"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=========

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Looking for a satisfying romance to read while lounging next to the pool or swinging in hammock this summer? The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith is your book. With surprisingly more emotional heft than expected this little volume is a treasure.
"Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?" Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.---Goodreads
The whole story, which plays out in a 24-hour time frame, makes the reader believe in the possibility of love at first sight because we have just witnessed it here. While Hadley and Oliver are playfully getting to know one another, they both harbor inward struggles related to their families and why they are traveling to London in the first place. Quotes from Charles Dickens' book Our Mutual Friend add a literary touch to the story which helps lend credibility for insight and growth.

One of my students returned this book with the comment, "If this book were a brownie, it would be under-cooked because it was so gooey." Now you, the reader of this blog post, can make of that statement what you will but I am not completely in agreement with it.  The growth that both Hadley and Oliver display and the tender way the romance unfolds keeps it from being completely "gooey", or just sticky sweet for sweetness sake. But hey, I like my brownies under-cooked so I might not be the best judge.  Read it and find out for yourself.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

18/ 20 books. 90% done!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I'd like to swap places with for 24 hours

Top Ten Tuesday at Broke and Bookish
Top ten characters I'd like to swap places with for 24 hours

1. Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia---I'd love to visit Narnia and Lucy is my favorite human character in the series.

2. Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice---Mr. Darcy, need I say more?

3. Emma in Emma---Because it would be lovely to be rich and beautiful for at least 24 hours.

4. Hermione Granger---So I can hang out in Hogwarts with my best friends, Ron and Harry.

5. Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables--- I'd like to step back in time and soak up her simpler life.

6. Jo March in Little Women---To be one of the March sisters for a few hours would be so fun.

7. Celia in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern---To be an illusionist and in love with Marco would be magical.

8. Amy in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson---To go on a road trip with a really nice guy.

9.Andi Alpers in Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly---because I'd love to go to Paris, in two time periods.

10. Ani in Goose Girl by Shannon Hale--- to be a princess with magical powers in a magical land would be awesome.

I realized when I was making this list how I do not want to live in the dystopian worlds that make up popular YA lit right now so I had to stretch back for examples.

What character would you like to swap places with for 24 hours?

It's Monday, July 30, and I'm reading...

Sheila at Book Journey

Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Textt
Currently Reading:
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith...should be a quick read. I'm about half finished and just started it last night.
  • Emma by Jane Austen---Still plodding along in this book, though I've actually read about 50 pages of this week so I feel better about the progress.
I'm listening to:
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyers... a retelling of the Cinderella story. In this one Cinderalla is a cyborg, or half human, half machine.
What I've recently finished:
  • Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks--- a graphic novel about a girl just starting out in high school.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline---A new favorite. It is geektastic!
  • A Bride's Story #1 by Kaoru Mori...a graphic novel with absolutely lovely illustrations.
  • Stotan! by Chris Crutcher...part of the Chris Crutcher Challenge
  • The Year of Beast by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell...half graphic, half regular novel.

What I hope to read next: We leave for our trip to Italy Wednesday.  These are the books I am taking along, all books I own so they can be shed when I'm finished:
  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano...the only YA book I'm taking along. I will share this with my daughter if she runs out of reading material before the end of the trip.
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry...this has been on my TBR pile for years.
  • Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean...an up-coming book club selection
  • Dancing with Mr. Darcy, a collection of short stories...thought this lightweight volume would be a good one to slip in my purse to read while we stand in line at museums, etc.

 What are you reading?

20 books in July challenge.  How am I doing? 
I have completed 17 books and I'm half way through two others.  I think with a bit of a push I will be able to finish 19 books.  My daughter pointed out that since I made the rules of this challenge I should just read a Dr. Seuss book for my 20th and call it good. Not sure if that is quite what I had in mind when I set the challenge for myself. Ha!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Salon, July 29

Weather: We are having very cool weather this summer. It is almost as if we aren't having a summer.  It hit 80 degrees one day this past week. Ugh.

Yesterday, I went out to lunch with two friends while my husband was doing his week-end duty for the National Guard.

Today: I will start packing for our Italy trip.  Yes, we are going to Italy!!!! We leave in three days and I am so excited. It will be my first trip to Europe since I traveled around it by train with my college roommate over 30 years ago. I have all the travel sized items I need and new travel clothes purchased, now to get everything into the suitcase.

Book challenge: I have completed my 17th book toward my reading challenge to read 20 books in the 31 days of July. My goal today is to finish one book and start another. Can I read three books in three days? It seems unlikely because I find myself watching the Olympics rather than reading.

  • Cinder by Melissa Meyer---a retelling of the Cinderella story; she is a cyborg. It's a very creative take on the old tale.
Currently reading:  
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith...it is time for a quick love story, don't you think?
  • Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen... I have partially abandoned this book.  It just isn't what I was expecting and haven't enjoyed it so far.
  • Emma by Jane Austen... I am SLOWLY making progress through this classic.
Recently finished: 
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline...love, love, love this geektastic book.
  • Stotan! by Chris Crutcher---an early Crutcher book but it is a timely book since it is about swimming and training to be the best.
  • The Year of the Beast by Castellucci and Powell
  • Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
  • A Bride's Story #1 by Karou Mori... phenomenal art work in this graphic novel
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein...wonderful historical fiction. Worth the read.
Scripture Lesson today: Colossians 1:17- "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

I'm praying for: my friend recently diagnosed with breast cancer and my friend whose husband has been in the hospital this week due to advanced prostate cancer.

Around the house: Watching the Olympics. I loved the opening ceremony!  Didn't you? London, you rock!

Italy here we come! Don't expect a Sunday Salon until we get back. Arrivederci!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In case you haven't heard, Ready Player One is probably the most geektastic book ever written. It also is crammed full of pop-culture references to the 1980s, especially those related to television sitcoms, Rock and Roll music, and early video games. Now before you dismiss this book because you don't consider yourself a video-games, dungeons-and-dragons, Star-Trek-loving geek, neither do I, but this book just knocked my socks off. Let me tell you about it.

Wade Watts, the story's protagonist, escapes the reality of his life by spending as much time as possible in the virtual reality utopia called OASIS.  Prior to the death of the creator and founder of OASIS, he sets up a competition where the winner will inherit his fortune. The winner is the person who discovers the "easter egg", a Willy-Wonka-golden-ticket type of prize, he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS.  Contestants must find several keys to get past gates and they do this by solving puzzles, playing video games, and knowing period trivia. At the end of all the gates is the prize. Naturally, as in all good books, there is a villain, this time in the form of the evil corporation IOI. If IOI wins the competition it will wreck the free OASIS for everyone else. Gunters, or individuals like Wade who consider themselves computer/OASIS nerds, are trying to get to the prize before anyone from IOI. The competition is fierce, evenly deadly.

The author, Ernest Cline, describes himself as "a screenwriter, spoken-word artist, and a full-time geek." It really shows that he knows what he is talking about when he describes the various games, song lyrics, and movies of the 1980s. He is even offering a Easter Egg Hunt competition on in Internet right now and the winner will win a 1981 DeLorean, the car used in Back to the Future. Check out the details for the Ready Player One Easter Egg Hunt here. Apparently he has hidden clues inside his book that contestants can find to assist them on their quest for the DeLorean.  How cool is that? The YouTube video, uploaded a year ago so the book signing notes are out-of-date, is of Ernest Cline being interviewed about the book and his inspiration for it. He says is it the geekiest book every written. I agree.

I listened to the audiobook of Ready Player One narrated by Wil Wheaton. He did an exceptional job. He has one of those voices that are really fun to listen to.  I couldn't consume the book fast enough in this format, however, so I bought a copy of the paperback and would read it when I couldn't listen. I recommend this audiobook if you are looking for a fun book to listen to.

People ask me all the time what I am reading and what book I recommend.  READY PLAYER ONE is my new answer to these questions. I am so jazzed about this book.  Everyone should read it, adults and teens alike, and that includes my husband, daughters and son-in-law.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

16 / 20 books. 80% done!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: The Year of the Beasts by Castellucci and Powell

The Year of the Beasts written by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Nate Powell is a very clever half graphic/half regular novel. You start off reading what seems to be a cute little coming-of-age story about two sisters and young love. Then you turn the page to chapter 2 and it is a graphic novel with what seems like a disjointed story-line that does not match the action from chapter 1. And so it goes, one chapter regular, one graphic. Soon the reader starts to figure out how the graphic story, more a nightmare, figures in and the stories merge. It was a very clever technique and after my small adjustment period  the story flowed and I found myself looking forward to the artistic interludes.

I was actually quite taken with the title of this book, The Year of the Beasts. I remember the year(s) when I was a beast. Even when I knew I was being mean and nasty to my family I couldn't stop myself. Even when I didn't mean to mean (does that make sense?) and meant to be nice, my actions and words would often come out beastly. As an adult I now look back on those beastly teen years and I wonder how my parents could stand to be around me, let alone how they kept themselves from slapping me. Though the book does touch on the topic of behaving contrary to the way one knows one should, it goes deeper than that. It actually has a very deep and poignant message as Renee, the main character, grapples with her "beast." But in the end she learned "she would not be careless with precious things again."

That's a good lesson.  One we must all learn.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

15 / 20 books. 75% done!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Teen Novels of All Time. Vote for Your favorites

NPR is conducting a survey to find out the top 100 teen novels of all time.  
Take a moment to hop over to their site and vote for your top ten.

(Beware, it is hard to pick only ten!)


Friends with Boys/ Bride's Story 1

Two graphic novels, two very different styles

Being homeschooled and raised with three brothers had its problems, but Maggie's life is about to get a lot more complicated as she faces her greatest trial yet - entering public school for the first time!

Faith Hicks started out writing and drawing comics on-line in 1999 and twelve years later she finally has herself a published book, Friends with Boys, which is loosely related to her own growing up experiences of having only brothers, being homeschooled, and having parents who separated briefly.  Take a look at Faith Hicks webpage for more about her career and for sample pages.

I admit that I don't read enough graphic novels to even pretend to be an expert on them. This graphic novel has received a bit of acclaim which is what attracted me to it in the first place and I was pleased to be reading a story about fitting in and what it is like for a new kid in high school. The book also addressed the issues of parent's separation and how difficult that can be on children, and sibling rivalry.  All issues many kids can relate to.  What I didn't understand, even at the end of the story, was the ghost story that ran concurrent.  What did it mean and how did it relate to the story? Because of this confusing aspect, my rating for this graphic novel is only a good to fair.

Kaoru Mori brings the nineteenth-century Silk Road to lavish life, chronicling the story of Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her. -Yen Press
The art work in Bride's Story is phenomenal.  At times I was confused about the storyline and about which character was which but I loved the art throughout.  Bride's Story series is the most popular graphic novels in my library right now. Just this book alone was checked out seven times from the middle of May, when I got it, until the end of the school year. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I liked it enough to read on in the series, which is rare with me and graphic novels. Even if you have no other reason to pick up this book, do it for the art.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

14 / 20 books. 70% done!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Two librarians talk about Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Sandy WB, one of my friends and a librarian at another high school in my same district, repeatedly encouraged me to read the book Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Prior to her encouragements I hadn't heard anything about the book. For this reason I asked Sandy to join in this blog post in an interview format. I am the questioner, Sandy's responses are given in green. My reply is at the end in pink.

1. How did you first hear about the book Code Name Verity?  What made you decide to pick it up?
The first buzz about Code Named Verity came from GoodReads Mock Printz blog. It looked interesting and since I love historical fiction and it involved a female pilot during WWII, I was intrigued. I was impatient to read it, so it is the first book for which I've read a pre-published galley.

2. Code Name Verity has earned five starred reviews, from professional reviewers. It is really rare for a book to earn so many. Do you agree that this book deserves as much praise as it has earned? Please explain.
Yes, I am stingy with five star ratings too. It interweaves the daily life of British citizens during WWII and it also integrates the friendship of two young women brought together by the war. These are strong, brave women who risk their lives to serve their country, yet the unorthodox friendship grows. So many books have been written from the perspective of victims, but these young women were out there doing their part.

3. As you know, Code Name Verity was a slow-starter for me. What was your reading experience with the book?
Perhaps its greatest flaw is its slow start. Wein spends a great deal of time setting the story and developing characters. Later in the novel, you see the importance of doing so. Invest the time and take time to note details since they develop into crucial plot development and twists later. 

4. When I read historical fiction I want to learn something new. Did you learn anything new as you read Code Name Verity?
I have read a great deal of non-fiction and fiction about WWII ranging from personal accounts of American soldiers to Holocaust victims. However, I knew nothing about the contributions of British females in the resistance movement, so yes, I did learn a great deal.  

5. Without giving away any spoilers, were there any parts of the books that shocked or delighted you?
Although the intent of historical fiction is to teach something of historical value, I really appreciated the bravery and strength of the individual girls and the added strength their friendship gave them. Wein's extensive research regarding the time period and its amazing flying machines was impressive.

6. We are considering Code Name Verity as a selection for our Mock Printz Workshops in our schools this fall. Why do you think we should select it for this purpose?
Despite the two major characters being female. I believe that Code Named Verity offers enough action and depth to appeal to both male and female audience. War is never easy to read about and this novel treats it honestly. 
7. I haven't read anything else by Elizabeth Wein, though I really liked her writing style, have you? 
This is the first book I've read by Elizabeth Wein, but I checked and noticed that she has written some YA fantasy which is another favorite genre of mine. I am planning to read The Winter Prince, but the cover does not entice me. 

8. Is there anything else you'd like my readers to know about Code Name Verity that might encourage them to pick it up, too?
Give it a chance. It has earned a spot in my top fifty books for my high school library.

Thanks Sandy for joining me today at Headfullofbooks. 

As I said earlier I wasn't sure in the beginning if I was even going to make it past page 25 but with your encouragement I read to page 50 and then couldn't stop. 

 I, too, knew nothing about the women who flew planes in the WWII war effort for Britain and those who participated in other resistance type activities.  I often wonder if people today would step up the way that generation did to save their country from occupation? 

I was shocked when the point of view of the story shifted from one girl to the other mid way through the book.  I didn't see if coming. I agree with you that the reader should try to pay attention to the details because they all come together very near the end of the story.  Though the author does a nice job reviewing those details for the readers so if some of the details are missed  it doesn't detract from the overall reading experience.

Since there are only three high schools in the district and two of us want this book, my guess is that we will be adding it to out Mock Printz list of books for our workshop this winter! (That full list will be out mid-September.)

Two teen librarians agree, Code Name Verity is not to be missed. It may very well be one of the top YA books of the year.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

12 / 20 books. 60% done!

It's Monday, July 23 and I'm reading...

Sheila at Book Journey

Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Textt
Currently Reading:

  • Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks--- a graphic novel about a girl just starting out in high school.
  • Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen---a boy with Tourette's Syndrome is misunderstood by teachers and peers.
  • Emma by Jane Austen---Still plodding along in this book. It is my back up to my back up book.  In other words I only read it if I don't have anything else with me.
I'm listening to:
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline---this book was written for all techno-geeks out there.  Love it.
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova---is on hold.  I had to abandon this audiobook because Ready Player One came in for me at the library and I can only have it for three weeks.  I'll come back to this book audiobook later this summer.
What I've recently finished:
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein---Young Adult historical fiction. I just finished this YA, historical fiction gem this morning. Review pending.
  • Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers---this book deserves all the accolades it has received.
  • A Greyhound of a Girl---a bit young for my target population

What I hope to read next: I have only 7 more days to complete my 20 books in July challenge, so I'd better read short books now, don't you think? Here are some possibles:
  • The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
  • A Bride's Story #1 by Kaoru Mori
  • Stotan by Chris Crutcher
  • The Year of Beast by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell

 What are you reading?


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Salon, July 22

My daughter and I horsing around before the wedding.
Weather: We are having very cool weather this summer. Today is it overcast and has sprinkled rain on and off, definitely not summer-like weather.

Yesterday, Don and I shopped at REI for clothing to take with us on our upcoming trip. We each bought two pairs of ExOfficio underwear...their advertising slogan "17 countries... 6 weeks... one pair of underwear. (OK, maybe two.)" Hope it is the truth because we are planning on it.

Today: We went out to brunch with our newly married daughter and her husband.  It is the first time that the four of us have been together since the wedding. Sigh.

Book challenge: I have just completed my 11th book toward my reading challenge to read 20 books in the 31 days of July. I'm also in the middle of three books so I am not as far off schedule as it seems.

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline---I am REALLY enjoying this book.  In fact, I purchased a copy of the actual book so that I can read ahead when I don't have the opportunity to listen to it.
Currently reading:  

  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein... WWII historical fiction about two girls who get involved in the war effort.
  • Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen... a young teenager with Tourette's Syndrome is misunderstood by his family and his school mates.
  • Emma by Jane Austen... I am SLOWLY making progress through this classic.
Recently finished: 

Scripture Lesson today: Luke 24:35 " Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when they broke the bread."

I'm praying for: my daughter who is in Italy and has a bad cold, she also has had some disappointments with her roommates.

Around the house: Watching the British Open (replay) with my husband right now.

Book Club meetings this week: 
  • SOTH CLUB---Day After Night by Anita Diamant---we had an invigorating discussion about the Jewish troubles in Palestine after WWII. I recommend this book for book clubs; 
  • RHS BOOK CLUB: Peace Like a River by Lief Enger---this is one of my top ten books of all time, but everyone did not agree with me. Half liked it and half didn't.  I suspect it had less to do with the book and more to do with what was going on in their personal lives. Sigh, it sucks to get old.  We still had a good discussion, though.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle

How does that old saying go: What is good for the goose is good for the gander? It is not true in this case. Several reviewers of A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle were so complimentary of the book, even giving it starred reviews, that I thought I MUST have it for my library and should consider it for our Mock Printz list. I assumed that I would be as wild about the book as they were. Unfortunately, even though I recognized sweet and charming aspects of the book I wasn't swept away and I don't feel like sharing it with my daughters, as one reviewer suggested we'd all want to do.

The story is set in Ireland with the story coming from four women, representing four generations in one family. One of the women is a ghost and she has come back to give her daughter this message about death---Don't worry. Everything will be grand. You can die in peace. I thought the message, though not terribly deep, was fine. I even shed a tear or two.The dialogue between characters was both touching and quirky, with some Irish sayings mixed in, some I had to guess at the meaning. What I found to be the most off-putting was the way that the chapters alternated between characters and their voices.  Everyone spoke in first person so it was hard to distinguish between the different voices and it wasn't always completely obvious who was speaking. It just didn't work for me.

Upon reflection it occurs to me that this little book, which might be more of a Junior than a YA book, is suffering in my estimation because of it's proximity to other books I am currently reading or just finished.  I adored the book I just finished, Dying to Know You, which was set in England. Now I am listening to a fantastic but very different story, Ready Player One. With two fabulous novels book-ending this one perhaps it just suffers in comparison. It is a fast read so I didn't feel like I was wasting my time but I don't think this book will get much traction in my library among my students. To provide some balance, since I usually don't include negative book reviews, take a look at its review in the Telegraph.  It is very positive and will provide some balance. Make of it what you will.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

11 / 20 books. 55% done!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers is a new favorite book, one of those books where I wanted to highlight my favorite passages and repeat them to somebody and write them down so I can reread them some day and sigh. In fact, I did that or will have done that as soon as I publish this blog post.
"Shy, likable Karl is in love with clever, beautiful Fiorella. To prove his affection, she demands that he bare this soul to her in a letter. The difficulty? Karl is convinced he can't write, or at least not well enough for Fiorella, who loves books and words. In a Cyrano de Bergerac-like twist, Karl sets out to convince  Fiorella's favorite novelist to write the letter for him. When the famous author unexpectedly agrees, a series of misunderstandings ensues, resulting in a startling revelation, a near tragedy, and an unexpected friendship that transforms the lives of all three."--from the book jacket
The story is told in the voice of the unnamed 75-year old author who has some heartache of his own. But his age does not detract from this wonderful YA novel, the story very much focuses on Karl, an older teen. The character development in the book is marvelous. It also addresses themes of friendship, love, and attraction. As the story unfolds it grapples with issues related to depression and loss. Characters encourage each other to take new opportunities and being willing to move in new directions as circumstances change. Here are a few of my favorite quotes (no spoilers)---
"Life is not like a novel, but a novel can be like life. The best ones always are."-p. 120
"Time to make a move. I'd decompose into compost if I stayed much longer." p. 124
"I felt a touch guilty, leaving her like that, but there are times when guilt is no rival to the need to save yourself." p.148
"...one benefit of old age that I should mention, one cause for permanent celebration, one distinct advantage. You aren't a teenager anymore, and never will be so tediously afflicted again." p. 169
Want a very satisfying read this summer? Allow me to recommend Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers. (By the way, it is drawing a lot of attention from professional reviewers.  So far it has earned four starred reviews. Check out the list of books with starred reviews published in 2012.)

20 books in July Reading Challenge

10 / 20 books. 50% done!

My July challenge update and The Vow

At the beginning of July I set a rather lofty goal for myself to read 20 books in the month. So how am I doing? Not bad, though I am bit off target. So far I have read 10 books this month and starts on four others. I've read some good books and some not-so-good books.

The Vow by Kim and Krickett Carpenter falls in to the latter category. Don't get me wrong. I like the premise of the book---a young married couple, deeply in love stay committed to each other and their marriage after a head injury causes amnesia and a personality change. The book, written from a Christian point of view, is also very inspiring and refreshing. It just isn't very well written and it seems that it was written because of the movie, not the other way around. Though I understand that there is much more in the book about the couple's religious beliefs than the movie portrays. I am interested to see what Hollywood did with the Carpenter's love story. I recommend that you skip the book and head to theater instead.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

9 / 20 books. 45% done!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

A few days ago a friend remarked about my rating of 3 stars for Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls on my Goodreads page. She was curious why I gave it just an average rating. Her question caused me to question my rating, which is part of the reason that I dislike giving ratings in the first place because they are so subjective. It also caused me to go back and rethink that rating, perhaps today it would earn a 3.5 or even a 4. At any rate my evaluation of the book had a lot to do with the fact that I listened to rather than read the majority of the book.

Some books just aren't as good in the audio format and this is one of them.  For one thing Jeannette Walls narrated the book herself.  Big mistake. She has a lovely voice and she knew how to sound like her grandmother. She just didn't have that something special that audiobook narrators need to successfully carry the book.  Secondly, even though the book is considered a novel, it really is a memoir with photographs.  The photos help the story which one can't see with their ears. When I switched from the audio to the actual book the reading experience was much more satisfying.

No matter what rating I handed out, Half Broke Horses is a very compelling story of Jeannette Walls grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, a no-nonsense, resourceful character. And I mean "character" to mean a person who is different and larger than life. What is so interesting about the book is the descriptions of life in the 1930s and 1940s in Arizona. My parents were young at the time. Their growing up stories were so different than my own and almost foreign compared to my children's experiences. It seems impossible that less than one hundred years ago life in America was so different than today.

I really liked Walls' book, The Glass Castle, and I appreciate learning more about her family in Half Broke Horses. It is a book club selection and will no doubt provide fodder for a good discussion which I suspect will focus more about our own parents' experiences than about Lily Casey Smith. But we'll see. Have a listen to Walls talking about the experience of writing this book.  It is helpful toward understanding even more why this book is important and valuable today. (There are no spoilers within.)

20 books in July Reading Challenge

8 / 20 books. 40% done!

Retropsective Wednesday: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Retrospective Wednesday is a feature at My Head is Full of Books designed to give bloggers a chance to highlight a book that was published in previous years, in the hope that it will cause others to go back and read it. The featured book must have been published one or more years ago.

Sabriel by Garth Nix was originally published in 1995 and it is the first book of the Abhorsen Trilogy (sometimes called the Old Kingdom Trilogy.) It is high fantasy, very imaginative, but also a lot darker than the usual young adult literature fare.

The story begins when Sabriel, who is in her last year of school in Ancelstierre a kingdom very like ours in the early 20th century, receives a message that means her father needs her help in the Old Kingdom. In that kingdom her father was the Abhorsen, or the necromancer responsible for making sure that the dead stayed dead, or that they traveled past the ninth gate and couldn't return to earth again. When Sabriel returns to the Old Kingdom in search of her father she realizes that something is horribly amiss in the kingdom and she realizes that she will have to fight the living dead without him.

Sabriel has been a favorite book of one of my friends, Sandy. She has encouraged me to read it for years. Now that I have I am prepared to push it in my library, even placing it on my Nifty-Fifty cart where I highlight tried and true books making easy access for readers. In addition, I want to encourage you, too, to give this book a try.  I am ready to read Lireal and Abhorsen, books #2 and #3 in the series.
20 books in July Reading Challenge

7 / 20 books. 35% done!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright

Back in February or March a new student entered our school.  As he was standing at the circulation counter checking out his textbooks I observed his fingernail polish and makeup. Right as he was leaving he referred to himself as a princess. The whole interaction made me smile and it also made me think of this book, Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright, which had just come in the mail that week. The next time the kid came in I asked him if he'd be willing the preview the book for me. He did. Upon returning it he exclaimed that this book was him and he really could relate to it. That is what I love about books and libraries! Linking up readers with books that speak to them, that are them.

Carrlos Duarte has been good at putting on makeup for as long as he can remember. When a friend, who works at Macys, suggests that he apply to work at the makeup counter Carrlos can't think of anything else. "But the makeup artist world is competitive and cutthroat, and there are hurdles along the way...and Carrlos will have to believe in himself more than ever if he wants to make it to the top." (from the book jacket)

This book, a Stonewall Award book for GLTB youth, is so charming because it is so real. Carrlos is a goofy but lovable kid who makes errors in judgment along the way toward his goal of becoming a makeup artist. But he is devoted to his friends and his family and truly wants to do the right thing if just his enthusiasm wouldn't get in the way. There were so many aspects of his personality that I could relate to or that made me think of students and friends.  If you are a GLTB youth, this book will sing to you.  If you aren't a GLTB youth, it will sing to you, too. It just makes me smile to think about it.  I am so glad that I have it in my collection. I sure that it will find its way in to reader's hands often at my recommendation.

20 books in July Reading Challenge

6 / 20 books. 30% done!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for people who liked Harry Potter books

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish
Top ten books for people who liked Harry Potter books

Sadly most teens today think that they don't like fantasy books.  How quickly they forget how much they enjoyed the Harry Potter series when they were younger.  Or perhaps they never read the books, just saw the movies.  If that is the case, the #1 books on this list would be, er, all the Harry Potter books. All the rest of the book on the list are fantasy books that appeal to teens of all ages.

1. Sabriel by Garth Nix...I just finished this dark but intriguing book last week. It should be on everyone's TBR list.

2. His Dark Materials series (Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman--- all of the books in this series make up a masterpiece. If you saw the movie and didn't like it, read the books.  They are wonderful, the movie isn't.

3. Graceling series by Kristin Cashore---I haven't read Bitterblue, the third book in the series, but I think that both Graceling and Fire (prequel) are simply amazing.

4. Chaos Walking series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and The Answer, Monsters of Men) by Patrick Ness--- not sure if this series is actually more fantasy or more science fiction, but either way it is tremendously exciting, not to be missed. Do it quick.  I've heard that there is a movie coming out, and you know what that means.

5. A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle series) by Libba Bray---part historical fiction, part Victorian fiction, part magical realism, part mystery, part fantasy...you get the point.

6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis---my favorite!

7. Eragon and the sequels (Inheritance Cycle) by Chrisptoher Paolini--- these books take a commitment by the reader since they are all tomes.  But once you enter the magical realm of Alagaesia you'll never want to leave. The movie was awful.  Skip it.

8. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor---this book knocked my socks off.

9. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale---this whole series is magical.  I tell kids that the title is the worst part and they shouldn't be biased against it.

10. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater---not really fantasy, more magical realism, but I LOVED this book so I'm adding it to the list!