of how Peter learned to fly and how Never Land came to be. But, and it's been years since I read the original, if I remember correctly, Barrie has part of a backstory in the original book about how Peter ended up on Never Land, and it's sort of annoying that this part of the story was ignored. The book by Barry and Pearson feels much more like an adaptation of the Disney Peter Pan story than the original novel by Barrie.

3. I am curious what an adult's take on Peter and the Starcatchers is?

I love children's and young adult books as much, in many cases, as I do adult books, so I'm not sure I'm the best person to answer this one! I found the book to be almost as fun as some of the other books directed toward the same audience (The Lightning Thief, for example), but there were some things that annoyed me about it. Some of the jokes were obvious or just plain dumb. And the typos (which I hear were fixed in later editions) were almost unbearable. Seriously, this book had the worst copy editing of any book I have ever read (and I am not exaggerating - even worse than unproofed ARC copies of books I've read). That was very distracting, and it might not have bothered a child as much as it did me.

4. As Dave Barry is a humor writer, is Peter and the Starcatchers a humor book?

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson had an interesting approach to this book. Instead of alternating chapters, as is often the case in books written by two authors, each author wrote specific character portions. As such, Barry wrote the bits for the funnier characters, while Pearson wrote the bits for the more evil characters. This worked pretty well, as they each proofed each other's sections and collaborated a good deal. The book, as a whole, is not a humor book (there are, in fact, some quite dark parts), but Barry's humor does show up a bit in certain scenes.

Book giveaway winner from last week's Weekly Geeks

I only had two brave participants (Debi and Amanda) for this contest. Amanda, with 5 correct guesses, wins! Amanda, are you still interested in my copy of Becky? I can look and see what else I have to part with if you want, but I know you had expressed an interest in that one last month.

I will update my previous photo post with correct answers, if anyone is curious.

Surprisingly unproductive week

You would think that being on vacation for a week would yield good results in terms of reading, but, alas, no. I am still about 4 chapters away from finishing Moloka'i, and I start my new job tomorrow. I'm disappointed that I never even broke the cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns. I think I am going to return the copy I have and check one out from my new workplace once I finish Moloka'i, since that just makes more sense. I'm excited to be working in a public library again (and the big downtown one at that), with all the books I could ever want to read at my fingertips! This will, I'm sure, wreak havoc on my current reading habits...

Monday, August 4, 2008

July summary

July didn't feel very productive. Let's see what the totals look like.

Books completed:

Little Women (mostly read during June, but I finished it on July 4)
Peter and the Starcatchers (review still to come...one day)
The Braid
The Icarus Girl
Julie & Julia
Wait for Me
The Innocent Traitor
Blackbird House

Challenge update:

The only challenge I'm really working on right now is the A-Z Challenge. I was able to count 4 of this month's books toward that. I've read 16 of 26 books for the title portion and 10 of 26 for the author section.

I suppose 8 books in one month isn't too shabby, after all. The past week or so, though, has just been torture. I started, I think, 4 books before finding one I could settle on. And a good one it is! I finally settled on Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, and it is excellent so far. I also just picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns from the library, and now I'm dying to get through Moloka'i so I can start that one! Considering we're looking at probably a direct hit from Tropical Storm Edouard tomorrow morning, I should get plenty of reading time tomorrow.

Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman


Blackbird House is a collection of interconnected short stories, all centered around one home, built in the 1700s by a sailor who died at sea. I enjoyed this book mainly because I have this fascination with historical places and trying to imagine what they were like at different points in history. However, the book didn't just bowl me over. I want to like Alice Hoffman's writing - I feel like I'm missing something, though. I really disliked Ice Queen when I listened to it a while back, but keep hearing rave reviews of it. I very much enjoyed Incantation, though, which I read last fall. Some of the stories made me happy, content. But others just left me cold. The book was an interesting concept, and I suspect die-hard Hoffman fans will enjoy it, but it doesn't make my favorites list.

Wait for Me by An Na

I hate that I waited so long to review this book, as I'm not sure how well I'll remember it now. But still, I'm going to attempt it, using the questions I was asked as part of Weekly Geeks.

But first, since no one asked me this, here is a quick summary. Mina is a Korean-American girl, who, on the outside, appears to be the perfect daughter. She helps take care of her younger sister, who is hearing impaired (but not deaf), and she is a straight A student, with plans to go to Harvard. But Mina is hiding a secret - she has been altering her report cards to reflect higher grades than she actually is receiving, with the help of Jonathan, another Korean-American boy with whom she has grown up, and who her mother thinks is absolutely perfect. While helping at her parents' dry cleaning business, Mina meets Ysrael, an immigrant worker, and establishes a relationship that makes her uncomfortable about the life she is living.

1. Have you read any others by An Na? How would you say Wait for Me compares to her other books?

I haven't read any other of An Na's books, so I don't have a basis for comparison. I do know that her previous book, A Step from Heaven, was a Printz Award winner. As Wait for Me deals with a difficult topic, and one that is likely not far from the truth of many girls' situations (based on stories I hear from my husband, who is a high school teacher that teaches a large population of Asian students), I wouldn't be surprised to see this one win awards, either.

2. What country is An Na from? What are her books like?

An Na was born in Korea, but grew up in Southern California. As I mentioned before, this is the only Na book I have read, so I don't know if her first book has the same feel. Wait for Me was a very unhappy book. Mina is miserable at home, knows she is deceiving her mother (who greatly favors her over her sister), and knows that there is no way she will ever be able to get into Harvard with her grades. Once she meets Ysrael, she has to hide her friendship from her mother, who doesn't approve of Ysrael, because of his ethnicity. There was very little about this book that was upbeat.

3. In "Wait For Me" did An Na combine humour along with serious issues? The main character is Korean-American but I would like to know if her family pressured her to follow Korean tradition or was she free to embrace American tradition?

I don't remember any humor in Wait for Me at all. It was a very serious book, through-and-through. The second part of this question is difficult. Mina's family is very traditional and stereotypical. Her family owns a dry cleaning business, and they don't trust anyone outside of the family to staff the business, until Mina's father hurts his back and her mother grudgingly hires a Mexican immigrant, of whom she is terribly racist towards. Her mother expects her to be a perfect student and to go to a prestigious school (Harvard being the cream of the crop in her experience). I think this is her mother's vision of American tradition, but Mina is forced to abandon any activities that aren't beneficial to her college application. All her free time is spent studying, and the only activity she participates in is chorus. Mina has to sneak around to spend time with Ysrael. She certainly isn't allowed the freedome of a "typical" American teenager.

4. How was Point-of-View handled? Was there a single POV character or did it alternate among two or more. Was it always clear whose eyes and mind were filtering?

The book alternated between two characters. The parts where Mina was the focus were in first person. The other chapters focused on her sister, Suna. These chapters were written in third person. It was very clear when the POV changed.

5. How was language used to set tone and mood?

Mina's sections were generally angrier. Words like "snapped," "tirade," "shoving," were common.

6. Was the prose dense or spare? Were sentences generally simple or complex?

The sentences in Mina's section were longer, more complex. They sounded more mature than Suna's sections, which reflects the age difference between the two (about 5 years difference). The sentences in Suna's sections tended to be short and choppy.

This book fills the "N" author position in the A-Z challenge.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Weekly Geeks #13

It's meme time! This week we're doing a photo meme with an "author" theme. The idea is to answer the meme using pictures, but no names attached. You, my faithful readers, are to guess who the pictures are! I would like to give a prize for this to the person who gets the most correct, but I'm not sure what books I have up for grabs at the moment. So, for now, the plan is to offer a choice of several books to the winner, from which they can choose. However, I will give fair warning that I suck at making it to the post office and my saving grace for the past 3.5 years was that there was a post office in the hospital where I worked. Alas, my last day of work there was yesterday, so whoever wins will have to bear with me - I don't even know where my closest post office is currently! Leave your answers in the comments!

1. Photos of your favorite author(s).









Barbara Kingsolver

2. Photo(s) of the author(s) of the book(s) you’re currently reading.









Alan Brennert










Rick Riordan

3. Photo(s) of any author(s) you’ve met in person (even very briefly).








Libba Bray









Garth Nix









Graeme Base


4. A youtube of (an) author(s) you’ve heard speak.



Libba Bray

6. A photo of the author of the book you’ve most recently finished.








Alison Weir

7. Photos of the hottest author(s)!









Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

As part of the most recent Weekly Geeks, I'm reviewing this book "interview style." I received more questions from Joy Renee, and I promise I'm not ignoring her excellent questions, but they require more thought, and in the interest of just getting this posted, and I'm going to have to skip those.

What is Julie and Julia about?
Julie Powell was 29 years old, working as a secretary in post-9/11 New York City, and was basically having an existential crisis. After running across Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking at her mother's house, Julie came up with the idea of cooking all the recipes in the book over the course of a year. Her husband, Eric, suggested she blog about it and thus started the Julie/Julia Project. The blog became extremely popular and ultimately Julie got a book deal out of it, the finished product being Julie & Julia. The book is not just a republishing of the blog in book form, but instead it is Julie's recounting of her experience cooking and blogging her way through the project. Another one of the questions was is this non-fiction. Yes, it is.

Please share your impressions of Julie as a person.
This one is a tough one. If you've read my previous post about this book, you will know that maybe 1/3 of the way through the book I realized I went to high school with Julie. She was a year younger than me, and we didn't really know each other, but I definitely knew who she was. Especially since she dated someone who eventually dated one of my best friends and, um, me, sort of. So while reading this book, I couldn't keep from picturing her as I remembered her from almost 20 years ago and trying to reconcile that memory with what I was reading. Hard to do when you didn't really know the person other than in passing. I actually know way more about her now than I ever did then! One funny thing. At the point in the book where I began to really wonder if this might be the same Julie I remembered, she mentioned being on her high school drill team and that the only reason she had tried out was to prove she couldn't make it, but then did and had to suffer through it for the year. I distinctly remember being *very* surprised way back when that she was on drill team - she just didn't seem the type. I guess I was right! Getting back to the real question though. I really liked Julie in the book (even before I realized who it was). I've seen some scathing reviews, and a lot of people really disliked her, but I thought her humor was great. She may have been a little obsessive (can't really say much there, as I think I would be the same way if I were doing something like this). The one thing that seemed a little weird was her VERY STRONG dislike of Republicans. Now, I'm a Democrat, but I thought some of the things Julie said about her Republican coworkers was just downright mean.

The book came out of a cooking project and a blog. Did it inspire you to take on a similar project of your own?
It made me think this could be a cool idea, but I don't think I could ever take on anything like this. I am way too picky of an eater to work my way through an entire cookbook. I could see wanting to cook all the recipes that I would *eat* maybe... Or all the desserts in a book. Hmmm...that's not a bad idea!

Addendum: (I originally wrote out these responses last Friday, and I've thought more about this since then.) While I could never take on an official project like this, I did buy a copy of The Foods and Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas last night, and I have every intention of attempting as many recipes out of this book as possible. I even will likely blog about it (among other food-related things) at a yet-to-be-created blog which I will call "Hold the Onions, Please."
Have you ever tried to master the art of French cooking? Would you want to?

No and no! I wouldn't mind dabbling a bit, but French food's not my thing really. Or maybe it's just this impression of French food I have that's not my thing.

Did you feel that Julie adequately conveyed the humor and struggles of trying to live up to a famous cookbook author? How would this book have been different if she'd tried taking on Martha Stewart, for example?

Yes, I thought Julie did a really good job at this. I'm not sure the book would have been that different had she been trying to be Martha. Different struggles, but probably similarly frustrating.

Edited to add this question...Did you find any good recipes in the book?

This wasn't a cookbook, per se, so no. There were references to a few recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that sounded good, though, that I might one day hunt down. Don't remember what they were, though....

I passed this book along to a friend of mine this past weekend that I went to high school. She was much more informed than me. When I asked, "Do you remember Julie Foster?" she said, "Yes! Didn't she write a book or something?"

This book will fill the "J" title category in the A-Z challenge.