Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reading with my Kids-Thanksgiving Books

Here are some of the books that we've been reading this month:

Thanksgiving Is...By Louise Bordon
Describes how the first Thanksgiving came to be celebrated by the Pilgrims.





Thanksgiving Is Here by Diane Goode
A family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving at Grandma's house.



Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit by Norman Bridwell
Clifford starts out early Thanksgiving morning to spend the day with his mother, little suspecting the difficulties he will have in reaching her.




Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne
Jack and Annie travel in their magic treehouse to the year 1621, where they celebrate the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in the New Plymouth Colony.



Arthur's Thanksgiving by Marc Brown
Arthur finds his role as director of the Thanksgiving play a difficult one, especially since no one will agree to play the turkey.




What is Thanksgiving? by Harriet Ziefert
Little Mouse gets a hands-on introduction to the holiday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

2nds Challenge

I will deny that I ever said I was not going to do challenges anymore. I don't care what evidence you might have to the contrary.
I really do think this is the last one I am signing up for, at least for now. Some challenges will pop up as the year progresses.
This is another one that I did not plan to sign up for but then changed my mind. It is an interesting idea for a challenge.
Here are the guidelines:

1. Read 12 books by authors that you have only read once. It doesn't have to be a series.

3. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009. Don't start reading until January.

4. You may list your chosen books any time during the year. Change the list if needed.

This challenge is being hosted by J.Kaye @ J. Kaye's Book Blog.

My books will be listed here as I read them:
1. Saplings by Noel Streatfield
2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
3. A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
4. Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson
5. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer
Etc.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Young Adult Reading Challenge


The 2009 challenge works pretty much the same as this year's challenge only it is being hosted by J. Kaye in 2009.

YA Reading Challenge 2009
1.Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
2. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
3. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
4. Remembrance by Theresa Breslin
5. The Rain Catchers by Jean Thesman
6. The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
7. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer
8. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer
Etc.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Decades Challenge 2009

I am signing up for all my challenges for next year now because things are going to be busy in December and I want to make sure I have every thing set up when the new year starts. With that said, I think I am only signing up for a few more challenges this week. I am working on the last few decades for the Decades '08 challenge and I am ready to start thinking about next year.

Decades ‘09 Rules:

1. Read a minimum of 9 books in 9 consecutive decades in ‘09.

2. Books published in the 2000’s do not count.

3. Titles may be cross-posted with any other challenge.

4. You may change your list at any time.

5. Peruse the eligible book lists and reviews from 2008 or 2007. Any book from that decade is eligible; it doesn’t have to be on the list to qualify. A good source to find out when books were published is wikipedia. For example if you follow this link, you will see how easy it is to search books by a particular decade. Another resource is fantasticfiction.co.uk.

The Decades challenge is being hosted by 3M again this year.

My books will be listed here as I read them.
1990s-Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner
1980s-Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
1970s-84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
1960s-A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild
1950s-Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
1940s-One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
1940s-Saplings by Noel Streatfield
1930s-Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
1930s-Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson
1920s-The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
1910s- Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
1900s-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
1880s-The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
1870s-Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
1860s-Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Friday, November 21, 2008

Twilight

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Pages: 498
Date Finished: 18 Oct 2008

While I am sure I am not the last person out there to read this book, I did join the party a little late. Only, I don't think it is much of a party. After I turned the last page of this book I thought, "Really? This is the book that has everyone from pre-teen girls to well adjusted adult women practically swooning? I don't get it." I didn't hate the book but I certainly did not love it and I just don't get the fanatical reactions of so many other people. To each their own, I suppose.
From the very beginning I found Bella to be a very unlikeable character/narrator. She was whiny and selfish and boring. I honestly wondered if that was on purpose. Surely, no one would write such an annoying, pathetic character and expect the reader to like her. But apparently I was wrong.
This book really could have used a lot more editing than it received. A huge chunk of the book could have been reduced down to about 20 pages and not changed the story at all. Do I really need to know what Bella's favorite color is? There was way too much of Bella and Edward sitting around somewhere and talking. I was hopeful some of what they were jabbering on about would end up being important to the plot but no,it was just the two sitting around and talking. The book got really boring and if I was not reading it for the 24 hour read-a-thon I probably would not have kept going. Nothing was happening and then all of the sudden towards the very end it was like Meyer realized that maybe there should be some plot or action and threw a little something together.
I also do not get the connection between Bella and Edward. Nor do I understand why their relationship is being considered as some kind of epic love story. I thought the relationship was just a little unhealthy and weird. More of a lust story than a love story. Edward watching Bella sleep at night? Umm, creepy much? Bella clearly only liked Edward for his looks, because that is all she talked about, and I never did understand why Edward liked Bella other than the fact that she smelled really appetizing.
Well, now when I get asked if I've read Twilight I can say yes. I now know what all the hullabaloo is about, even if I don't get it.


It was completely unintentional on my part to post this on day that the Twilight movie premiered. It was just the next book in my stack to review and I actually had time to do so today.

Friday Finds












Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio by Jeffrey Kluger
I think the title pretty much tells you what this book is about. Jonas Salk was racing against time trying to beat the increasing epidemic of polio. When he achieved his medical breakthrough he became a hero and cultural icon to a whole generation of people, yet I'd never heard his name until I came across this book.











Night of Flames byDouglas W. Jacobson
A novel that takes place during WWII in Europe.










Can't Wait to get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
This is the book for book club next month.











The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
Again, I think the title reveals enough of what this book is about.

More Friday Finds can be found at Should Be Reading.

2009 Pub Challenge

This challenge will be the most difficult for me, I think. I don't read a lot of newly published books, at least I didn't this year. The books I did read that were published in 2008 were mostly middle grade readers and Young Adult which do not qualify for this challenge. I guess that is one of the points of reading challenges though, to read something you might not have otherwise read. So bring on the challenge! :-)

Here are the 2009 rules:

  1. Read a minimum of 9 books first published in 2009. You don’t have to buy these. Library books, unabridged audios, or ARCs are all acceptable. To qualify as being first published in 2009, it must be the first time that the book is published in your own country. For example, if a book was published in Australia, England, or Canada in 2008, and then published in the USA in 2009, it counts (if you live in the USA). Newly published trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks do not count if there has been a hardcover/trade published before 2009.
  2. No children’s/YA titles allowed, since we’re at the ‘pub.’
  3. At least 5 titles must be fiction.
  4. Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
  5. You can add your titles as you go, and they may be changed at any time.
3M from 1morechapter is the host of the Pub Challenge.

Books Published in 2009:
1. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
3.The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
4. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
5. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
Etc.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's in a Name?

*This is a challenge that anyone can join, no matter what types of books they like to read. You should be able to find books from any genre that will work.
*Dates: January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009
*The Challenge: Choose one book from each of the following categories.

1. A book with a "profession" in its title.
I am thinking maybe The Zookeeper's Wife or Agent Zigzag

2. A book with a "time of day" in its title.
I've found one title in my TBR list that would qualify, Before Midnight

3. A book with a "relative" in its title.
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

4. A book with a "body part" in its title.
A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

5. A book with a "building" in its title.
I've got Anne's House of Dreams listed for this category.

6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title.
How about A Flaw in the Blood or if that does not work I can try either The Great Influenza or The Vertigo Years.

This one looks like it will be fun! Visit the challenge blog for more information and to sign up.

I'll post my final list of books here as I read them.

Ex Libris

Title: Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader
Author: Anne Fadiman
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 162
Date Finished: 15 Oct 2008

After reading this book of essays on books and reading I don't think I would classify Anne Fadiman as a common reader. In fact, I found the tone of many of the essays to be a bit arrogant and elitist. I love books and I read a lot but this book made me feel ignorant about books and reading.
There were a few essays I enjoyed but overall this book felt too academic and stuffy for me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Author Challenge

I was not sure about joining this one but then I looked over the books I've read this year and realized I've read 63 new authors this year. Chances are I will read 50 new authors next year so decided to give this challenge a go.
The idea is to read 50 (or as many as you want) new authors throughout 2009. Here are the guidelines:
  1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
  2. Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges.
  3. You state how many new authors you want to try this year and then that’s your challenge.
  4. When you read a new author, write your review (either at your site or the group blog) and then post a link to your review at the challenge page.
This challenge is being hosted by Literary Escapism.

50 New Authors in 2009
1. Greetings from Nowhere
2.Mountain Home
3. One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
4.Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
5. Diamond Willow by Helen Frost
6. Lincoln: A Photobiogrpahy by Russell Freedman
7. Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
8. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
10. Alice Roosevelt Longworth by Stacy A. Cordery
11. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
12. Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley and Glen M. Leonard
13. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
14. Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson
15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
16. The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner
17. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
18. The Lincolns by Candace Fleming
19. Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
20. Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
21. The Other Half by Tom Buk-Swienty
22. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
23. Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
24. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
25. All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
26. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
27. Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
28. Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
29. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
30. Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit
31. The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel
32. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
33. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
34. The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
35. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
36. Remembrance by Theresa Breslin
37. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
38. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
39. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
40. Up A Country Lane by Evelyn Birkby
41. In the Garden with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson
42. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
43. Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein
44. Posters for the People by Ennis Carter
45. The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
46. The Green Bay Tree by Louis Bromfield
47. At Home with Beatrix Potter by Susan Denyer
48. The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr
Etc.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Waiting For Normal

Title: Waiting For Normal
Author: Leslie Connor
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 290
Date Finished: 11 Oct 2008

12 year old Addie is waiting for normal. Unfortunately, she has a mother who is not able to offer a life with much normalcy or even stability. Addie's step father was awarded custody of her two younger half sisters after their mother left them at home alone for three days. Now Addie and her mother are living in an old trailer under railroad tracks in Schenectady, New York. Addie hopes her mother's erratic moods and behavior won't cause her to disappear again and that no more bad things will happen to them.

I really was not all that into this book at first. The title bothered me. What is normal and who decides what normal is? Then somewhere along the way the book just kinda snuck up on me and I found myself completely drawn into Addie and her story. I found myself parked on my couch, ignoring my family for the better part of a day because I could not put the book down.
I liked Addie. She had problems and she knew she had problems but she didn't just sit around dwelling on them. Yeah, she wished for a better life but she kept positive and did her best to try and keep her fragile world from completely shattering. She just kept trying, kept going no matter what happened to her and I could not help but root for her and hope that there would be a happy ending to her story.
In the end, I loved how Addie described normal and I decided the title wasn't so bad after all. "Normal...is when you know what's gonna happen next. Not exactly what, because probably nobody gets that. But normal is being able to count on certain things. Good things. And it's having everyone together-just because they belong that way."
Good things. Stability. Normal. That was all Addie was waiting for.
This book managed to tell a very powerful story in a very subtle way and it worked, really well.

U.S. Presidents Reading Project

So much for my not signing up for any more reading challenges. And I am just getting started. It's like once you sign up for one you just can't stop. At least this one is perpetual.
U.S. President's Reading Project
The rules are simple:
1. Read at least one non-fiction book about each of the U.S. Presidents
2. Take as much time as you need
3. Have fun learning about U.S. history and its leaders
That's it! If one book about each president sounds a bit like "too much information" to you, feel free to choose books that talk about more than one president at a time and count it for each one. Tailor this project to suit your personal level of interest. Maybe you just want a passing knowledge of each one. Maybe you found a couple presidents interesting enough to read two or three or more books about them. Maybe you'll discover so many avenues you'd like to explore that we'll need to start an American History Reading Project. :-) The possibilities are endless!
Also, there is a page for each individual president where you can find suggestions for reading.

Visit the U.S. Presidents Reading Project Home Page for more information.

My Books:
  1. George Washington:
  2. John Adams:
  3. Thomas Jefferson:
  4. James Madison:
  5. James Monroe:
  6. John Quincy Adams:
  7. Andrew Jackson:
  8. Martin Van Buren:
  9. William H. Harrison:
  10. John Tyler:
  11. James K. Polk:
  12. Zachary Taylor:
  13. Millard Fillmore :
  14. Franklin Pierce:
  15. James Buchanan:
  16. Abraham Lincoln:
  17. Andrew Johnson:
  18. Ulysses S. Grant:
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes:
  20. James A. Garfield:
  21. Chester A. Arthur:
  22. Grover Cleveland:
  23. Benjamin Harrison:
  24. Grover Cleveland:
  25. William McKinley:
  26. Theodore Roosevelt:
  27. William H. Taft:
  28. Woodrow Wilson:
  29. Warren G. Harding:
  30. Calvin Coolidge:
  31. Herbert Hoover:
  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt:
  33. Harry S. Truman:
  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower:
  35. John F. Kennedy:
  36. Lyndon B. Johnson:
  37. Richard M. Nixon:
  38. Gerald R. Ford:
  39. Jimmy Carter:
  40. Ronald Reagan:
  41. George H. W. Bush:
  42. Bill Clinton:
  43. George W. Bush:

Newbery Medal and Honor Books

I am trying to clean up my blog a little, especially my cluttered side bar. I have challenged myself to read all the Newbery Medal and Honor books and was keeping track of the titles and the dates I read them on my sidebar. The list is going to get very long eventually so I am creating this post to track the titles and my reviews. I will create a link to this post on my sidebar instead of listing them all there.
I will list titles as I read them. A complete list of winners can be found at the ALA website.Medal Winners
2008: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (Mar '08)
2007: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Feb'08)
1988: Lincoln: A Photbiography by Russel Freedman (Feb '09)
1961:
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Dec '08)

Honor Books
2009: Savvy by Ingrid Law (Oct '08)
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Aug '08)

2008:
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (Apr '08)

2007: Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm (Feb '08)
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Mar '08)
Rules by Cynthia Lord (Apr '08)

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Name is Anne

Title: My Name is Anne, She Said, Anne Frank
Author: Jacqueline van Maarsen
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 176
Date Finished: 10 Oct 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars

While Anne Frank figures prominently in both the title and cover of this book she occupies a rather small portion of the story. This book is more about Jacqueline van Maarsen, her family and her experiences during the war, including her brief but close friendship with Anne Frank.
In her diary Anne called Jacqueline her best friend and wrote two letters to her while in hiding that she was never able to send. Jacqueline and Anne met while attending the Jewish High school in Amsterdam. Shy, reserved Jacqueline and outgoing Anne became best friends almost immediately. Jacqueline liked Anne's friendly manner and her assertiveness, even if it did sometimes border on obsessiveness.
Their friendship came to an abrupt end when Anne and her family disappeared. The Franks had been circulating a rumor that they were going to Switzerland and Jacqueline assumed that is where they were. It was not until Otto Frank showed up at her doorstep after the war that Jacqueline learned the truth.
The memoir does give a unique look at Anne and her life previous to her time spent in hiding but what I enjoyed most about this book was Jacqueline's story. Jacqueline's French mother had converted to Judaism when she was married and at Jacqueline's father's insistence the family was registered as a part of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. When Jacqueline's mother began to hear the rumors of genocide she managed to convince German officials to remove their names from the list of Jews living in Amsterdam and saved the family from deportation.
Jacqueline spent the first half of the war living as a Jew and experiencing all the limitations and fears that came with being a Jew during the Nazi occupation. During the second half of the war she lived life as a Non-Jew and through her experiences we gain a unique perspective of what life was like during the war and the effect the war had on Jacqueline, her friends and her family.
An interesting war time memoir, with or with out the story of Anne Frank.

Read Your Own Books 2009

So, in my last post I mentioned my library addiction and signed up to read 50 library books next year. Now I am signing up to read some of my own books in 2009. I have a nice stack of books on my shelves that have been sitting there waiting and waiting to be read but I keep bringing home those darn library books so they don't get read. I am going to commit to read 15 of my own books in 2009. That number might be a little low, but, you know, I've got that whole library addict thing going on. :-)
The rules are pretty simple. Set a goal for how many of your own books you want to read in 2009 and then read them between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009.
All the details can be found at MizB's Challenge Blog.

My books read in 2009:
1. Mountain Home
2. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
4. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
5. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
6. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
7. Saplings by Noel Streatfield
8. Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
11. Because You Died by Vera Brittain
12. Remembrance by Theresa Breslin
13. The Rain Catchers by Jean Thesman
14. Up a Country Lane by Evelyn Birkby
15. In the Garden with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson
Etc.

Support Your Library in 2009

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog probably knows I am just a teeny tiny bit of a library addict. I often visit two different libraries a week and then there is the library across the street that I can pop into at anytime. When I saw this challenge I thought it was pretty much a no brainer that I should join. I'd say about 90% of the books I read come from the library so I'll be signing up to read 50 books from my local library(s).
Details:
1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.
2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.
3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.
4) The goal is to read 12, 25, or 50 books checked out from your local library in 2009.
5) These can be audios, downloads, children’s, YA. As long as it’s a book, format and target age group does not matter.
For more information and to sign up, go visit J. Kaye's Book Blog.

Library Books Read in 2009:
1. Greetings from Nowhere
2. One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
3. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
4. Diamond Willow by Helen Frost
5. Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
6. Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
7. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
8. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
9. Alice Roosevelt Longworth by Stacy A. Cordery
10. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
11. Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Ronald W. Walker, et al.
12. Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson
13. The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner
14. The Lincolns by Candace Fleming
15. Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
16. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
17. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
18 Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
19. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
20. All of A Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
21. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
22. Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
23. Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit
24. Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel
25. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
26. The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
27. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
28. A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
29. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
30. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
31. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
32. Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson
33. The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D.E. Stevenson
34. Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein
35. Posters for the People: Art of the WPA by Ennis Carter
36. A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild
37. The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
38. The Green Bay Tree by Louis Bromfield
39. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
40. The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr
41. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer
42. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer
43. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
44. Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
etc.

100+ in 2009

I did not think I was going to sign on for book challenges next year but as more of the challenges come rolling in, I am feeling inclined to join a few. I like this one because it is open to any kind of book and any genre. I like having my options open when it comes to picking the books I am going to read, that is why I don't join a lot of the more specific challenges about themes, places, etc etc.

This challenge runs from January1, 2009-December 31, 2009 (no starting early!) and as I mentioned any book counts. There is also a Yahoo Group you can join to discuss books and what you are reading.
Head over to J. Kaye's Book Blog for more information and to sign up.
All the books that I have read and reviewed and count for this challenge can be found on my sidebar.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 374
Date Finished: 28 Oct 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars

At the age of 16, Katniss Everdeen carries a lot of weight on her shoulders. Her life in District 12 of Panem, formally known as the United States, is completely controlled by the government. Every day Katniss hunts illegally and trades on the black market in order to keep her family from starving. On the day of reaping all of district 12 gathers to find out which boy and which girl from their district will join boys and girls from all the districts in Panem to participate in the Hunger Games. The games are a brutal contest of strength and wit put on annually by the Capital in order to remind the districts who is in charge. Only 1 contestant survives the games. When the name of Katniss' younger sister is called at the reaping, Katniss immediately steps forward to take her place. Let the games begin.
This book has been simmering on the back burner of my brain since I read it. When I finished it, I thought, "Wow! That was really good." But since then I have been trying to figure out why I liked it so much. I know it is probably very cliche to describe a book as gripping or riveting in a review, but those are the words that keep coming to mind. I also realize that there is not necessarily anything groundbreaking or uniquely original in this futuristic dystopian novel, but simply put, The Hunger Games is just a really well told story that had me hooked from the beginning. Teens fighting in a gladiator style fight to the death reality tv show where two of the contestants may or may not be in love. How can you not get hooked? :-)
There is one exception though. Parts of the plot just did not sync with me and seemed too contrived. I understand a good twist can make a book but the twist in this book felt ridiculous and even undermined much of the already established story. The book plummeted in my opinion when this plot twist was presented. The thing is, though, that Suzanne Collins can spin a really good yarn and so I found myself forgiving of the ridiculous elements.
A (mostly) well written, fast paced adventure story with a little (or a lot) romance thrown in, I recommend you check out The Hunger Games.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Northanger Abbey

OK, now that I've gotten that out of the way we can get down to business.

Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Fiction, Classics
Pages: 205
Date Finished: 8 October
My Rating: 5 Stars

The first time I read Northanger Abbey, I did not get it. Because I didn't get it, I didn't enjoy it. I didn't get it because when I first read Northanger Abbey I did not know much about Jane Austen, the time she lived in or Gothic novels. As I learned more about these things and re-read Northanger Abbey I started to get it and started to enjoy the novel. Now that I've actually read some of the Gothic novels that Austen parodies in Northanger Abbey I've come to realize that this is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. I mean, the book is just seriously funny and filled with Austen's wit. Austen's talent shines as she, tongue in cheek, mocks the fainting heroines, the haunted dwellings and terrors of the Gothic novel.
From the opening description of Catherine Morland to all her pokes at Gothic literature, this book just kept me laughing.
"When the hour of departure drew near, the maternal anxiety of Mrs. Morland will be naturally supposed to be most severe. A thousand alarming presentiments of evil to her beloved Catherine from this terrific separation must oppress her heart with sadness, and drown her in tears for the last day or two of their being together; and advice of the most important and applicable nature must of course flow from her wise lips in their parting conference in her closet. Cautions against the violence of such noblemen and baronets as delight in forcing young ladies away to some remote farm-house, must, at such a moment, relieve the fulness of her heart. Who would not think so? But Mrs. Morland knew so little of lords and baronets, that she entertained no notion of their general mischievousness, and was wholly unsuspicious of danger to her daughter from their machinations. Her cautions were confined to the following points. 'I beg, Catherine, you will always wrap yourself up very warm about the throat, when you come from the rooms at night; and I wish you would try to keep some account of the money you spend; I will give you this little book on purpose.' "
Another favorite passage, when Catherine sees Mr. Tilney with his sister for the first time.
"From this state of humiliation, she was roused, at the end of ten minutes, to a pleasanter feeling, by seeing, not Mr. Thorpe, but Mr. Tilney, within three yards of the place where they sat; he seemed to be moving that way, but be did not see her, and therefore the smile and the blush, which his sudden reappearance raised in Catherine, passed away without sullying her heroic importance. He looked as handsome and as lively as ever, and was talking with interest to a fashionable and pleasing-looking young woman, who leant on his arm, and whom Catherine immediately guessed to be his sister; thus unthinkingly throwing away a fair opportunity of considering him lost to her forever, by being married
already. But guided only by what was simple and probable, it had never entered her head that Mr. Tilney could be married; he had not behaved, he had not talked, like the married men to whom she had been used; he had never mentioned a wife, and he had acknowledged a sister. From these circumstances sprang the instant conclusion of his sister's now being by his side; and therefore, instead of turning of a deathlike paleness and falling in a fit on Mrs. Allen's bosom, Catherine sat erect, in the perfect use of her senses, and with cheeks only a little redder than usual."

I must mention that I believe the Thorpe's to be some of the best foils to an Austen heroine found in any of her 6 major works. Throughout the novel they were thorns in the side of Catherine (and the reader) but our poor heroine could not see it. How happy we are as Catherine slowly begins to pull that thorn out!

And of course, we can not overlook Mr. Tilney. He is by far Jane Austen's wittiest and most accessible hero. Every time I read Northanger Abbey I have to wonder what all the ladies find so appealing about that broody Mr. Darcy when they can have charming Mr. Tilney. But then I re-read Pride and Prejudice and fall under the spell of Mr. Darcy again myself. :-)
This review has fallen into utter silliness so I will wrap it up now, with a favorite and yes, often quoted, Mr. Tilney excerpt.
After chatting some time on such matters as naturally arose from the objects around them, he suddenly addressed her with -- "I have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether. I have been very negligent -- but are you now at leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are I will begin directly."

"You need not give yourself that trouble, sir."

"No trouble, I assure you, madam." Then forming his features into a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added, with a simpering air, "Have you been long in Bath, madam?"

"About a week, sir," replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.

"Really!" with affected astonishment.

"Why should you be surprized, sir?"

"Why, indeed!" said he, in his natural tone. "But some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprize is more easily assumed, and not less reasonable than any other. -- Now let us go on. Were you never here before, madam?"

"Never, sir."

"Indeed! Have you yet honoured the Upper Rooms?"

"Yes, sir, I was there last Monday."

"Have you been to the theatre?"

"Yes, sir, I was at the play on Tuesday."

"To the concert?"

"Yes, sir, on Wednesday."

"And are you altogether pleased with Bath?"

"Yes -- I like it very well."

"Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again." Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. "I see what you think of me," said he gravely -- "I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow."

"My journal!"

"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings -- plain black shoes -- appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense."

"Indeed I shall say no such thing."

"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"

"If you please."

"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him -- seems a most extraordinary genius -- hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say."

October Reading Review

Books read in October: 11
Total pages read in October: 3029
Yearly book count: 72

Juvenile Fiction:
T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte
Savvy by Ingrid Law

Juvenile Non-Fiction:
The Trouble Begins at 8 by Sid Fleischman

YA Fiction:
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor

Adult Fiction:
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

Adult Non-Fiction:
My Name is Anne, She Said, Anne Frank by Jacqueline van Maarsen
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel

October Challenge Update
A Daring Book Challenge
9 books between 6/15/08 and 6/15/09: 0/9
Ongoing Challenge (to read the whole list): 28

A to Z Reading Challenge: 35/52

Decades Challenge 2008: 9/8 (I've read books from 9 decades but they are not all in a row so I have not actually completed the challenge.)

Young Adult Reading Challenge: 8/12

Fall into Reading: 13/22

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Book Stacks

I have a lot of library books checked out again. Will I ever be able to go into a library and not walk out with more books than I can possibly read in 3 weeks? Doubtful.
I've been reading a lot of Juvenile and Young Adult books recently. For the most part they have been really enjoyable reads. I've read and and have reviews coming for the following Juvenile and Young Adult books:
Waiting for Normal
Savvy
Twilight (Do I really need a link for this book? Is there anyone who does not know what this book is?)
The Hunger Games
The Trouble Begins at 8

I currently have about 12 Juvenile and Young Adult books checked out from the library that I am eager to read this month.

I am also continuing my goal of adding more non-fiction into my reading time. I've stalled on America, 1908 but I am going to try and focus on it this week and finish it.
I bought three books about the Roosevelts at recent library book sales and I also have Alice checked out from the library. I am feeling an interest in this family right now (The Oyster Bay branch not so much the Hyde Park branch.)
I've been wanting to read Mayflower for several months now and thought November would be a good month to do so.
There is a little peek at some of the books that are littering my shelves and filling my book basket.
Happy Reading!