"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 End of Year Survey

The Perpetual Page-Turner

1. Best Book You Read In 2011? 
  • Adult Fiction: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • YA Fiction: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey; A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness; Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Nonfiction: The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan
  • Audiobook: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglass Adams, read by Stephen Fry

2. Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?
  • The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman---The story was all over the place and not enough about the actual cookbooks!
  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen---This was my first Dessen novel and I liked the book OK but wanted to be blown away.
3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster---Yes, I know everyone read this in Elementary school except me.  But honestly this book is so fabulous everyone should reread it with some regularity.
4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (YA)
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher (YA)
  • Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
  • Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
5. Best series you discovered in 2011?
  •  Tiffany Aching (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett---I read Hat Full of Sky and want to read the whole series now.
6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?
  • Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss)
  • Lucy Christopher (Stolen)
  • Blythe Woolston (Freak Observer)
  • Terry Pratchett (Discworld series)
7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
  • My comfort zone must be enlarging because I can't really identify any book I read that was too far outside it. 
8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?
  • The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?
  •   A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness---I am a big Ness fan and I was very eager for this book.  It is fabulous, too!
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?

11. Most memorable character in 2011?
  • Karou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
  • Charlie Bucklin and Jeffrey Lu in Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Adams
  • Tiffany Aching in Hat Full of Sky by Pratchett 
  • Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?
  • The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?
  • Professionally: Brain Rules by John Medina; Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Literature: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Making by Cathrynne M. Valente
14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?  
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Giver
  • The Lord of the Flies
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011? 
  • "Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." ---Douglass Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • "For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen. " ---Douglass Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • “You must never feel badly about making mistakes ... as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”  -Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

16. Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012?
  • The Phantom Tollbooth.  I am going to reread this every five years! (For sure!)
17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling /Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
  •   Stolen by Lucy Christopher
18. Favorite review that you wrote in 2011? 
19. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
  • The All-Pierce County Reads Book Event for The Big Burn by Timothy Egan. Hosted by the Pierce County Library system, Timothy Egan spoke about writing The Big Burn and what he learned along the way.  I attended this with my husband and his excitement really rubbed off on me.
20. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
21. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
  • I always hope that my book reviews will draw more attention than they seem to but sometimes I am shocked when I only get a comment or two on a review like the one I wrote for for Jane by April Lindner
22.  How did you do on reading challenges or goals?
  • I had a successful year with my reading challenges.  Take a look at my update here.
Looking Ahead...
23. Books You Didn't Get To In 2011 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2012?
  • Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
  • Stick by Andrew Smith
  • Blood Red Road by Moira Young
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
24. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2012?
  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (#3 in The Seven Kingdoms series) [May]
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green [January]
25. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2012?
  • I am making a commitment to writing my book reviews within 24 hours of finishing the book.
  • Complete my challenges, whatever they are.  (I haven't signed up for any of them yet!)

Snapshot Saturday... Dec. 31

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by At Home with Books.
Last day of 2011. 
For your viewing enjoyment here is a picture of me with Bookman, 
a sculpture made out of books located on the Washington State University campus. My daughter attended college there. This picture was taken after a UO/WSU football game a few years back. Notice my spirit gear.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Top Books of 2011

Hosted at The Broke and Bookish
Top Ten Tuesday: 
The favorite books I read in 2011 (in alphabetical order)
  • Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson---the best romance/travel book of the year. (YA)
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery---Everyone told me that I would love this classic and they were right. (YA)
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys---I will be shocked if this book doesn't win some YA Book award this year it is that good. (YA)
  • The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan---of all the books I read this year I had more activities around this book which included three book club discussions and attending a program where the author spoke about the book. This was my husbands favorite book of the year. (Nonfiction)
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese---this is the book I tell my friends to read if they ask me for a recommendation.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor---this is clutch-the-book-to-chest good. (YA)
  • A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett---this is the first book I have read in the Discworld series and my first by this amazing author. (YA)
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglass Adams---this book is seriously one of the funniest books I have ever read in my life; a natural for a cult following. I am now in that cult!
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot---this book and the topic of immortal cells is fascinating. (Nonfiction)
  • Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey---this coming-of-age, mystery, historical, romance has it all. Not an easy book to read but so rewarding.
  • The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan---written in the style of a dictionary I was captivated by it's style and sparseness.
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness---this book defies categorization.  Just read it and you'll see why it is n my list of top books for the year.
  • Mudbound by Hillary Jordan---similar to the very popular The Help, this book looked racism square in the eyes. It was an excellent book club selection.
  • Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster---I know the target audience for this book is a lot younger than me, but I am seriously in love with this book and think everyone should read every five years or so for life. (Junior)
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher---this was a Printz Honor book winner. Something about this book grabbed me and wouldn't let go. (YA)

What were your favorite books of 2011?
Sign up for my challenge: Read the 2012 ALA YA Award Books.

2012 ALA YA Award Books Challenge

A. Read the 2012 ALA YA Book Award Winners
(List of books will be announced January 21, 2012 during the ALA Midwinter meeting. I will post a copy of the winners here at that time.)

B. Copy the list(s) below to your own blog, indicate which books you've read and post links to your reviews as you read them or one final summary at the end of the year.

C. Deadline: December 31, 2012.

D. Levels:
Beginner---Read one book for each category= 10 books
Learner---Read more than one book in each category (the award book + at least one honor book)= 11-19
Expert--- Read as many books as you can in each category= 20-?
For the full list go to the American Library Association. See the award winners below.

YA Award Titles

1. Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
2. Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience. The teen (ages 13-18) award winner is:
  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
3. Margaret A. Edwards Award honors an author for significant and lasting contribution to YA Lit
(Pick one book by this author)
  •  Susan Cooper
4. Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding YA book translated from a language other than English and subsequently published in the United States.
  •  Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak, translated from Dutch
5. Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award -young adult book of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience
  •  Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright
6. William C. Morris Award for a debut book by a first-time author writing for teens
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley  (or choose one of the honor books: Girl of Fire and Thorns; Paper Covers Rock; Under the Mesquite; Between Shades of Gray)
7. YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults
  •  The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery, by Steve Sheinkin

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/23/4208101/american-library-association-announces.html#storylink=cpy
8. Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults:
  • Rotters by Daniel Kraus, read by Kirby Heyborne
9. Pura Belpre Author Award honoring a Latino writer whose children's/young adult book best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience
  • Under the Mesquite, by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/23/4208101/american-library-association-announces.html#storylink=cpy
10. Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences (Pick one)
  • Big Girl Small, by Rachel DeWoskin;   
  • In Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard
  • The Lover's Dictionary, by David Levithan
  • The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens, by Brooke Hauser
  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern 
  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  • Robopocalypse: A Novel, by Daniel H. Wilson
  • Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward
  • The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures, by Caroline Preston
  • The Talk-Funny Girl, by Roland Merullo
  • Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/23/4208101/american-library-association-announces.html#storylink=cpy
Have fun reading great books! Send me links to your reviews. I'd love to read them.

2011 Year in Review

It is time for a My Head is Full of Books year-end review.  How did I do on all my reading challenges in 2011?

  • 2011 ALA Award Winners Challenge: There are nine American Library Association YA book awards given each year.  I completed this challenge with the reading of Five Flavors of Dumb by Anthony John this month. This is the challenge that I started last year and as far as I know no one joined me.  I want to put out this challenge again in 2012, however, because I think it is really important to be familiar with award books.
  • Chris Crutcher Challenge: An open-ended challenge that I started to read all of Chris Crutcher's books. So far I have read six of his books, two of them in 2011. Please join me in this challenge.
  • Michael J. Printz Award and Honor Books Challenge: Another on-going challenge, this one to read all the Printz Award and Honor books ever selected. I read all the 2011 books in this category plus an additional two books from previous years. I want to stay current in this challenge but found myself reluctant to go back and read past winners. To date I have read 41 of 58 books in this category.
  • Audiobook Challenge: I went for the Obsessed Level of this challenge.  I stopped recording my progress on this challenge in October when I hit 35 audiobooks.  This challenge is practically a give-me as I listen to audiobooks all the time. Nonetheless, I did enjoy this challenge because it caused me to focus a bit more attention on the readers of these books not just the authors.  Favorites of this category this year were: The Hitchhikers Gide to the Galaxy by Douglass Adams, read by Stephen Fry; A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs; The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, read by David Hyde Pierce.
  • The Books I should have Read in School...but Didn't Challenge. I went for the Graduate Level on this challenge, which was six books and I just made it. This may have been my favorite challenge this year as it forced me to read books I've always wanted to read, or books I have thought I "should" read. Now I had a good excuse to do so. I enjoyed all six of the books I chose: Beloved (Morrison); The Bell Jar (Plath); Phantom Tollbooth (Juster); Hitchhiker's Guide (Adams); Lord of the Flies (Golding); and A Brave New World (Huxley.) Notice I did double-dip several times with the audiobook challenge.
  • Books from My Own Shelf Challenge: I read thirteen books for this challenge.  A minimum of twelve was the goal, so I just made it. I purchase very few books, so most of the books that I have around the house are books I was given as gifts. This was very challenging because I often find myself overlooking books I own in favor of books from the library.
  • A Personal Challenge: I tried to finish ten books started but not completed in 2010. I only finished five of them.  Apparently I didn't really want to read them in the first place. There is no shame in that but I will be more cautious in the future to give myself a challenge that I really don't want to do.
  • Read 101 books in the year: Done!  In fact, I read a personal record of 124 books in 2011 and I still have a week of reading left.  I'm sure I will reach over 125, my new goal for book volume after I achieved the 101 mark.
See my Challenge page for specific titles here. So far I haven't signed up for any 2012 reading challenges yet, but I'm sure I will.  Challenges help me to read a variety of books and put some structure into my reading.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Salon---Christmas Day

Sunday Salon---2011 Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas!

I'm thankful for: My family. I have such a generous, caring husband and thoughtful, intelligent daughters. Both my parents are still living---they are caring and supportive. My husband's father is healthy and happy. My three siblings are happily married with wonderful families. We enjoy our chances to get together, which we will do in a few days from now when we gather for our "second" Christmas.
Favorites: Christmas related things that are my "favorites":
  • Christmas carol: "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World".  But I do love singing almost all of the old Christmas hymns. 
  • Book: It is a toss-up between The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson and The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry. I guess that The Best Xmas Pageant wins out for longevity. I've been reading it every Christmas since I was a kid. Both are poignant AND funny.
  • Traditions: a) kids not allowed downstairs on Christmas morning until they hear the Halleluiah Chorus; b) Christmas breakfast of crepes.
  • Treat: (Several favorites): Almond Roca; coconut bon-bons; shortbread cookies.
  • Holiday movie: It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart.
I'm listening to: No books on CD now, but I have been listening to a lot of holiday music. I don't get tired of it ever.

I'm reading: The Death Cure by James Dashner, the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy.

Book finished this week: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, and several holiday books.

Lists I am making: You'd think I was done with lists for a while, but now I am making lists of things I want to take to Oregon when we go for the family reunion in a few days..

Scripture lesson in church: Isaiah 12:2---"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; and has become my salvation."

I'm praying for: Peace in our world.

Around the house: The living room is still a mess with all the trappings of Christmas presents. Guests arrive in a few hours. Time to make this place look presentable.

From the kitchen: Homemade apple pie with crumb topping; savory turkey, cranberry salad, green bean bake, rolls with homemade raspberry jam, plus we are starting with shrimp cocktails for hors d'hoeuves. (My neighbor is bringing potatoes, gravy, and another dessert.)

A favorite quote this week: The day before before Christmas is "Christmas Adam." Get it? (Adam comes before Eve.)

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This is going to be a very schizophrenic book review. You'll see what I mean as you read on. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan is my first zombie (unconsecrated) novel. I've read a zombie graphic novel and a zombie short story but not a full length novel about these monsters. I, for one, am not a fan of zombie literature. That said, I did feel that the topic zombies was well-played in this book. There was not a lot of the blood and gore that I expected when I decided to read this book.

Mary, the novel's protagonist, believes that there is life beyond the walls of the fence that separate her village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth and the relentless Unconsecrated who constantly try to get through to attack the residents within. But few others believe that anyone else exists in the world. When a breech does occur and chaos rules the day, Mary, her betrothed, her brother, and a few friends, are forced to make a decision which could either save their lives or kill them. Mary is driven by dreams of life "beyond."

What I liked about the book is the tension that is written into the scenes of potential attacks, of what could possibly be around the next corner. I kept getting that horror-movie-feeling where I wanted to scream out, "Don't open that door!"

What I didn't like about the story was how I had a hard time connecting with the characters and their motivations. People sulked, were angry, professed love, disavowed friendship for unclear motives. The cover says that the book is a beautiful love story. But I had a hard time seeing the relationship as anything but passion or lust.

Even though I was critical of the book throughout, I do want to read the sequel, Dead Tossed Waves. Questions were raised right at the end of this book that I want to see resolved. (I told you that this review would be schizophrenic!) I should mention that I started listening to this on audiobooks. The gal who read it (Vane Millon) has a nice voice but she reads really, really slowly. It was almost torture listening to her. I had to switch to an actual book. Some novels are enhanced in the audio format. Others are made worse because of a poor reader.  This book suffered in the audio format which probably tainted my opinion of the book.

To be fair, a lot of reviewers really liked this book and I found it very exciting, at times.  It is worth the effort, especially if you like post-apocalyptic, zombie-type novels.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Snapshot Saturday... Dec. 24

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by At Home with Books.
My husband is a member of the Governor's Cabinet for the State of Washington. Each year she hosts a holiday party for cabinet members and their spouses. It was a beautiful night and the mansion and capitol looked so lovely. (And the food and wine were scrumptious!)

I took this photo of my husband, Don, with Governor Chris Gregoire at the end of the evening. Don is wearing a holiday tie, a dress requirement for the event. 

The Grand Staircase looks so lovely festooned with white poinsettias and swags.

The Capitol Building as viewed from the Governor's Mansion.
Goldfinches, the Washington State bird, decorate the Governor's Holiday tree.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Friday---Dec. 23

Alison Can Read

Follow Friday Question of the Week: If you had to spend eternity inside the pages of a book which book would you choose and why?

Hm.m.m.m--- It is a toss up between Pride and Prejudice- living my days at Pemberley; Persuasion- living with faithful Captain Frederick Wentworth; or Emma- splitting my time between two estates with kind George Knightly. I thought about Jane Eyre but decided that Mr. Rochester is just a bit too brooding for me. And, of course, it would be a hoot to live on the spaceship in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and have hilarious adventures ever after. Hogwarts and Narnia would both be wonderful to visit.  Ah, so many choices.

Congratulations to the featured blogger this week:   From the Shadows I Review

TGIF from Greads question of the week: Dear Santa: Which books made it to your Christmas wish list this year?

I only asked Santa for one book this year (but it was a last minute request so I doubt he had time):  Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. Now that I read this intro to the book, I want it even more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: The Five Flavors of Dumb by Anthony John

Five Flavors of Dumb by Anthony John was the Schneider Family Teen Book Award winner of 2011.  This award goes to a book which does a good job dealing with the topic of persons living with disabilities. In Five Flavors of Dumb the main character, Piper, is a high school senior who is also Deaf. She not only has to deal with normal teenage issues but she has to navigate through it all as a Deaf person in a hearing person's world.

The story opens with Piper standing in front of her school watching their local Rock band. As other students drift away Piper stands transfixed by what she just saw but couldn't hear. In the end she becomes the band's manager with one goal in mind---to get the band a paying gig. In the background of this story is what is going on for Piper at home. Her younger sister, Grace, who is also Deaf, just received a cochlear implant. Her parents paid for the implant with money set aside for Piper's college fund. Jealousy, frustration, and anger simmer under the radar as Piper tries to deal with all the changes in the family life. As she becomes more involved with managing the band, however, she finds that she has more leadership skills than she ever imagined and she also finds friends and love.

The book was a very satisfying read once I set my mind to actually read it. Initially I read around 60 pages and then set the book aside for some other project. Every time I would think about picking it back up I would opt for a different book instead and the Five Flavors languished on my bedside table for over five weeks. The ridiculous thing with putting it off was Five Flavors was the last book that I needed to read for my own challenge, Read the 2011 ALA Book Award Challenge. I am happy to report that I have completed that challenge now. I also want to encourage everyone to take a look at all the award winners, especially this one.  I think it is important to read books which teach us something about the way that other people live so that we can gain understanding and compassion.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I've Been Reading 'Classic' Children's Literature

About a month ago the question at Top Ten Tuesday was: What books have been on your to-be-read-pile the longest? Among my list of ten books were Anne of Green Gables and The Giver. I took quite a bit of grief by my blogging friends that I hadn't read those two "classics" in children's literature. I decided right then and there to remedy that situation immediately and while I was at it I decided to add The Phantom Tollbooth to the list. It has been a delightful month of reading wonderful, creative, touching, thought-provoking stories.  

The Giver by Lois Lowry was originally published in 1993. It won the 1994 Newbery Award and has been a mainstay in middle grades English classes ever since. It is one of the most highly banned books of the 1990s but I wonder what parents find so reprehensible in it. The dystopian society in which Jonas lives certainly is a cautionary tale of what might happen if we (society) try to control every aspect of citizen's lives. Perhaps that is what the book-banners don't want kids to hear.

One day as I was walking through the library holding The Giver in my hands a boy approached me to ask a question. When he spied the book he stopped what he was saying and said instead: "The Giver? That is a great book." I agree and I'm glad that it is still read by many middle-grade kids today.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Juster Norton. A delightful book that was originally published in 1961. Norton, who was a city planner and architect, was avoiding his assigned work on a book about those topics and found himself writing stories that could be described as modern fairy tales or adventure stories. When he realized that he had something special in these stories he collected them together, added Milo and the Phantom Tollbooth, the thread to draw them together. Milo, a bit of a slacker-boy, is able to enter the special land, where lessons are taught without preaching, through the phantom tollbooth that magically appears in his room one day.

My daughter Rita and I listened to The Phantom Tollbooth in the audiobook format. It was narrated by David Hyde Pierce, better known as the actor who played the Dr. Niles Crane in the sitcom Frasier. His narration was spot-on, his voices varied and funny, and his timing was impeccable. We both enjoyed the listening experience very much. Rita, an elementary teacher thought that it should be read in every 5th grade classroom. As a high school educator, I think that there is a lot in the book for older teens to appreciate. In fact, Juster indicated that he gets letters from the same kids who reread the book as they grow. These kids tell him how much they appreciate aspects of the book that they didn't notice when they were younger.* I think the book is truly timeless and can be appreciated by individuals of all ages. If you haven't read this book, or haven't read it for a long time, you are missing a rare treat. Get to it!
* I got these little tidbits of information from Juster's interview on the last disc of the audiobook.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery was published in 1908. One would think that I, of all people, would have read this book before now since I am also an Anne with an e, like Anne Shirley. In fact when people ask me how I spell my name I usually say "Anne with an e like Queen Anne or Anne of Green Gables." My daughters tell me that they think I read the book to them when they were young, but I only recall certain scenes, which I probably saw on the Anne of Green Gables mini-series. So I consider this my first time reading it.

As much as I liked it loved it, one thought kept running through my head as I was reading it---I hope that elementary teachers don't read this aloud in their classes today.  I fear that it would turn off each and every boy in the class. Am I alone in this estimation? Anne Shirley is a wonderful character,  one of the best literary characters ever. But this is a girl book for sure. If you disagree with me, I'd love to hear from you. I just can't imagine it holding the attention of the boys I know, even those who like to read. Enough said on this topic. I did adore it and I am very happy that I finally read it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Salon---Dec. 18

Miracle 20: Today my youngest daughter turns 20 years old.  We no longer have a teenager in the house. And  I stepped on the scales and have lost 20 pounds. Yay!

On the web: It Only Takes a Girl.  Please watch.
I'm thankful for: The holiday season.  I always feel so close to my family and we do spend more time together playing games, reading, watching Xmas movies, and laughing together.
I'm listening to: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  Yes, it's a zombie story and, yes, I'm enjoying it.

I'm reading: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  A family tradition to read this aloud together.

Book finished this week: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. This was the National Book Award winner in the Children/Teen division this year.

Lists I am making: Food I need to buy for our Christmas dinner and for book club earlier in the week. I just added light whipped cream to the list.

Scripture lesson in church: The Prayer of Mary found in Luke 1:46 "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he is mindful of the humble state of his servant."

I'm praying for: forgiveness for an unkindness on my part directed toward a coworker this past week and help to find a way to make retribution or make things right.

Around the house: We have decided to make a few batches of Christmas cookies even though we aren't eating these treats ourselves this year. I hope to have a few different selections for book club members who will be at my house Tuesday night. I think we will make Mint Meringues, Peanut Blossoms, and Angel Food Biscotti.

From the kitchen: My daughter made a Squash/Pasta casserole which had a lot of potential but it was a bust.  No one liked it and we tossed half of it.  Oh well, we can't always have perfect, delicious recipes without some trial and error.

A favorite quote this week: "If your dog is overweight, you don't get enough exercise."  (Ha-ha! Isn't that the truth.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

In the recent National Book Award winning Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai chronicles her family's experience of immigrating to the United States from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. It is told in verse and in present tense from the perspective of Hà, a ten-year old girl. The story begins on Feb. 11, the first day of the lunar new year, Tet, the year of the Cat, when food and work are becoming scarce and the family begins to consider leaving their home country. The story continues through their escape on a rickety ship where they are trapped for over a month with little food and water before being rescued. Eventually they relocate to the United States, finding a sponsor and a new beginning in Alabama. Here Hà struggles to learn English and is taunted by her classmates for being different and poor. At one point she understandably writes in her diary "At times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama."

As I read this sparse but delightful book I surprised myself by realizing how little I'd ever thought about the initial experiences that immigrant families have to endure as they begin the assimilation process into a new culture. The nuances of the English language are difficult for native-born speakers, imagine the difficulties of learning it in a crash-course in a 4th grade classroom. Also imagine what it would be like to be forced to eat a completely different diet, wear different clothes, and practice a foreign religion. If you can, then you will understand the struggles that Hà and her family experienced the first few months in the United States.

The library categorizes this as a "Junior" book, but I would say that it works for anyone age 9 and up, all the way to adults.  I am glad that I read this book, as it opened my eyes and helped me see life from a different perspective.  The 2011 National Book Award selection committee hit a home run when they selected  Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. It deserves the award and I challenge all of you to read it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A bookish survey. Play along...

I saw this quick, little bookish survey on Jenni Elyse's blog and she saw it at  The Broke and the Bookish  I decided thought it’d be fun to participate. Play along by answering the questions in the comment section or on your blog and link back so I see your answers!

  • The book I’m currently reading: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai.  This was the National Book Award winner this year for their Children/Teen division. It is written in verse making it a quick read. 
  • The Last book I finished: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  I know. I know.  I can't believe it has taken me over 50 years to read this book either.
  • The next book I want to read: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  Actually I am listening to this on audiobooks right now and I can't listen fast enough to suit my interest. I must get my hands on the actual book so I can read faster.
  •  The last book I bought: Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. I bought it as a gift so I hope the recipient isn't reading my blog right now.  :)

  • The last book I was given: I was given a pile of books by another librarian of new, donated books that were too "adult" for her school library and she said I could just take them home if I wanted them. They are: The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean; Dancing with Mr. Darcy: the best of Jane Austen Short Story Competition; and The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. I hope they get read before they get too dusty.  One never knows with me when I will finally get around to a book that is on my own book shelf.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Salon... Dec. 11

On the web: This amazing video Cello Star Wars.

I'm thankful for: the wonderful ordination service for a friend who is just starting out in ministry.
I'm listening to: Nothing.  I actually have no audiobook going right now, a rarity.

I'm reading: After a four week hiatus from this book I am back to reading: Five Flavors of Dumb by Anthony John.

Book finished this week: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  I have finally read this wonderful children's classic.

Lists I am making: Family news I want to include in the Christmas letter and lists of last minute items for stocking-stuffers, etc.

Scripture lesson in church: Luke 2:4--- "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) ."

I'm praying for: The homeless in our society who have to live outside in such terrible weather and for those who are jobless during this Recession..

Around the house: Christmas decorating is done except decorating a wreath for the door. The packages are ready to take to the post office for mailing. I'm ahead of schedule for me.

From the kitchen: I cooked no creative or delicious dishes this week but I did have some yummy Chicken Romano at a restaurant tonight.

A favorite quote this week: "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Snapshot Saturday --- Dec. 10

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by At Home with Books.

Today's snapshot theme: Nativity Sets

The first nativity set that I acquired after marriage. All the characters are painted on wood blocks by an artisan that had a booth at a crafts fair. 
Lizzie High nativity set. My mother gave me Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus as a gift. Over the years I added the angel, a shepherd, and a wise man. Made of wood, cloth, and wool.
My most precious nativity set was crafted by my sister, who is very creative, out of dough art. Each piece has to be shaped out of dough, dried, baked, and then painted. They are so special to our family not only because they are one-of-a kind but because of all the love that went into making it. When the girls were little they would fight over who got to arrange them.
Rita, my oldest daughter, collects Lucy Riggs figurines. Every Christmas she decorates the top of the piano with her collection. In the center of her display is this small nativity scene.

By far my oddest nativity set was purchased at a Fair Trade market, the artisan lives in Africa and is able to make a living wage by creating such interesting gifts. The characters are made from gourds. This unique set makes me smile each year when I set it out.

Believe it or not, I actually have one more set (not pictured here), a small nativity set made in Mexico that I have on display in my library case at school. I highlight different winter holidays such as Feliz Navidad/Posadas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Yule, and Diwali.

If you want to read a very funny book which includes several scenes involving nativity sets, try Dave Barry's, The Angel, the Shepherd, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog.

I'd love to hear about our nativity sets, if you have any.