Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Award

I've been reading. I promise I have. I think I have 5 books to review right now. I just need to find some time to sit down and formulate my thoughts and get them written!
While you sit on the edge of your seat in anticipation...

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Mrs. Brooke from More Than Rubies has passed this award on to me. I originally found Mrs. Brooke through her Reading Through History book club. One of these months I am going to actually read the material by the end of the month so I can contribute. I have been reading the selections. I am just not very good with deadlines. :-)
Thanks for the award. It is always nice to know someone is enjoying my unprofessional reviews.
Since Mrs. Brooke bestowed the award onto my book blog, I thought I would pass it onto some of my favorite book blogs.

Chain-Reading
Good Clean Reads
My Reading Spot
So Many Books, So Little Time
Trish's Reading Nook
Rules for award:

Post the logo on your blog.
Add a link to the person who nominated you.
Nominate 5 other people for this award and add links to their blog.
Leave a message for the people that you nominated.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dangerous Book for Boys

Title: The Dangerous Book for Boys
Authors: Conn and Hal Iggulden
Genre: Juvenile
Pages:270
Date Finished: 7 July 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

The Dangerous Book for Boys is a book full of old-fashioned adventure, like making a bow and arrow, fishing, making a paper bomb and secret inks. It is a book full of useful skills like navigation, juggling, first aid, making cloth fireproof and tying knots. It is a book of inspirational stories like the Wright brothers and Antarctic explorers. It is a book about culture, sports, history and learning. It is a book that most young boys and some older boys probably can't resist.
I suppose it is because I am a girl, but I really enjoyed The Daring Book for Girls better than The Dangerous Book for Boys. I did get plenty of ideas for my son as he gets a little older and my husband actually flipped through it (he does not generally read books) and thought it was a pretty cool book. I just found myself getting a little bored at times and flipping through some sections. I think I enjoyed the sections on famous battles and extraordinary stories the most but that is because I enjoy reading about history.
This book is great to help boys come up with some fun Summer explorations or for anytime they need something fun to do (besides playing video games or watching TV). It is a book that will help boys and their parents remember what it is like to be young at heart.
As the back cover says, it is "the perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Book Meme

I grabbed this meme from Danielle but have seen it floating around a few other blogs as well.

What are some books you loved as a child? I liked the Box Car children, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, E.B. White. When I was a pre-teen I loved books by R.L. Stine. I also loved the Freshman Dorm Series by Linda A Cooney. I think I stopped reading these books before I finished the whole series but for a while there I was totally into those books. I would buy them with whatever money I could come up with (or beg from my parents). That all changed the day I borrowed Jane Eyre from the library. I fell in love with the book and decided I needed to read more mature books. I started trading all my teeny bopper books at the local paper back store for the likes of the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens. I also really enjoyed reading Jean Thesman, Gerald N. Lund and Susan Evans McCloud amongst many others when I was a teenager.

What is your favorite genre? Good question. Lets see, I like historical fiction, especially set around WWI but really, any historical fiction. I like classics too. Really, I will read anything that sounds good to me at the time.

Do you have a favorite novel? No. I read too many good books to have just one favorite.

Where do you usually read? Lots of places. My favorite place to read is in my big chair in the living room (hence the name of my blog). Some times I like to lie across the couch and read. Most often I read while sitting in the rocking chair in the baby’s room while I feed her. Yesterday I got to sit outside in the sun with my feet in the kid's little pool and read while they played. It was heavenly. Anywhere I can grab some reading time and still have one eye on the kids.

When do you usually read? Whenever I can. I always read while I am nursing my baby. That is why my reading increased so much over the last year. Since she is one now and I am weaning her my reading time has dropped substantially. Since I don’t have to stop and sit down as often, I tend to not take the time to stop and read. I try to grab snippets of reading time throughout the day whenever I can, like when the kids are busy and happily playing, or napping. I always read at night before I go to sleep.

Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time? No. I usually just read one book at a time. I’ve been trying to work more non-fiction into my reading so I have been attempting to read a fiction and a non-fiction book at the same time. It is not going so well. The non-fiction tends to get ignored if the fiction book is good.

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction? Not usually. It depends on the subject matter. If it is something that takes a lot of concentration than I have a hard time reading it during the day because the kids interrupt me too often.

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out from the library? Right now I borrow most of the books I read from the library. I used to buy a lot of books but we kept moving and every time I had to leave books behind. I got tired of buying books that I would have to sell or give away the next time we moved. I think I own fewer books now than I have since I was a teenager. Some day I will be able to start rebuilding my personal library.

Do you keep most of the books you buy? Yes. Especially now that I only buy books by a trusted author or books that I have already read and loved. As I said in the last question, if it was not for all our moves I would have a lot more books. I hate parting with books.

If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? I have two children right now and they are in either the picture book stage or the board book stage. We check out huge stacks of books from the library every week. I am going to start reading chapter books to my 3 year old soon. Anyone with good suggestions, please send them my way.
I do look forward to introducing my daughter to Anne of Green Gables and Jane Austen some day.

What are you reading now? Today I finished Shooting the Moon and Bronte’s Book Club and I am about to finish Sunflower Houses. Then it will be back to focusing on my non-fiction read, A History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, before I start another fiction.

Do you keep a To Be Read List? You betcha! Several. I have my main TBR list and then I have a non-fiction list, a Newbery book list, a list of picture books, a list of classics and a list of books I want to read this year (I’ve also started contemplating my list for next year.) I have lists with all the books by favorite authors and lists of books from publications like Bookmarks. I use Goodreads to help me keep track of a lot of the books I want to read.

What’s next? If I stick to my list, the next fiction book will be Anne of the Island and the next non-fiction book will be Hope, Faith and Charity followed by 1776.

What books would you like to re-read? I try to re-read all 6 of Jane Austen’s novels every year. (I’ve only done 2 this year. I need to get reading the other 4!) There are other books that I tend to return to every few years. The Shell Seekers, One of Ours, As the Waltz was Ending, Homecoming. I actually do re-reads fairly often. I just finished Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day recently and I have a feeling it will be re-read several times.

Who are your favorite authors? That is almost as bad as asking me what my favorite novel is. Obviously Jane Austen is one. Willa Cather, Elizabeth Gaskell, Martha Grimes, Rosamunde Pilcher, L.M. Montgomery, Cynthia Voigt and probably many more that I cannot think of right now.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Once Upon a Town

Title: Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen
Author: Bob Greene
Genre: Historical Non-Fiction
Pages:264
Date Finished: 5 July 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

The miracle of the North Platte Canteen started on Christmas day 1941, just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. A rumor had circulated through North Platte that a troop train would be coming through North Platte carrying members of the Nebraska National Guard's Company D. About 500 townspeople showed up at the train station with food and gifts to give to the local troops that would be on the train heading west. When the train arrived it turned out that the soldiers were not from Nebraska's Company D but from Kansas' Company D. Even though these were not the boys the townspeople were expecting they stepped forward and started passing out their gifts to the Kansas soldiers.
What happened next is a moving and miraculous story. The train station in North Platte was turned into the North Platte Canteen and every day for the duration of the war-from 5 A.M. until after midnight every troop train was met with baskets of food, drinks and treats as well as friendly faces and welcoming smiles. Only about 12 thousand people lived in North Platte but 6 million soldiers passed through the town during the war and were greeted by volunteers at the Canteen. All of the food and hours of work required to run the Canteen were voluntarily given by the local residents.

Author, Bob Greene interviewed Lawrence W. Jones, a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps who had passed through the Canteen during the war. "There were probably five hundred military people on that train-field artillery, infantry, air corps. And after that long trip across the country, at five-thirty one afternoon we pulled into this place none of us knew anything about. We looked out the windows, and there were these women talking to us, passing us sandwiches and everything. They said 'Are you going to get off the train?' We said, 'We don't know if we're allowed.' They said. 'We've got it fixed-you can get off the train.' There were these plank tables, loaded down with every kind of food you could imagine. Homemade cakes, pies, sandwiches, Coca-Cola...We could not get over it...this was like a miracle. And they did it day after day after day. We were there so few minutes, and then it was 'All right, load up the cookies, get back on the train.' Puff, puff, and we were gone. Those people spent all that time and donated all that money-to get sugar and all that stuff. They gave up their own ration stamps. They were using their ration stamps for us." (171-172)

Imagine tables and tables of food. Sandwiches, coffee, cakes, candy and soda. Then think about all the rationing that occurred during WWII. These people sacrificed and used their sugar rations to bake for the soldiers. Soldiers they did not know and that would only be stopping in their town for a few brief moments. They never missed a train.
The story of the North Platte Canteen is a wonderful story about amazing people. I just wish it could have been written by someone other than Bob Greene. This book only gets 3 stars because Greene's writing turned this wonderful story into a kinda boring story. The interviews with the soldiers and people of North Platte are what made this story. When Greene started sharing his own thoughts things got slow and boring. With that said, I still think you should read this book to learn about this miraculous story. You will just have to endure Greene's writing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Home

Title: Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
Author: Julie Andrews
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 339
Date Finished: 28 June 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

I really knew nothing about Julie Andrews before reading this book. I'd seen her musicals and a few of her movies and that was about it.
In this memoir Andrews tells the story of her early life going from a young vaudeville star in England to a Broadway celebrity.
For the most part, I thought it was an interesting book. While the book was written with the grace and dignity that Andrews has come to be known for I found it interesting to learn that she might not be as squeaky clean as the image she puts out there would have you believe. This was not your typical tawdry celebrity memoir filled with garish and explicit details but Andrews did not necessarily have the life I would have expected. Her growing up years were not easy and frankly I thought her mother was pretty horrendous. I was impressed by how complimentary and kind Andrews was in her descriptions of her mother. After all that happened she could have easily put her mother through the wringer but she didn't take that road.
I would recommend this book to fans of Julie Andrews or fans of the theater in general. There was a lot of history and lots of name dropping of people in the theater that I am completely unfamiliar with. She really lost my interest at times because of this.
The book also ended very abruptly. There were so many unfinished stories that I have to assume she is writing a second memoir. This one ends just after the birth of her daughter and as Andrews is leaving for California to start filming Mary Poppins. I was left wondering what happened to her family and what happened to her first husband? Throughout the book she talks about and refers to her second husband but when this book ended she was still happily married to her first husband so what happened? I can only hope my assumption about another memoir is true so that some of my questions can be answered.

Friday, July 11, 2008

North and South

Title: North and South
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Genre: Classics
Pages:449
Date Finished: 24 June 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars

This was my second encounter with the book North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. The first time I read it was when I took a Victorian Women's Literature class in college. On the inside cover of my book I had written Elizabeth Gaskell = calm intelligence. I imagine that is something my professor said and I felt I should remember. As I was reading this book I kept thinking about that note.
North and South is at once a social commentary on Victorian working class and one of the best love stories ever written. It is a slower paced book than many of today's readers may appreciate but anyone who reads this book will be richly rewarded.
Elizabeth Gaskell's character's are wonderfully drawn. The heroine of the story is Margaret Hale. She and her parents have come to Milton, the North, because Mr Hale, the country parson from the South, realizes that he can no longer accept all the doctrines of the church, and consequently resigns his position to move north and find work as a tutor. One of Mr. Hale's first students is Mr. Thornton, a local mill owner. Mr. Thornton and Margaret do not exactly see eye to eye on many things and one of my favorite parts of the book is when they debate what a gentleman is. The love story that develops between Mr. Thornton and Margaret is one of the most enjoyable love stories I've read. They misunderstand each other so much that the reader is left anxious in anticipation of whether they will ever come to understand each other. I have to say that I absolutely adore Mr. Thornton. Gaskell painted such a complex character in him that the reader and Margaret are left confused at times but also drawn to him. He seems so rough and hard but Gaskell makes it clear that he is also very passionate with a huge capacity to love. I love reading about his struggles with his feelings for Margaret. Even when rumors about Margaret swirl he tries to defend and protect her reputation. All I can say is that Gaskell knew how to write a love story!
I also love, or in some cases hate, the secondary characters. Margaret's cousin, Edith, absolutely tried my patience and I would have really loved to have seen her character trampled by a horse or something.
Mr. Hale was not my favorite character, he seemed weak and lacking in many respects, but through Gaskell's characterization you come to understand him and why he is that way.
Mrs. Thornton is another wonderfully drawn and complicated figure. She was prideful, shy and had a jealous heart all at once. An unforgettable character.
And of course there is the Higgen's family. Bessie and her father and sister are Margaret's working class friends and it is through them that Margaret comes to understand her new home and surroundings. Margaret, the daughter of a gentleman, finds her closest friends in her new home to be the poor working class laborers and not the rich mill owners.
Gaskell does a wonderful job of describing human nature through her characters. You come to understand them and the way they view life based on their experiences in life.
The love story often takes second stage to the social commentary on unions, the working class, masters, mills and the living and working conditions of Victorian England. Gaskell transports the reader as you learn about each characters struggles and in particular, Margaret's struggle to understand life in her new home in the North.
I am trying desperately to to capture this novel in a few short paragraphs and do it some justice but really, you have to read this novel. There are so many layers to the story and I am not adequate enough in my writing to give them justice. Gaskell's writing really does display a calm intelligence.

A quick note on the BBC adaptation. Watch it! It is amazing! It may not be true to the novel in many respects but it still captures the general feel and ideas of the novel. I thought they made Margaret a little more bold in the movie than she is in the book but I still loved her. And Richard Armitage is Mr. Thornton. He was perfect casting and captured the character so well. Have I mentioned that I love Mr. Thornton? He is one of the best literary heroes ever written or portrayed in a movie. I also love the score from this movie.
Here is a sneak peek at one of my favorite scenes. (I could not find a clip of my favorite and the ending can't be beat but I don't want to give it away by posting it.)


I've gushed enough on my blogs about Jane Austen that I think it is time I start gushing a little more about Elizabeth Gaskell. It is hard to say one is better than the other because they are so different yet I adore them both.



P.S. Here is another clip from the movie, just because I could not resist posting it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reviews Coming Soon

I am behind on writing about the books I've been reading.
Here are the books I've read in the last few weeks and that I will hopefully get some thoughts written about soon:

  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.
  • Home by Julie Andrews
  • Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene
  • The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden
Only 4, not so bad I guess. I am currently reading the History of Joseph Smith by His Mother. I started re-reading this back in May and have been reading snippets of it here and there ever since. I am about half way done and I've decided it is about time I just focus on it and get it finished.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Daring Book for Girls


Title: The Daring Book for Girls
Authors: Andre J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
Genre: Juvenile
Pages: 280
Date Finished: 26 June 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars
Daring Book for Girls website

This video is kinda cheesy but I like it because it shows the girl doing all these things with her mom and while I was reading this book I kept thinking how much fun it will be to do these things with my baby when she gets older. Even if she does not do these things with mom, I'm sure she'll do some of these things written about in this book and have fun doing them.

The Daring Book for Girls is a guide to fun and adventure for pre-teen through early teen girls. Often this book sent me on a trip down memory lane to my own childhood. All the versions of tag, slumber party games, sleep outs in the backyard and roller skating, amongst many other things, reminded me of all the fun things I did as a young girl.
When I first started reading I was marking all the things I liked with sticky notes. It did not take me long to realize that I was going to burn through a lot of sticky notes doing that.
I really enjoyed the sections on Queens of the Ancient World as well as the section on history of writing and writing in cursive italics and the section on how to be a spy. (Really to write all my favorite parts, I would have to pretty much copy the table of contents).
This book has just about everything; pressing flowers, math tricks, public speaking, rules of many games from softball to darts, info on finance and on and on.
There were a few things I didn't like, and it took some waffling for me to decide what to rate this book because of the few things I didn't like. The section on boys was lacking. I was not sure what they were trying to say. Are boys bad, good or neither? I was also pretty disappointed to see the book Like Water for Chocolate mentioned in a book for pre-teen girls. I've read this book and it has some pretty adult themes and is not a book that I think pre-teen girls should be reading.
Overall, I was totally into The Daring Book for Girls and thought it was lots of fun. I am going to be adding it to my library. Fun for me now and fun for my daughter in the future.

All Dressed Up

I've made some changes to the look of my blog. I really like how it looks now.
The background came from Allie Brown's Layouts. She has a nice selection of free backgrounds for your blog.