Thursday, December 31, 2009

Housecleaning-End of the Year thought for 2009

I finished my last book for 2009-The Blind Faith Hotel by Pamela Todd-review is not finished. I've gone through both my blog and my Good Reads account to verify what books I read this past year. I read 70 total books this year with most titles concentrated in the elementary, middle and YA levels.
Of course, going through my lists I reminisced over my favorite reads this year.

Here is my list-In no particular order:

Gone by Michael Grant-think all adults dead and teenagers need to run things.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson-American Revolution and slavery-one girl's story.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-A new America with sections, each section sends two players to the "games".
Catching Fire (sequel) by Suzanne Collins-next phase of The Hunger Games-Team Peeta!!!
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan-young boy learns he is part human/part god, son of Poseidon.
The Help by Kathyrn Stockett-Amazing tale of Mississippi during Civil Rights movement.
Red Glass by Laura Resau-immigration issues dealt with win Sophie's family shelters young Pablo.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout-many stories about New England small town, quirky characters, great blend of stories.
Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff-tear-jerker about Annie and the death of her brother, good neighbor award.
The Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen-the jet set in 1899-great plot twists, would make a delicious movie.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly-1899, Callie Vee and her grandfather find their own connection while discovering a new plant species in early Texas.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein-esoteric dog thoughts, evolving through one man's life.
Found/Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix-what happens when a select few play around with the boundaries of time.

My reading increased from last year and will have to increase even more for me to accomplish the challenges I've signed up for in 2010.
We always have a family party on New Year's Eve.  A few times we have dressed up in fancy clothes to ring in the year.  This year we had a fun finger-food dinner (pig's in the blanket that Peaceful Girl and I made, asparagus with lots of crackers, bread and brie) and we played a rousing game of Scattegories while we munched.  Several of us love this game-lots of giggling with serious thinking in between!! We also do a whole list of predictions for the next year and add to our own bucket lists.

How do you spend your New Year's Eve??

Monday, December 28, 2009

Which one should I read first??

This challenge hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea struck a chord with me today because after dinner (eggplant lasagna) I started sorting through my tbr piles-you know the real piles...not the long-ass list I keep on Good Reads. I've now compiled "The List" and I have to say it felt good just picking out the ones that really need to be read! Like it is a crime I haven't read a few of these in a more timely manner! Each book I held reminded me of the story behind why I have the book in the first place making it a little book trip down memory lane.  Here is "The List" then I'll explain some of my memories!

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
2. The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
3. The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank 
4. I don't want to be crazy by Samantha Schutz
5. Home to Italy by Peter Pezzelli
6. Every Sunday by Peter Pezzelli
7. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
8. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
9. One year to an organized life by Regina Leeds
10. Never Change by Elizabeth Berg
11.  The Omnivore's Dilemma; A natural history of four meals by Michael Pollan
12. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
13. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
14. Inheritance by Natalie Danford
15. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing; Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson
16. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
17. The Reluctant Tuscan; How I Discovered my Inner Italian by Phil Doran
18. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
19. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
20. Gilead by Marilyn Robinson
21. The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins
22. The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by e.l. konigsburg
23. I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
24. Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska
25. Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs
26. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
27. The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie
28. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
29. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
30. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
31. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
32. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
33. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
34. Austenland by Shannon Hale
35. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
36. The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
37. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (gasp!!)
38. We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg
39. Red Scarf Girl by Ji Li Jiang
40. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
41. The Sorceress; The secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
42. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
43. Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
44. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
45. Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes
46. Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix
47. Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
48. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
49. Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
50. The Snipesville Chronicles; Don't Know Where, Don't Know When by Annette Laing (gift from author)

A few of these were passed on to me (#'s 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11), quite a few are from my school library and should be back at school instead of on my reading table (#2, #43-47) and a few like the Picoult and Berg books were purchased second hand and shuffled aside for newer choices.  The Sarah Dessen choices are all my step-daughter, Kaylee's and will be passed pack to her as I finish. A few of the books, like The Shadow Catcher, I bought because I enjoyed something else the author had written (Evidence of things unseen).#24 and #39 were both purchased at the Holocaust Museum two years ago when we visited D.C.-why didn't I read them on the car ride home?? 

I feel giddy with the idea of making some much needed room on my book cases-the key will be not to just add books back in.  I could have added a few more but I like a nice round number like 50-and when I get these read I'll be closer to the +100 plus challenge.  Please leave a comment as to which one you think I should begin with come January 1st!!

Another useful reading challenge

I found out about this challenge while reading Jenners post over at Find Your Next Book Here, which sent me over to  Bibliophile By the Sea.

This challenge is about reading books that you already have on your bookshelves (I've got plenty of those!) and then passing them on to someone else (great recycling). It runs from January 1, 2010 until December 31, 2010.

 If so, feel free to join in:
  •  grab the button
  •  decide how many books you want to read from your shelves (minimum of 20 - no maximum)
  •  find a new home for the books once you read them
  •  post the titles and the authors of books you've read and passed on
  •  project runs from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010
  •  crossover challenge books are allowed 
I have several bookshelves that beg, plead, implore to be unburden so I take this challenge and add to it that I will not purchase any new books until...I have read the books I choose for this particular challenge.  It probably will take me all year, but that's okay.

Stay tuned for the list of books I will extract from my bookshelves.  If you have lots of books needing to be read perhaps you want to join this challenge as well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain
A novel by Garth Stein
2008, HarperCollins

This book has been resting on my tbr pile for about a year.  My book club will be discussing it in January so I thought I should pick it up and get it read.  As with many good things I don't know what took me so long.  I really enjoyed Mr Stein's style of writing and look forward to reading his other books. 

The unique twist about this one is its point-of-view-from the dog-entirely from the dog, which makes for a different sort of plot.  This is not Marley and Me by Josh Grogan, which is about a dog and a-laugh-a-minute read.  Enzo is not a bumbling spastic dog-he has his moments-but he is far more introspective than many dogs or humans for that matter.  I believe in the dog world there are dogs similar to Enzo's energy, who have it all figured out.  Our current sweet dog, Tarah is not an Enzo.  Our last dog, Taylor was an Enzo-she was an amazing listening dog and helped me through many trials in my life.  I digress though but this book brings up so much of the idea of a dog's humanity.  I don't know whether Garth Stein even has a dog but if not, he has spent a fair amount of time talking through Enzo. 

Enzo, a lab-terrier mix and his owner, Denny, live together in an apartment in Seattle.  Denny, an auto-parts technician during the day, spends his evening and weekends pursuing his dream of race car driving.  Denny meets Eve and they fall in love, get married and Eve learns to share Denny with Enzo.  Eventually, they have Zoe and life would be complete except generally, with the good there is bad lurking.  Eve has brain cancer and Enzo can smell it.  Through all the ups and downs of life a dog is there as Enzo is, helping his owner brave the storm.  The story of Denny, with tragedies swirled in is the story of life, because like we say in my family "stuff happens!"

My thoughts:  I loved the easy manner of the dog giving us his take on life, his and Denny's.  While not overly didactic there are moments of rare insight from Enzo such as this great paragraph when Enzo is extolling the virtues of how watching television has broadened his doggie horizons:

"They talk a lot about Darwin; pretty much every educational channel has some kind of show about evolution at some point, and it's usually really well though out and researched.  However, I don't understand why people insist on pitting the concepts of evolution and creation against each other.  Why can't they see that spiritualism and science are one?  That bodies evolve and souls evolve and the universe is a fluid place that marries them both in a wonderful package called a human being.  What's wrong with that idea?" p 18, The art of racing in the rain

Enzo's thoughtful ramblings are just one of the many reasons I loved reading this book. 
Garth Stein's website-click here.
Highly Recommended-Adult
4.5/5 peaceful stars

Read more blog posts about this great book-

Friday, December 25, 2009

Splendor on Christmas

Splendor; The Luxe #4
Anna Godbersen
Alloy Entertainment, 2010

I'm overjoyed to have read this lovely tale and yet sad, sad, sad to have completed it!  I tried  hard to finish reading it last night while I was waiting for Santa but my eyes grew way too weary and I had to close the book. After we finished unwrapping all of our wonderful gifts I finished reading while everyone else was playing new PS3 games and I was drinking my traditional Christmas Bloody Mary.
The book, written by Anna Godbersen and the drink, concocted by my husband=both delicious!

(Subtle spoilers Beware)
Godbersen's conclusion to the Luxe series brings resolution in some way to each and every character-some good, some bad.  Elizabeth is happily setting up her new house purchased for her by her husband, Mr. Cairns and dealing with her pregnancy. She  makes some startling discoveries about her husband and I cheered her as she connected the dots!  Her sister, Diana, is tripping around Cuba, working and searching for Henry Schoonmaker.  Henry is in Cuba not seeing the war as he planned but helping his Colonel with sailboat racing.  He feels like a failure until he finds Diana again.  Penelope Schoonmaker, Elizabeth's diabolical "best friend" and Henry's wife has found something to keep her occupied while Henry is off "battling" the enemy.  A prince has come to town and Penelope sets her sights on wearing this particular crown, even with her husband heading back to town.  Carolina Broad, maid turned heiress, learns some valuable lessons as well and her story, while interesting does not turn out how she expects it at all.

My thoughts:  I really loved this series and am sad to have finished reading it.  I liked the closure this final book brought to these characters I love.  While not a Hollywood ending the book does a great job of showing us in what direction each character will head and each character proves to be a survivor in one way or another. I am excited to see what other topics or time periods Anna Godbersen will take on. This series is so well-thought out, the plot intertwining us with such great details from this glittering era.
Highly Recommend-YA fiction
4/5 peaceful stars 

Click here to read my stepdaughter's review of the second Luxe novel.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

African Acrostics

African Acrostics; a Word in Edgeways
Poems by Avis Harley; photographs by Deborah Noyes
Candlewick Press, 2009
I knew the moment I took this book out of its bubble-infused envelope it was going to be amazing and it is.  Just look at that attention-grabbing front cover!  Students will flock to this book whether they are researching animals, poetry or just looking for a great book to enjoy.

The opening poem, in African Acrostics, reminds me of Shel Silverstein's "invitation to young readers":

"Welcome, all poets-both new 
or well versed. Non-rhymers or
Rhymers! Come,
dive in headfirst!"

What follows is a well-written and unique poetry book with very real, close-up animal portraits.  The beginning poem tells the reader just what an acrostic poem is, which is helpful. Many of us regard an acrostic poem as one made up of the letters of a name, but the form is much broader than that.  Harley uses a variety of words to form her poems, which makes the reader work to relate the names to each animal.  It is an inspiring method and serves to bring this form of poetry to life.  For example: the ostrich poem anchor word is "fatherly advice" and the poem relays a father's wisdom to his son.  The father teaches his child to ignore humans (they only want your feathers) and to enjoy life for who he is!  I now want to sit with my family and make acrostic poems on Christmas morning.  Animal, poetry and nature lovers should unite over this beautifully done book.  I can't wait to share it with students and teachers in the new year.
Highly Recommended-elementary 
5/5 peaceful stars
This book was a picnic basket gift.

***This post has been in my brain for several days but much has kept me from my computer.  Then today I had a "crown lengthening" done and oh, my the pain that followed-and I have a fairly high threshold-was astounding!  I had to take a painkiller (half) to get me through the last half of the day.  All I can hope is the pain will diminish so I can enjoy Christmas.

Be Peaceful,


Sunday, December 20, 2009

451 Challenge

I've decided to join this 451 Challenge.  I do this trepidly as I'm already busy but it seems like an important one.  I had  to do some research, figuring out which books appealed to me, many of the titles were somewhat unknown to me.  I've picked several so far and once I make my final selections I will post them here.
After looking over the list I was happy to see a few I've already read so I had to list them here:
1.  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
2. Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell
3. Harry Potter series of 7 by J.K. Rowling
4. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins-I was very excited and amazed to find this one on the list.
5. Night by Elie Wiesel
6.Peace like a river by Leif Enger
7. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
10. The Hobbit by Tolkein
11. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
12. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
13. Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
14. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
15. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
16. The Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss-(if it counts I've read all of his:)
17. The Stand by Stephen King
18. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
19. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
20. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Robert E. Pirsig
21. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffinegger

If any of these titles intrigue you, flip over to the 451 Challenge blog, hosted by Elizabeth at As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves.

Here is how it will work: between January 1, 2010 and November 30, 2010, participants are challenged to read books on the 451 master list. There will be several levels of participation:

Spark - read 1-2 books from the master list
Ember - read 3-4 books from the master list
Flame - read 5-6 books from the master list
Blaze - read 7 or more books from the master list

Re-reading is acceptable, as are crossovers with other challenges. Audio, print, and e-books are all acceptable. Each month, participants will be encouraged to post their reviews on the challenge blog, and each review posted will be an entry into a grand prize drawing for a $25 gift card to the online bookseller of the winner's choice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Final Friday

Today is the last day for us to be at our old elementary.  Everyone is finishing boxing things up and we had a lovely lunch together, sharing memories and positive ways to  move into our new building.  I have been in the new building for a few weeks now. Just me and the construction crew! 
I've finished moving things around, re-alphabetizing the shelves and setting up my office in an effecient manner, I hope.  I've also been working on a project to get our 5th graders reading more chapter books and series titles.  When students come back on the 4th it will be like the beginnng of library classes all over as I show them where everything is located and how the computer system works.  For the first time students will have access to good, fast computers and be able to look up books using Destiny.  As we go through all these changes I want to emphasize reading, naturally and am going to put forth a challenge to them.  Beginning with with the fifth grade it will look something like this.

1. For each book they read that I've read they will receive 15 points. 
2. For each book on my recommended list (see left side bar "don't leave 5th grade w/out reading these) they will also receive 10 points. 
3. For each book in a series they will receive another 10 points and if they read at least three in a series they will double  their total.
4. The goal is to get to 70 points.  Invitations to a library pizza party will be given out to 50 point students.

Does this sound too complicated?  This is meant to encourage them to read but yet not be accelerated reader.  I have a list of series titles and it has varying reading levels on it so if not a strong reader you could read Ron Roy's Capital Mysteries or Emily Rodda's Fairy Realm and still receive 10 points.  On the other end of the spectrum they could be reading The Lightning Thief or the Erin Hunter writing team's new Seekers series. 
Let me know what you think or how I could tweak this idea???

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Picture Books

I' ve had a very  hectic day at school, back and forth between buildings.  Here it is at the end of my work day, trying to steal a few blogging moments. 
Peaceful Girl and I read two great picture books the other night and I just had to share them with you.
We read Tomie dePaola's new Strega Nona's Harvest (2009) and were delighted with the garden theme.  It begins like this:  "It was spring, and all the snow had melted."  Just that line gave us such a warm feeling as we are snowed in to our shins!!  Strega Nona brings out packets of seeds and explains how the seeds need to be planted carefully, according to each plants requirements.  She even has her always helper, Big Anthony spread the compost and manure so the plants will have plenty of vitamins.  This is great information for students to hear-what it takes to grow a good garden. There is even mention of planting by the light of the full moon,  a tradition in my family, which causes my husband to laugh and roll his eyes, until he eats the potatoes!!

 I loved the addition of lots of Italian phrases and words like "Arriverderci, buonanotte-good-bye and good night,"-wonderful for children to hear a new language.  I don't remember as many Italian phrases in other Strega Nona stories-this one seemed to have more and I very well could be wrong.  Please feel free to correct me if I am.  I looked through the original Strega Nona and didn't find as many.  The first one does a great job of describing Strega Nona, the Grandma Witch:
"She could cure a headache, with oil and water and a hairpin.  She made special potions for the girls who wanted husbands.  And she was very good at getting rid of warts." 
I think this new Strega Nona will encourage readers to discover dePaolo's many other books, Strega Nona or otherwise.
Highly Recommended for Elementary Everybody
5/5 peaceful stars

The second book we read, Hogwood Steps Out; A very good pig by Howard Mansfield and Barry Moser is funny!!  Even from the cover it invites humor with the face of that sweet pig.  This one begins: "Mud.  That's wat I smell this morning. It's rich, it's inviting."  You can see we are looking at life from a pig's point-of-view and this makes it very funny but not silly.  Whoever thought they wanted to get into the head of a pig-but once there we find an adventursome, strong-willed and happy pig!!  The pictures are realistically-drawn and you can imagine exactly what it would feel like to be the pig as well as the neighbors Hogwood encounters on his walk around the neighborhood.  Hogwood is one smart pig even as he is being led back to his pen!
Highly Recommended-Elementary Everybody
5/5 peaceful stars

Be Peaceful to yourself-

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ghost Story

Book One, 43 Old Cemetary Road; Dying to meet you (2009)
by Kate Klise, illus. by M. Sarah Klise

The sister team of Kate and M. Sarah Klise created a charming ghost story through letters written back and forth between a cast of characters. The story line is fun and the cast of characters have names that will make children giggle. There is the writer, Ignatius B. Grumply (I.B.), who is trying to write a book after a 20 year absence in the publishing world. Anita Sale is the real estate agent who helps Grumply find a writing haven-at 43 Old Cemetary Road, of course. Grumply's lawyer is E. Gadds and his publisher is Paige Turner. The broken down house at 43 Old Cemetary Road belongs to Professors Les and Diane Hope, who have fled the country to study paranormal activity on the European Continent, leaving their young son, Seymour Hope, behind at the house. This pun-filled cast is rounded out with the resident ghost, Olive C. Spence, and a private investigator, Frank N. Beans!! This book is only about 150 pages long, quick read and I think students will love it.

While not a scary ghost story I like the message of family is who ever makes you feel safe and Seymour feels safer with a ghost than with his own parents. This theme is cherished by many students who don't live in typical mom/dad family situations. Seymour takes care of himself, even mows the yards for neighbors but he likes to have Olive and Ignatius around. This would make a wonderfully, quick read-aloud as well as an intro into letter-writing as well. The second book, 43 Old Cemetary Road; Over my dead body is out as well.
Find a copy of other well-written books by this duo right here.Here at Highland we have "Shall I knit you a hat; a Christmas Yarn", a wonderful tale of sharing and giving for this time of year.
Find the book here.
Highly Recommended-Elementary Fiction (2nd-4th grade)
4/5 Stars

TT The Best Bad Luck I Ever had

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read  
  • Open to a random page  
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page  
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  •  Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
 Here is my teaser for the day:

"Do you have the new Sears and Roebuck catalog?" Pa didn't say hello to Mr. Walker either, but that only made me feel a little better.  "Yes," Mr. Walker said, reading into his desk and pulling it out.  "Is something wrong?"  p53 The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine

I love how saving the day could come from the S & R catalog!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Family Reading

Peaceful girl and I have been reading quite a lot lately and I've been remiss on writing about these books.
Last night we finished Ruby Lu, brave and true by Lenore Look, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (2004).  We read this one because our friend, V, said the second one (Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything) was great.  we thought we should read the first one first and it was also great!  Ruby loves doing magic, loves living on 20th Avenue South and thinks everyone should wear reflective tape.  Her neighborhood is the fun kind, where everyone plays together and gets along-that is until Christina moves in.  Christina wears summer clothes not sweaters and makes fun of Ruby and her friends on 20th Ave. South but eventually she comes around.  Ruby is especially adorable when she finds she will need to share her room with her young cousin, Flying Duck, who is soon to emigrate to America.  Flying Duck arrives wearing some reflective tape of her own! Peaceful girl and I are excited to check out Ruby's  next book.  Lenore Look has a popular new series out, Alvin Ho-I think there are two books so far!
Highly Recommended for Elementary Fiction
  5/5 peaceful stars

Recently we finished Henrietta; there's no one better by Martine Murray.  This one was just plain silly and I still don't really get it.  Henrietta likes to make things up and her mind moves fast, lightning fast-so fast it didn't all gel together-for me or little girl.  Read more here.
Recommended for the fun drawings-Elementary Fiction
2/5 peaceful stars

A while ago Peaceful Girl and I finished The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler and loved it.  What girl doesn't dream about waking up and finding out you're a mermaid.  Emily lives on a boat with her mom and everything is smooth until she takes her 7th grade swim class and grows ah yes, a mermaid tail.  Lots of fun discoveries about her family are uncovered and there are two more books rounding out this fantasy series.  Recommended Elementary Fiction -(while she is in 7th grade the audience is more elementary-4th-5th grade) 4/5 peaceful stars

What are you reading with your children??

Inspiration for the day

I found this great little video while browsing my copy of Shelf Awareness.  I love how excited the children are to get this brand new book.  I love how small the Internet makes the world.  I was already having a pretty darn great day and yet it made my Monday brighter!  Take a minute to watch, then take another minute to tell me what you think.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dress Envy

#3 Luxe Novel

I just put Splendor(the 4th and last Luxe novel) on hold at my local library and I hope the patron who has it right now reads really, really fast.  I am so intrigued by the ending of this one-I want to find out how everyone turns out, especially Diana!

It's been two months since Will's death and Elizabeth is struggling to get back out into society.  Her younger sister, Diana, is torn between hating and loving Henry Schoonmaker.  While Henry loves Diana he married Penelope, Elizabeth's conniving best friend, to save Diana's reputation. Then there is the maid-turned-socialite, Carolina Broud, who has to find how she fits into this back-stabbing world.  It sounds oh, so soap opera-ish except Godberson crafts the story well, layer upon layer. Instead you find yourself trying to finish the book all in one night just to know how everything clicks together.

The entire entourage heads off to Palm Beach, Florida, which is a perfect change of venue.  Penelope spends her time worrying about Diana while Diana shifts between taking care of Elizabeth and finding moments with Henry. There are some amazing powers at work here as several characters grow stronger.  I especially appreciate Henry as he learns to make decisions on his own.

I loved this third installment and felt like Godbersen is taking her characters to new heights.  Elizabeth's decisions prove her natural strength.  Sadly, the more Elizabeth makes good decisions for herself and her family, Penelope makes bad decisions, tumbling her down a path of no redemption. 
If you haven't picked up the Luxe and you enjoy historical fiction-give yourself this gift!!
Visit Anna Godbersen's site here.

4/5 peaceful stars
recommended high school and above

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kate DiCamillo on Writing

I get twenty by jenny neatly dropped into my inbox everyday where I discovered this video gem of Jenny talking with one of my favorite writers!  Take a peek! 

I love that she has a Lilly doll-me too!  What a unique and lovely writing space.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
from Barnes and Noble website

This book is wonderful!  The cover art, which flows all around the book, continually caught my eye as I read, pulling me into Callie's natural world.  She is a heroine most extraordinaire!  Her quest for knowledge is divulged to us immediately as she looks for the answers to why grasshoppers in her yard do not look the same.  Her thoughts on this matter lead her to seek out her grandfather, a quiet somewhat frightening man to Callie, who spends most of his time ensconced in his library or in his backyard laboratory.  At first afraid to talk to him, he soon sees Callie as his scientific partner as the two set out to gather specimens and talk about the world around them.  Grandfather and Callie have a grand time spending time together until Mother decides it's time to start learning how to bake a good pie, knit socks and other homemaker activities necessary to a woman of the time. 
Before she seeks out her grandfather though she tries to get answers from her county seat library.   She's heard her grandfather and the Reverend discuss Charles Darwin's The origin of Species and she thinks this book will help her figure out what to do.  In order to get to the county library she has to hitch a ride with her favorite older brother, Harry.  In 1899 one has to ask the librarian for the book and Callie is slightly embarressed to ask for this controversial book (funny this book is still controversial)
I stepped up to the counter and whispered, 'Please, ma'am, do you have a copy of Darwin's book?' She leaned over the counter and said, 'What was that?'
'Mr. Darwin's book. You know, The Origin of Species.'
She frowned and cupped a hand behind her ear. 'You have to speak up.'
I spoke up in a shaking voice. 'Mr Darwin's book. That one. Please.'
She pinioned me with a sour look and said, 'I most certainly do not. I wouldn't keep such a thing in my library.  They keep a copy in the Austin library, but I would have to order it by post. That's fifty cents.  Do you have fifty cents?' p 14
Poor Callie-looking for the library/ librarian of today!  I love how the pinched librarian can't even call it a book!   Our heroine is constantly ahead of her time.  She soon figures out what is exactly up with the grasshoppers in her yard, makes quite a few other discoveries with her grandfather and wishes she could make plans to go off to university like her brother Harry.  Oh, and she does get her hands on a copy of that book-it was waiting right inside her grandfather's library for her.

There is no fairy tale ending though for Callie.  Her mother still wants her to learn the art of being a good homemaker and her family is still relatively confused by her desire to go off the beaten path but we do get a sense that Callie will find someway to branch off.  This book would make an excellent holiday gift for girls on your list.
I read an interview with Kelly on HipWriterMama, where she said she had book marks with the cover art available-just email her and she would sign and deliver!  I did email her and she did send them-obviously a very lovely person!!  Thank you, thank you Jacqueline Kelly!!
Recommended middle school read
5/5 peaceful stars

Other wonderful reviews of this book:

*I've lost a few days along the way-started this post on Monday-got called away-Tuesday-snow day but sick, sick, sick with a cold.  Today finally able to muster up enough coherent thought to finish! 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Highland Library

It is all coming together.  These photos were taken on Friday morning and I had several volunteers come and help get even more books out of boxes and onto the shelves!  I think by the end of the week I will be ready to start putting my office together.  An efficient guy came and put my desk together Friday afternoon and another guy assembled all the shelves for the back storage area.  By quitting time on Friday I was exhausted (and feeling a little old) but headed off to a friends' birthday celebration.  I believe now after spending a fairly relaxing weekend that my muscles have finally recovered from moving boxes around and hefting books up and down.  Thankfully one of the volunteers on Friday enjoyed helping me move boxes around-with a dolly!! 
Highlights of my weekend:
1. Watching my children perform in a church production!  Peaceful girl played a lamb!  Teenage boy was Joseph
2. Finished The evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (review tommorow-loved it).
3. Getting parts of my house cleaned on Saturday morning.
4. Holding my sweetheart's hand at h.s. performance of Romeo and Juliet.
5. Began third Luxe; Envy by Anna Godbersen and am mesmerized!!  Should be reading right now!
6. Watched husband put lights up on outside tree because I said please...

Hope your weekend was just as wonderful!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Highland Update

Just a quick update-I finished packing the rest of the library today!  Oh my goodness-what a lot of nooks and crannies to clean out.  I moved a lot growing up and have moved also several times as an adult so I was prepared for this major move but I kept coming upon another set of goodies to pack.  In one of the back old offices I found an ancient copy of Sears cataloging book-had to take that-it's an antique!!

I spent about two hours in the new library thinking and talking about book placement, electical outlets and how high the desk is!  I am sad to find the major built in shelves are two small for picture books and in order for picture books to fit we will have to remove one shelf (wasted!) to make just two shelves across instead of three!  This is majorly dissapointing because I was very specific with the architect about book size and making enough space!!  Apparently they just did what they wanted to anyway.  The desk is too tall and there is an electical/computer drop spot too far away from where the computer is supposed to be...minor details on an otherwise beautiful library!  Tomorrow my books will be transported from one building to the other and we will begin to put them on the shelves by Friday!!  Yeah!!!  I will definetely be done with the whole move thing by holiday break!!
Tomorrow I should have new photos of move.

I am on chapter 12 of The evolution of Calpurnia Tate, which is fantastic and worth savoring!
Peaceful girl and I are about to begin reading Ruby Lu, brave and true by Lenore Look and recommended by the indomitable V.
My two school book clubs are reading The Lightning Thief and Breadwinner and I have not been keeping up with them at all.  I am not giving them the full amazing book club experience as in previous years.  Hopefully, things will settle down after the big move and my focus for them will be better.

Be Peaceful~

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thrilling new Highland Library

Today and yesterday with a small team of community volunteers we have packed up the McKinstry library into 244 boxes.  I still have about 10 more boxes to pack and it will be all finished tomorrow.  It is strange to walk into the library and see empty shelves!! 
Over the next week the boxes will all be moved over to our brand new building, Highland Elementary!  Twice I've had the opportunity to visit our new space even though construction is still going on.  Today a bunch of the new furniture including shelving filled in our new space.  My excitement of going from the above photos to these is mind-jarring!!  What I saw today made me teary with joy and excitement!!
I should have had the library lights turned on cuz the last two photos are a little gloomy and there is still much to be done before it is book-ready but doesn't it just look shiny and beautiful!  I love my new office-the cabinets, sink and the comfy chair-ahhhh!  The door behind that is a large storage area.  The chairs in the above photo are coffee brown with small circles of color-very subtle and soft.  The below photoshows shelves awaiting my collection.  Over the next few days I have to map out where I want all our books to go.  This task is a little overwhelming but one I want to figure out slowly even though my lovely volunteer library assistant has said "don't worry if we put the books in and we decide they should really go somewhere else-we'll just move them-no problem!!"  I love her!