Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Non-Fiction Five

I just finished a really interesting book about Jacob Riis and realized that I need another good non-fiction book to read. That reminded me that the Non-Fiction Five challenge starts in a few days and I still hadn't signed up.
Trish is hosting the challenge this year and the basic idea is to read 5 non-fiction books between May and September (visit the sign up post at Trish's Reading Nook to get all the details.) I really enjoy non-fiction and have created a list of books that I think I will be reading in the coming months.

  • Jane Austen: A Life by Clair Tomalin
  • House of Abraham by Stephen Berry
  • Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
  • Walking with Beatrix Potter by Norman Buckley
  • The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson
  • We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Battan by the Japanese by Elizabeth M. Norman

I know that is 6 books and we only need to read 5 but I have so many non-fiction books in my TBR list right now that I could easily list more than 20...

Books Read:
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein
Posters for the People by Ennis Carter
At Home with Beatrix Potter by Susan Denyer
The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Reading Outdoors

The Sunday Salon.com
This weekend has been absolutely lovely and warm (hot) and I am trying to take advantage of it by taking my reading outside.
I've always loved taking a book outside to read and enjoy. When I was younger I would lay in the grass in my parents yard to read or walk down to a neighborhood park that had a little wooded area and find a nice spot to sit and read. I don't get many chances to go off and read by myself these days but there are a few spots around my yard that I like to take up residence with a good book on a nice day.

The bench on my little front patio. Although not the most comfortable this spot does get some shade from a tree. I'll often pop out the front door and sit out here to snatch a few minutes of reading time.If the kids are playing in the back yard I will grab a book and sit on the patio furniture reading with one eye while the other is watching the kids.
Or sometimes I will grab a blanket, lay it out under a tree and lay there reading while the kids play. Since I am starting to get a baby belly laying on the ground is getting increasingly uncomfortable. This afternoon I remembered that my parents had given us an old lawn chair lounger so I had my husband pull it out of the shed. I set it up in the shade and enjoyed some nice reading time while the kids ran around the yard.
Good times!

It is probably difficult to make out the book in these pictures. It is The Other Half: The Life of Jacob Riis and the World of Immigrant America by Tom Buk-Swienty. I was very interested in reading this when I saw it at the library. I learned a little about Jacob Riis in college and wanted to know more. I have hit some duds on the non-fiction side this year so had my fingers crossed that this would be a good one and I've not been disappointed. Riis was a reformer and muckraking reporter/photographer during the Progressive era. His work really forced Americans to look at the horrific reality of the slums and the life of the poorest in society and helped bring about change. Riis lead a very interesting life and this is a definite non-fiction page turner in my opinion. I've got less than one hundred pages left to read and was hoping to finish today but there have been too many distractions so hopefully tomorrow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Library Loot

I have not done a library post in a long while. It's not that I haven't been checking out books, I just haven't been good about sharing.
Here is my latest haul.


The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. I've been reading a lot of positive reviews for this middle grade reader.

Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym. The only Barbara Pym book my library carries. After I read this one I will have to start getting other Pym titles through ILL.

Peony in Love and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. An author I've been meaning to read and am finally going to get to. I look forward with great anticipation to both of these books.

Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani. I bought the first book in the Big Stone Gap series and I think I will like it so I checked out the second one as a follow up.


Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America by Douglas R. Egerton. Since reading Laurie Halse-Anderson's Chains, I've been wanting to find some non-fiction that dealt with slaves in the Colonies during the revolution. I think this book will fit that bill nicely.

The Other Half: The Life of Jacob Riis and the World of Immigrant America by Tom Buk-Swienty. I remember learning a little about Jacob Riis and seeing some of his photographs when I was in college. I am really looking forward to reading this and learning more about Riis.

For Book Group:

One book that I never would have read if my book group had not selected it, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and one book that has been on my radar but who knows how long it would have been before I read it, The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.

(Library Loot)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Lincolns

Title: The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary
Author: Candace Fleming
Genre: Juvenile Non-Fiction
Pages: 181
Published: 2008
Date Finished: 14 February 2009
My Rating: 4 Stars
Challenges: 100+, Library, New Author, In Their Shoes

What I loved most about this book is that it was not just another book about Abraham Lincoln but as the title implies was about both Abraham and Mary. It was very interesting to get a look at Mary along side her husband.
I also loved the scrapbook format of this book. It is absolutely full of interesting photographs, paintings, newspaper clippings and images of documents. Have a gander at Grant's hand written terms of surrender from Appomattox Court House or a copy of a draft from the Gettysburg address in Lincoln's handwriting. Great stuff. And because the book is set up like a scrapbook there are lots of little sections and snippets of information grouped together that just made a unique and interesting reading experience.
Filled with great trivia and bits of personal information about the Lincoln's this book is not to be missed.
I really want to track down a copy of the author's scrapbook look at Eleanor Roosevelt. That should be really interesting.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

TSS: Vera Brittain's Because You Died

The Sunday Salon.com

First of all I would like to send a shout out and say way to go to all the Read-A-Thon participants. I have not had a chance to read through any read-a-thon posts yet but I am sure you all rocked and had a great time. Hopefully, I will be joining you again for the next one.

My first order from The Book Depository arrived Friday afternoon and I could not have been more thrilled to pull that package out of my mailbox. I knew as soon as I discovered The Book Depository that I would order Because You Died, a collection of Vera Brittain's poetry and prose, first because I really wanted to read it but it is not available here in the States.

I first discovered Vera Brittain's writing about ten years ago during a history class in college. We were doing a unit on WWI when my professor showed us video that quoted from Brittain's Testament of Youth. I don't even know what was quoted now but I remember being intrigued and scribbling her name down so I would not forget it. I was able to track down a copy of Testament of Youth at the library but as soon as I started reading it I knew I needed my own copy. When I went to order a copy for myself I also found and ordered a published copy of her war diary and a compilation of the letters between Brittain, her brother, fiance and two friends from the war.
I am not sure why Vera Brittain's account of the war sucked me in so completely. I imagine it is probably because WWI seemed like such a male dominated period of history and here was something that gave the female perspective on this horrible war. Here was the aftermath, the lives of those left behind to pick up the pieces.

Mark Bostridge and the people at Virago have put together a really lovely volume of Vera Brittain's poetry and prose from the first World War and after. The first half of the book is the poetry with lots of photographs and the second half of the volume contains selections of prose. I've just started reading the prose section today and am hoping to read through the rest of it this afternoon and evening.
I thought it was interesting to read her piece on working in the German ward while at the field hospital at Etaples, France. I think the beginnings of Brittain's later pacifism can be traced in part to this experience.
"But when I think of Edward in one part of France working to annihilate these very same people that I in another part am working to save, I begin to realise the folly and tragedy of war in a way I never did before."
Vera Brittain's writing reminds us that women did play a major roll in and were very much effected by the war and that their experiences should be represented in literature and history. I think there seems to be a decent amount of writing about women's experiences during the Second World War but a substantially less amount from WWI. Maybe I am wrong though and just have not been steered in the right direction to find more women's history from that war. I'll have to keep looking into it.
I am sure I will have more to say when I have finished reading.

I also received a second book from The Book Depository this weekend, Two People by A.A. Milne. I am very eager to begin reading this book. This story about marriage is sure to be a vastly different reading experience from reading Milne's Winnie the Pooh series, the only books by Milne that I've read.

I am going to have to refrain from ordering more from The Book Depository. While the shipping is free, the books are not. I have, however, filled my wish list with more than 20 books that I would like to order. Wouldn't it be so nice to be able to order them all?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Printz Project

It is perpetual which means I can be fifty before I finish this so no comments about how I said no more challenges. :-)
List will be updated with links to my reviews as I read.

Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
Nation, by Terry Pratchett
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan

The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean
Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet, by Elizabeth Knox
One Whole and Perfect Day, by Judith Clarke
Repossessed, by A.M. Jenkins
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath, by Stephanie Hemphill

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Volume I: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
Surrender, by Sonya Hartnett
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan
I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, a Photographic Biography, by Elizabeth Partridge
A Wreath for Emmett Till, by Marilyn Nelson

how i live now, by Meg Rosoff
Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel
Chanda’s Secrets, by Allan Stratton
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt

The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson
A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly
Keesha’s House, by Helen Frost
Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

Postcards from No Man’s Land, by Aidan Chambers
The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer
My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos

A Step From Heaven, by An Na
The Ropemaker, by Peter Dickinson
Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, by Jan Greenberg
Abrams Freewill, by Chris Lynch
True Believer, by Virginia Euwer Wolff

Kit’s Wilderness, by David Almond
Many Stones, by Carolyn Coman
The Body of Christopher Creed, by Carol Plum-Ucci
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, by Louise Rennison
Stuck in Neutral, by Terry Trueman

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers
Skellig, by David Almond
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Hard Love, by Ellen Wittlinger

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gracing My Bookshelf

I picked these two books up recently from a secondhand bookstore. It is always tempting to walk away with a big stack of books when I visit a used bookstore but I was good and only bought two.
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
I am apparently late to the party with this author. A friend of mine was absolutely raving about her and when I confessed I'd never heard of the author she was very aghast. I remedied the situation by buying one of her books.

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin
A biography about Jane Austen that I've been meaning to read for awhile. I've heard that some people think this is a very definitive bio of Jane Austen and some feel pretty much the exact opposite. You will have to wait and see how I feel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

84, Charing Cross Road

Title: 84, Charing Cross Road
Author: Helene Hanff
Genre: Biography, Epistolary
Pages: 97
Published: 1970
Date Finished: 2 April 2009
My Rating: 5 Stars
Challenges: New Author, RYOB, Decades, Numbers, 100+

84, Charing Cross Road is a book that has been on my radar for years and I really wish I hadn't waited so long to pick myself up a copy.
Coming in at a slim 97 pages 84, Charing Cross Road is a delightfully charming collection of letters between witty and outspoken New York writer Helen Hanff and stereotypically reticent British book seller Frank Doel.
The 20 year correspondence began in 1949 when Helen wrote to Marks and Co. Booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Road, London to request some rare, out of print titles. Before long Helen befriended Frank and the entire staff at Marks and Co.
I laughed out loud while reading many of the letters and was charmed by the kindness and genuine friendship displayed between a group of people who had never met. I also just loved reading Helen's thoughts and feelings and about her love of books.
This charming little book is not to be missed! (Yes, I do realize that I use the word charming a lot when describing books. I guess I am easily charmed.)
I myself have been wishing I had a Frank Doel over in England to help me locate some books as my interest in out of print British authors seems to be at a peak right now. Oh how nice it would be to have Frank track down some Noel Streatfield, D.E. Stevenson, or Barbara Pym, amongst many others, right now. At least I have the internet to help me, something Helen did not have.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Emperors of Chocolate

Title: The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars
Author: Joel Glenn Brenner
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 366
Date Finished: 5 Feb 2009
My Rating: 4 Stars
Challenges: Library, New Author, Decades
, 100+

I'll never look at chocolate the same again.
This book was a surprisingly fascinating read. I kept reading out loud or telling my husband about what I was reading because it was all just so interesting and I wanted to share.
I knew the history of Milton Hershey and the Utopian community he tried to create as well as the orphanage he started. What I did not know was how the company he started was managed or mismanaged, as the case may be, after his death. In my opinion, it is nothing short of a miracle that the company survived and is still around and a major confectioner today. For decades after his death the company was run on antiquated business ideas and machinery and the salesmen could hardly be called salesmen as they did very little selling.
What I knew nothing at all about was the Mars family. In fact, before reading this book I could not have told you whether it was a family business or not, and the people at Mars would really prefer it stay that way. The family is extremely private and low key and does all they can not to bring attention to themselves. Forrest Mars Sr. who started the Mars empire that exists today was pretty much the polar opposite of his rival Milton Hershey. Mars was very eccentric and demanding and just not a nice guy in general. He built a well oiled machine of a company and despite his craziness created a business plan that has made his company what it is today.
The information was fascinating but also a bit repetitive at times with a lot of back in forth in time. Ten years old now, the book is a bit out dated and I would love an updated version because a lot has happened in the candy world in the last decade. I guess that is a problem with a lot of non-fiction, facts and information become outdated as soon as a book is published.
Absolutely fascinating. I recommend this book to anyone!

Friday, April 10, 2009

I live under a rock

I must. How did I not know there is an online bookseller that will ship books to me from the UK with no shipping costs! What have I been doing? Readers, do you know how much time I spend looking at books that are only available in the UK just wishing I could get them but hating the cost to have them shipped? It is a lot of time.
Well, now that I have discovered The Book Depository, I am in trouble.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Big trouble.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Challenges! Challenges! Challenges!

Oh, how you call my name.
You are what started me on this book blogging journey.
They are called challenges for a reason but sometimes I just want to pull a book off the shelf just because and not worry about how many challenges I can fit it into.
I will continue to plug along but don't be surprised if all 20 or so of you do not get accomplished by deadline time.
2010 might just be a challenge free year for me, how is that for planning ahead?
But then again, don't be surprised if you see me sign up for more still this year. It is called an addiction for a reason, you know?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Authors: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 319
Published: 2009
Date Finished: 2 April 2009
My Rating: 3 Stars
Challenges: 100+, New Author, RYOB, Pub

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

I picked this book up at a bookstore a few weeks ago and promptly began skimming through it and looking at the illustrations. What I read and saw I found very amusing and I was eager to jump into this book.
When I started reading I was laughing out loud a lot and thoroughly enjoying myself. I was all prepared to tell all those devout Janeites out there who were up in arms about this book to relax and enjoy this parody for what it is, a fun, entertaining spoof of Pride and Prejudice. Didn't Jane herself parody popular fiction of her time?
Then I got about 50 pages in and realized that the novelty had worn off rather quickly. Reading about zombies in Meryton and Elizabeth Bennet being a skilled warrior was funny at first but then I realized that what made Pride and Prejudice so enjoyable was missing. Gone was Elizabeth Bennet's wit, replaced with the desire to rip out and taste the heart of any one who said anything that upset her. Funny, sure but just lacking long term reading enjoyment.
Maybe if it had been shortened or if there had been more original content it might have been more enjoyable. I'd guess 80-90% was not original content but just Jane Austen's novel with a few inserts about brains, blood, and battling zombies. I honestly found myself skimming large passages because, well, I know the original so well and was really reading this for the bits of parody scattered here and there throughout the novel. The bits and pieces that were written by Grahame-Smith did seem to, usually, fall into the narrative easily, but at times they were spaced so far apart that I found myself rolling my eyes at the unbelievability. I'd forget I was not reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but Grahame-Smith's zombie parody.
Entertaining and humorous at first but quickly descended into the tedious.
Of course, with all that said, this is by far more enjoyable than the vast majority of Austen sequels and fan fiction out there that have turned Pride and Prejudice into little more than bodice rippers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Miss Buncle's Book

Title: Miss Buncle's Book
Author: D.E. Stevenson
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 335
Published: 1934
Date Finished: 3 Mar 2009
My Rating: 5 Stars
Challenges: Decades, New Author, 100+, Library

While Miss Buncle's Book is a Persephone reprint the copy I read was a very old library book that I was able to find at my local library. While I love reading the lovely Persephone books I also love reading old books so when I found this copy I went ahead and picked it up. There was still an old library card tucked into the back with due dates stamped from 1938. A delightful find, I hate to return it to the library.
If I had a list for books that was labeled simply "charming," Miss Buncle's Book would certainly top the list. A thoroughly charming book from start to finish.
Barbara Buncle's dividends are down and finances are getting tight. Realizing that she must do something to bring in more income she briefly considers keeping hens or taking in boarders but neither seem very appealing. After a comment from her maid, Miss Buncle decides to write a book. The only problem is that she is not a writer and does not know how to write about things she does not know. Miss Buncle's quiet little English village of Silverstream is therefor turned into the village of Cooperfield and the residents of Silverstream become thinly veiled characters in Miss Buncle's book, Disturber of the Peace.
Published under the name of John Smith, Miss Buncle's book becomes a best seller but their is an uproar in Silverstream as the residents recognize themselves and a fair share of their faults in the book. An array of humorous characters join forces to discover who the real John Smith is and make him or her pay for the terrible slander that has been committed against them. While the finger is pointed at many local residents no one even considers that frumpy ol' Miss Buncle could have ever had the ability to pull this book off.
Have I mentioned that I was completely charmed with this book? Oh I did? Well it bears saying again. This book was just plain fun to read. Filled with delightful characters that had me snickering at times to laughing out loud at others. There are a lot of characters and the book within a book idea could have gotten messy and confusing but it thankfully didn't.
It is hard to find a copy of this here in the states but check your local library. If you can't find a copy there than I suggest you break down and have a Persephone copy shipped from England. I know I'll be adding Miss Buncle's book to my next order because I must have this on my shelf. There is a sequel, Miss Buncle Married, that I've been trying to track down a copy of and I finally have. Yea! I'll be reading it soon.
Can I say it again? Charming and delightful!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ballet Shoes

Title: Ballet Shoes
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Date Finished: 31 Jan 2009
My Rating: 4 Stars
Challenges: RYOB, 100+, Decades, New Author

I think Noel Streatfeild is on the way to becoming one of my favorite authors. In addition to
Ballet Shoes, which I read earlier this year, I am currently reading her adult novel Saplings and thoroughly enjoying it. I spent a good amount of time browsing ebay and used book sellers in an attempt to track down more of her books since the vast majority of this very prolific author's books are out of print. I am only kicking myself for taking so long to start reading Streatfeild's work.

In Ballet Shoes we meet Pauline, Petrova and Posy. Pauline was orphaned after being the only survivor from a shipwrecked boat. Petrova is the orphaned child of a Russian couple and Posy was given up by her widowed mother who was a ballet dancer. The three children are picked up and adopted by Matthew, a fossil collector, on his journeys. The girls come to call him Gum, short for Great Uncle Matthew. When Gum leaves for his fossil hunting journeys the girls are taken care of by Gum's great-niece, Sylvia and Nana.
When Gum does not return from one of his journeys Sylvia decides to take in boarders in order to help make ends meet. The boarders that move in bring change and new opportunity for the girls. Doctor Smith and Doctor Jakes take over the girl's education and inspire the girls to make their name really important and their own. The girls make a vow every year to get their names in the history books. "We three Fossils vow to try and put our names in history books because it's our very own and nobody can say it's because of our grandfathers." Another boarder, Theo Dane, is a ballet teacher at The Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. After seeing Posy dance, she arranges for the head of the school, Madame Fidolia, to train the girls free of charge.
Pauline soon shows talent as an actress, while Posy is clearly a gifted ballerina. Petrova, however, would rather spend time tinkering with cars in the garage and dreams of flying an airplane.

A thoroughly enjoyable book about three girls who are willing to work hard and sacrifice to make their dreams come true. A wonderful story about family relationships and commitment. Set during the depression of the 1930s the reader gets a real since of what life for these girls, working on the stage to help Sylvia pay the bills, would have been like. Another book that I am adding to my list of books to read to my daughter when she gets a little older.

After reading the book I picked up a copy of the DVD at the library. While the movie really is as charming as the book they did take some great liberties with the story line. Some characters were omitted or had their story changed in order to add a love story to the movie.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thanks for the Awards

Over the course of the last several weeks I have had a few fellow bloggers very kindly give me some blog awards and I thought it was about time I thanked them. I received the Friends award from Alyce. At Home With Books is where Alyce blogs and I am so glad I found her (I think it was through Twitter) because she always has something interesting to share and I find lots of new titles to add to my reading list. Plus, as the award may imply, she is supper friendly.
I was very excited to receive this award from Laurel Ann at Austenprose. Laurel Ann is probably my favorite Jane Austen blogger and I get such a little thrill when she visits my blog. If any of my fellow Jane Austen fans have not seen Laurel Ann's blog, you really must check it out. Thanks Laurel Ann! This next award came from Stephanie at Open Mind, Insert Book. First of all, I have to say that I love the name of Stephanie's blog. I also love her blog because she reads such a variety of books that there is always something interesting. Many of the titles she reviews are books that I'd never heard of before but all the sudden feel the need to find. Thanks Stephanie!And last but not least, Kim from Good Clean Reads has awarded me the I Love Your Blog Award.
I always get excited when a post from Kim shows up in my reader. I've made a lot of great blogging friends since I started my blog but I get the feeling Kim is someone I could easily fall into a great friendship with beyond the world of blogs. If only we did not live on opposite ends of the country. Thanks Kim!

You've probably noticed that I've cheated a little and just highlighted the bloggers who gave me the awards and did not pass any of them on. Honestly? I'd just probably give the awards back to the ones who gave it to me or have already been given the award by someone else. I love all the blogs I read and the blogs of everyone who visits my blog. So I award you all!

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Visit to Oz Challenge

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is already on my list of books to read this year and I was thinking once I read it I should continue the series so here I am signing up for another challenge.
The challenge is being hosted at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog and I encourage you to head over there to get all the details. While you are there check out the links to the Oz series. I never realized there were so many written after Baum died. Eventually I'd like to read them all but it'll take me a few years.
My five book picks for the challenge are the first five in the series:
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
2. Marvelous Land of Oz
3. Ozma of Oz
4. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz
5. The Road to Oz