Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Blogger HopThe Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books.  She has a great question today so I thought I would play along. 

Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?

I've read some great books recently and have authors to share.

1.   Aimee Bender.  I recently finished her book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which was delicious and I plan to read more of her books.  She has such an interesting voice!

2.  Heidi W. Durrow.  Reading her book The Girl Who Fell From the Sky was sad and hopeful at the same time.  Check out this insightful interview with the author about how Rachel's story emerged.

3. Lisa Genova.  This author is impressively smart and her knowledge comes through in her book, Still Alice, about Alzheimer's disease.  Alice is a champion who will make you cry and laugh. 

Give any one of these fantastic female author's a try. 
Now I'm going to hop around and take note of other blogger suggestions!  I can feel my list growing already!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Should be reading a book but instead I'm surfing-

     My house is very quiet tonight as my two young nephews and my mother left today after a four day visit.  We had loads of fun with only a small sunburn fiasco (don't ask).  My husband accomplished his 80 miles of Ragbrai today.  I've re-tidied the house.  Whoosh!  Exhale.  Breathe.  Repeat.

Cute Pie Cousins
     While my daughter merrily plays dress-up/house in her basement playroom I have just a few more minutes before Harry Potter story time begins. She's lost in her own happy fantasy land after playing with boys that last few days-boy energy!! First I posted pictures of my nephews on FB so my brother could see our mischief and I scrolled around the blog world, extensively.  Wow, how much time do you spend on-line?  I'm constantly shooing both my children away from the television but I, myself, can spend hours reading everyone's blog posts!  Hypocrite!?  What say you? 

What did I find out there that was so amazingly fascinating...

oh, lots I assure you...

top ten kick *** list of  YA heroines at The Story Siren-click over and see if you agree with her choices.  Hermione and Katniss are there!  I haven't read a few of her choices so added them to my good reads list.

Milk and Cookies; Comfort Reading has a very interesting post about how we (bloggers) decide what to write about; do you run out of ideas?, do you plan weeks at at a time?-click over and let her know what you think!  I don't run out of ideas but I run out of time...too much cleaning the house and reading online!!  Made me think about the process of thinking for some reason-I must be getting back in school mode.

The Crowded Leaf is celebrating her one year anniversary with several interesting ARC's to giveaway-click over and enter to win.


Reading with Tequila is taking a vacation in September to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!! -Click over and sign on to write a guest post while she's gone.  I am so jealous of Harry Potter Land...well, and a vacation in September-seems like a perfect holiday time.

I also added a few more reading spots to my organic blogroll.  Check out the left hand column to see what's new.  This is a new feature I want to focus on and I plan to add a peace and justice blogroll soon. And as if that isn't enough...we ended up at a bookstore today...

Yeah for new books!!

     My mama bought me two new books at our local Barnes and Noble birthday is coming up and I'm on a book buying ban until my reading from my own shelves challenge is complete.  Thank You, Mama!!  I now have Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller, after reading Tina's Book Review. and That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week; Helping Disorganized Boys Succeed in School and Life by Ana Homayoun.  I'm excited to delve into both of these but am also immersed in Lisbeth Sander's intense life in The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.  So Many Choices!!  See why it's is a big, fat circle of book love!

So how are you spending your evening...?
Do you spend too much time on-line?  And what is your definition of too much time?? 
I'm sure it's different for everyone but what works for you?

Up next:
Plan to host a giveaway of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow...I want someone else to have the chance to read this thought-provoking story.
Post about my recent baking adventures including the chocolate chip cookies I made with my nephews (photos included).
My thoughts on The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (note to self: find more Bender books...) and from Alice to Zen and Everyone in Between by Elizabeth Atkinson coming soon.
I had an odd dream last night I was bartending with Brad Pitt...?? Hmmm- Maybe I should save my dreams for another day!

Ahh, now my head is clear and I'm ready to actually read.
I feel freer after all this link love!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Still Alice

336 pages

     I won this lovely book from Kay at My Random Acts of Reading and my gratitude is deep as I couldn't put this book down.  I read it in like three days and cried through the last half.  I am a teary person-always have been-I can tear up at commercials, movies or while talking about my children. This book did it for me.  I adored Alice's character. 


     Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build.  At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard University and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children.  When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life-and her relationship with her family and the world-forever. (from the book)

My thoughts:

     I'm aging; when I look at my hands I see my mother's hands and my face is forever changed. Yet with moderate excercise  and good nutritional choices I maintain a healthy weight and don't have one gray lock in my long hair-yet I am aging everyday.  I know it and it is okay and Alice feels the same.  She's only fifty-just beginning to enjoy the second half of her life.  Her kids are grown and she is proud of them.  Lydia, her youngest, is her only major sore spot as her daughter chooses acting as a career, taking theory classes and refuses higher education.  The angst this creates in Alice is a marvelous vehicle for her and Lydia's relationship to achieve huge growth throughout the story.
      Years ago when I was a high school student I took care of a woman with Alzheimer's disease, although at that time, I don't think they used that title.  I can't remember her name (I know, that looks bad) but her husband hired me to spend evenings with her while he played in a jazz combo for events around our small MN town.  The woman was healthy on the outside but very confused and agitated on the inside.  Soon after her husband would leave and while I was preparing dinner for her she would go into their room and get all dressed up (pretty dress, pearls, heels) and go stand by the door and wait for him.  When I would call her to dinner she would question who I was and why I was there.  It was a bit of a circus and I always felt overwhelmed.  Her husband eventually had to put her in a nursing home. 

     Reading Still Alice brought those feelings of agitation back again as I experienced first hand the memory loss that terrifies Alice.  She's a strong woman and when she experiences a few unexplainable lapses Alice seeks medical help and keeps it all to herself for quite awhile.  Her husband, John, who loses his glasses and car keys all the time can't believe this is happening to Alice, and while he is a good husband, he really can't believe it is happening to him!  Why should his life change?  So while we experience life first hand through Alice's narration we do get a sense of how the rest of the family is affected by Alice's diagnosis.  I enjoyed the connection between Alice and her children best with each child having a very separate reaction at first.  I would never sit down and read a nonfiction book about Alzheimer's but reading Genova's I felt like a got a detailed look at how this disease shows no mercy to a person's  memory. 

     Honestly, this book will make you laugh and cry as you become one with Alice and her memory.  Here is a quote which finds Alice speaking to a doctor about her symptoms:
I've been having lots of problems remembering, and it doesn't feel normal.  I'm forgetting words in lectures and conversations, I need to put 'cognitive class' on my to-do list or I might forget to go teach it, I completely forgot to go to the airport for a conference in Chicago and missed my flight.  I also didn't know where I was for a couple of minutes in Harvard Square, and I'm a professor at Harvard, I'm there everyday.  (61)
     She struggles  comes to terms with herself and finds out her own meaning of family through her journey.  I could give quote after quote of funny stuff, like sitting in her lecture hall as a student, instead of teaching the class but I'd prefer you take my word for it and read this book.  Hopefully, we will find a cure for this difficult disease and I cross my fingers everyday that my own forgetful  mother does not have Alzheimer's...I already get a little agitated (without peace) when she tells me a story, three or four times.  Thank you Kay for hosting this giveaway~I loved Alice's tale.

  5/5 stars
Highly recommended for all adults
**As I was going back into the book to look up names I found so many good little quotes-I may have to reread this one.**
Other Reviews:

Missy's Book Nook
Dolce Bellezza

Monday, July 26, 2010


Mo Willems Doodles: KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL tour schedule!

Click on the link and then scroll down for a fun video describing the "making" of Knuffle Bunny; the musical!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

262 pages

Oh, what a relaxing break I've had!  My two sisters came to visit this weekend and we had a wonderful time together.  I am so happy my father, in his "mid-life" crisis, married a beautiful woman with 5 interesting children-two of which are women.  I grew up with three brothers so I have loved getting to know these sisters over the years.  They are both smart and caring women so it was just a great weekend. 

Now though it is time to catch up.  I finished this amazing book two weeks (yikes!) ago and it is time I finish my post about it.  This book was suggested by my friend, V for our reading long-distance book club. 

Synopsis (from Barnes and Noble):

Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., is the sole survivor of a tragic family incident. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of mixed attention her way. As she attempts to come to terms with an unfathomable past, she confronts her own identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

My thoughts:

     Told in alternating chapters it is Rachel's story as she comes to terms with her family history, which includes the heavy themes of depression, alcoholism, identity and racial issues, which keep Rachel from feeling comfortable with her looks.  Rachel tells her story with the help of Jamie, a Chicago neighbor, Laronne, her mother's kind employer, her father, Roger and Nella, her mother.  They interchangeably recreate Rachel's life first,  with her mother, trying to understand late 1970's America and second, her life with her African-American grandmother, living in Portland, Oregon.

     I enjoyed Durrow's creation of Rachel as she incorporated every woman's struggle of rebellion against family and the search for love in order to define oneself.  I appreciated Rachel's flaws as much as her triumphs.  She wants so much, but mostly simply the need to feel love.  Durrow did a great job of intertwining Jamie's (Brick) story with Rachel and loved the outcome. 

A quote:

"And look at your hair.  All this pretty long hair looking all wild from outside."
"We're gonna wash that tonight," she continues.  "Your Aunt Loretta will help you.  Bet she know how to do something better with that mess of hair than what you had done before.  You're gonna go to school Monday and be the prettiest girl there."
She doesn't say better than your mama.  She doesn't say anything about my mother, because we both know that the new girl has no mother.  The new girl can't be new and still remember.  I am not the new girl.  But I will pretend.  (5-6)
     Rachel is a realist but so in need of love and acceptance and Grandma is hard-to-please.  Struggle.  It's this struggle added to the vivid cast of characters that make this worth reading.  Aunt Loretta, Drew and Brick were positive characters in this tragic tale.  I felt healed just a bit from reading Rachel's if I was able to forgive myself my own struggle as a teen through Rachel's journey.  5/5 stars-Highly recommended 

**Winner of the Belliwether Prize for Fiction**

Other reviews:

Jennifer at The Literate Housewife
The Bluestocking Guide

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Burning Question

Picture courtesy of Pamela Villars website
Last night I had a blook club meeting.  We didn't have a reading selection we just met to discuss our summer reading.  I brought a huge stack to share.  Somewhere in the middle of everyone sharing their book love someone brought up this crazy idea of reading the last page, sentence or word of a book.  The thought was that if you are enjoying the book why not take just a tiny peek at the ending...

There was an audible gasp from some of us there.  and then the fence came up.  It seems some people really do read the last little bit, whether its the last word, sentence or page.  Several of our book club members owned up to peeking on purpose!!  And they weren't ashamed to admit it.  The reasons ranged from wanting to see if the book was worth finishing, or to see if a character makes it to the end to even one answer (I read just the last word-it reflects the rest of the book). 

So I have to many of you take a little peek at the last page of a book??  Do you read the ending often or just once in awhile?  I'm so curious about this as I don't read ahead or look at the ending.  Which side of the fence are you on??

Monday, July 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday-

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Should be Reading-head there for more details.

 Otherwise just... 
  1. Grab your current read.
  2. Pick a random  passage (not a spoiler) and post it.
  3. Share the author and title so it can be added to reading lists.

Here's my teaser(s):

That afternoon involved four sandwishes, soda, chips, buttered toast, chocolate milk.  I ate my way through the refrigerator.  Mom was still away at her new job, at the woodworking studio near Micheltorena, off Sunset into the hills, and my brother and George poured sugar and jam  over toast and talked about their favorite TV series with the robots while I bit and chewed and reported to George.  (36)  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.
I am really enjoying this book and like Bender's writing style.  I'm interested in her other books-are they good also??

Harry Potter

     Just saying that name aloud makes me smile.  Did J.K. realize how important that name would be when she put Harry together with Potter and added James and Lily.  Having my children spread out in ages a bit has given me the rare treat of repeating my HP love all over again.  I was delighted when my 7-year-old broached the subject of reading the first Harry Potter to her.  I jumped at the chance, of course.  Her desire to start the series came through her older siblings and school chums, who naturally got the fever from their older siblings...and so on...

     I remember  my own fever of waiting for the delivery of each book, wrapped in brown paper, hiding its magical contents.   We attended many HP coming out parties for both books and movies, staying up late to drink witch's brew and eat Bertie Bott's every flavor beans.  After the first book came out our local mall hosted a HP look-a-like contest and our now 15-year-old, ever dramatic, dressed the part.  He didn't win but we had such a great time talking with the many other participants.   Several summer vacations are memorable as we traveled across the country to the sounds of  Jim Dale keeping us silent, in rapt attention as he magically read all the parts with perfect detail!  Ahhh, the memories! 

     Peaceful Girl, her dad and I finished the first book soon after our Michigan trip and are almost half way through the second book and we are finishing the first movie as I type.  This, for me, as a teacher, is what summer is all about...the fact that I can hold my little ones hand as she watches the Hogwart's Express take Harry, Ron and Hermione away!

Click for J.K. Rowling's website.

How about you?  How many tmies have you reread any of the Harry Potter books?  Do you remember great HP parties?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Library Finds

Been to the library.
Have a whole stack to share.

1.  Creamed Tuna Fish & Peas on Toast (2009) by Philip Christian Stead

This one is cute with a great refrain-kids will love to help you repeat it.  Wild Man Jack does not like creamed tuna fish & peas on toast so all week long his sweet children ask him "What will you do if Mama Jane cooks creamed tuna fish and peas on toast?"  and each time he responds with a new reply.  What makes this book really dynamic is the cool layered illustration created by Stead.  Click on the author for his funky website.

2.  Food For Thought; The stories behind the things we eat (2009) by Ken Robbins.
 This is a good resource book with detailed information about apples, oranges, corn, bananas, tomatoes, potatoes pomegranates, grapes and mushrooms.  Each food covers at least 3-4 pages with everything from how to eat it, how it grows and its history.  The information is interesting but seems scattered to me.  About the banana he moves from where bananas grow (Southeast Asia, Africa, India, Central America) to what a Banana republic is (large plantation owner from developed country in charge of poorest pickers), to a discussion about bananas vs. plantains to the healthy benefits of bananas and then jumps to Carmen Miranda becoming Chiquita Banana advertising to slapstick comedy (slipping on a banana peel).   While it was jumpy to  me I think kids will enjoy the variety of topics and how fast moving it reads. 

3.  Our Corner Grocery Store (2009) by Joanne Schartz; illustrated by Laura Beingessner.

This sweet book tells the story of Anna Maria, who helps her grandparents at their store.  Nonno Domenico and Nonna Rosa open the store promptly at eight and Anna Maria helps Nonno arrange the fruit and vegetables in the front wooden racks.  It talks about pricing the produce, the layout of the store and the variety of items they stock.  The lunchtime crowd shows the deli side, with everyone picking their favorite meats and cheeses.  Both peaceful girl and I noticed how important to the grocery store is to the neighborhood and how they all help each other.  This brought back memories of grocery stores of the past but also of city markets I shopped at in Chicago. I can see this book as a great tool for teachers in my school.  Click here for an interview with author and illustrator froom Open Book Toronto.

Reading and writing about these three books has made me hungry.  Time for lunch. 
I hope you check out any of these books at your own library and explore with a child or your own child-like eyes!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pins and Needles

     I saw an acupuncturist on Wednesday and it was a new experience for me.  There was a lovely windchime right outside the office door dispelling all the bad chi or at least moving chi around.  The waiting room reminded me of a  hip massage place with earthy music, chimes and beautiful shaded lamps.

     After my paperwork was complete I was lead to one of those small cubicle rooms with more lovely music and a massage style table and it was heated!!  I only found that out after I disrobed and put on an odd hospital-like gown and was able to lay down on that bed-hard and skinny but warm with nice cotton covers on it.  Tara Anderson-the acupuncturist-(who by the way, was much younger than I expected!) came in and we chatted about my back and how I felt in general.  She asked if I wanted to see the needles she would use and of course, I said yes.  They are tiny and soft, more like a flexible pin.  She quickly moved around me dabbing alcohol (i think) on particular parts of my body and she started inserting the needles at my scalp-a little pinch, yes!) but those were the only ones that bothered me.

    Tara continued around my body from my head she put a few in my hands, my stomach and down my legs.  She said they need to stay there for 20-30 minutes, she flicked out the light and left me to meditate or sleep.  I couldn't feel the needles while I was laying there and I kept waiting for some amazing flash of brilliant color but nothing psychadellic happened.  The massage table was toasty warm and I think I did fall asleep for a few minutes.  Then the nurse aide came in, removed all the needles, zip, zip, zip, and after I sat up, she gave me a quick little back massage. I am walking a little easier even though I still have some aches and pains.  I did make another appointment for Monday evening because, even though I'm anti consummer and don't really buy into programs (other than yoga), I felt it was a positive.  I liked that it was a whole experience similar to a massage and unlike chiropractic appointments, which last all of 5 minutes.  So thumbs up for acupuncture!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Devil on My Heels

Joyce McDonald
262 pages
Young Adult

     I have a blogging friend who has read so many, many books that when we go to the library she is really good about going down the stacks and pulling out random books (books you might not otherwise take one look at) and asking (telling) you to read them.  I generally listen until my stack gets too high and she is always right.  The last time we were at the library she told me I just had to read McDonald's Devil on My Heels and I loved it!!

Fifteen-year-old Dove narrates this historical fiction/coming-of-age tale and her story begins like this:

Lately I have taken to reading poems to dead boys in the Benevolence Baptist Cemetary.  They don't walk away before I have finished the first sentence, like most of the live boys I know.  When I read to them, their eyes don't wander to something, or someone, more interesting.  I can pretend these boys are listening.  I can pretend they hear me. (1)
Dove is studying poetry with her English teacher, Ms. Delpheena Poyer and she continues:

On Friday afternoons like this one, right after seventh period.  I head straight for the cemetary.  I like to sit beneath the Austrian pines in the cool shade, reading lines from Tennyson or Wordsworth, listening to the trees making up their own poems.  Soft words in the language of wind and pine needles.   (1) 
     See that's all on just page one...Dove is a great character, innocent to the ways of the world but savvy enough to know that "live boys" don't appreciate great poetry.  Her mother passed when she was a four-year-old and she lives with her father on an orange grove in Benevolence, Florida.  Her days are spent hanging out with her friends, going to school and trying to feel older than she is.  It hasn't been that many years past that she was tearing around the orange grove with Gator, a young African-American grove worker and Chase Tully, a grove owner's son.   Things are beginning to change for Dove...
    Both Gator and Chase are still important to her and are critical in helping Dove see how the groves provide a working environment one rocky step up from slavery.   It's a slow realization that things are not as easy going as her life has been in the past as she gets used to the idea that the local KKK group is rearing it's ugly head again as the workers are blamed for random fires started in several groves.  Delia Washburn, Dove's housekeeper since the death of her mother, also provides answers to old mysteries involving her dead husband. Inbetween trying to figure out the meaning of all the local fires, Dove tries to put out the fire burning inside her every time Chase looks as her now.  Yep, things have really changed for Dove!   McDonald provides several great twists as Gator, Chase and Dove avoid the KKK and run from those they love in order to save their friendship!  I recommend this book for middle and young adult as well as all adults interested in great writing.  5/5 stars

Other reviews here:

Read this
Maxson Middle School
Joyce McDonald's website

***counts for 2010 Support Your Library Reading Challenge***

Tomorrow I'll try to answer all burning questions about my acupuncture appointment!!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas


     This is the story of Eddy; short for Edison because of a crazy old family tradition. He even has an uncle named Beckett Thomas.  I immediately fell in love with Eddy.  He's charming throughout this difficult journey of self-discovery.  When the story opens Eddy is competing at the Drayton Middle School annual Science Fair.  He comes in third and is mad, disappointed that he won't get the chance to compete in the regional science fair.  It is easy to tell from his behavior at the fair that something is a little different about Eddy.  He is affected by loud sounds and has a hard time processing events that occur around him.  As Eddy's story unfolds we never do get a full description of what causes his anxieties but we do learn what brings them out.  He doesn't like loud noises, he doesn't understand common euphemisms, his social skills are low and his speech pattern is more robotic than pre-teenager. He is incredibly smart and loves to tinker around with used parts, trying out a variety of inventions.  When the crossing guard is let go from the intersection closest to school Eddy becomes obsessed with the dangers this could cause to young students. 

     Many of his strong points make him a "geek" at school and because of his social skills he has a difficult time figuring out who his friends really are.  Two of the bigger themes in this book are bullying and friendship. These themes play out as as Eddy tries to figure out why his old friend Mitch sends him such mixed signals.  Eddy does make some real friends who can appreciate all of his good points while gently guiding him through the few little things that cause him trouble. Most of the characters were well-written by Houtman except the school principal and the therapist Eddy sees at school. They both annoyed me. I thought it was ridiculous that the principal didn't realize he was being played and Tiffany, the therapist, didn't have great follow-through with Eddy.  I kept thinking this must be her first year as a therapist! 

But I loved Eddy and was happy to see him begin to understand the true meaning of friendship and to cope with Mitch's behavior.

Perfect Quote:
The last page of the pamplet appeared in his mind.  He began to recite the speech he had prepared.  "I may not be as popular as you-"
"Tell me something I don't know," said Mitch as he found what he had been looking for in his locker and closed the door.      "The square root of 1,225 is 35, but do not change the subject. I may not be as popular as you are, but I am a human being-" Eddy T. (152)
Mitch, who is a very believable bully, goes on to make fun of Eddy but what I love about this quote is it took me reading it twice to get it!!  I love these little bits of subtle humor.  This book would be a great read-aloud for its many themes including its wide use of common euphemisms. The author is a scientist and does such a good job of adding in random bits of essential information, which would make a cool student project-to collect those facts highlighted and study them!  I recieved this from The Picnic Basket.
5/5 stars
elementary fiction

Read more here-

Jacqueline Houtman's blog
Georgia McBride Books
Aurora's Reviews

Sunday, July 11, 2010

20 Questions-I answered them all...

(My kids playing by Lake Michigan)

Rebecca at Lost in Books hosts 20 Questions and I was featured waaay back on June 24th-right in the middle of my Michigan camping vacation.  Read my answers to her interesting questions by clicking here.  Her questions really made me contemplative about how everyone comes to reading from different places but how similar we all become with our faces tucked behind a book.

5 Titles

     As promised here are snippets about the five books I read in bed while laid flat with the pinched nerve in my lower back.  These are all books from my own shelf, required reading from exact same reading challenge hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea and they all needed the same qualities-easy to read, low level of comprehension needed so I could understand it in my vicodin swirly, twirly brain as I napped and read and napped and read. 

My feel-good-five

Home to Italy by Peter Pezzelli:  A friend gave this to me last summer with the warning that it was easy fluff reading and she was right.  Sweet story though about Peppi exploring a new life in Italy after the death of his beloved wife, Anna.  He moves back to the same village he grew up in and stays with an old friend who runs a candy factory.  Peppi meets the old friend's daughter and Italian sparks fly!!  3/5 stars

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg:  Myra Lipinski (what a classic name) is a fifty-one year old self-proclaimed spinster who almost happy with her quiet existence.  As a visiting nurse she is assigned a new patient who she knows from high school.  Chip Reardon was the bmoc (big man on campus) and Myra adored him (along with the rest of the class, I'm sure) now she has a chance to meet him on her level as he becomes her patient with a brain tumor.  This one actually had some amazing life lessons.  4/5 stars  Click on the author's name above-she has a website worth exploring.

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by e.l. konigsburg:  My favorite book in my pre- teen years was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.   I reread it two years ago to make sure it truly was good  and I still loved it.  Because I loved her other books I picked up this one publishished in 2007-a time far removed from my pre-teen years.  This story, while different, gave me a little deja vu feeling as I read (maybe it was the vicodin)  Amedeo Kaplan is new to town and looking for a friend and a mystery.  He wants to find something that means something; a discovery noone else has made.  He finds both as he meets William Wilcox, William's mother and Amadeo's neighbor, Mrs. Zender and what they find dates back to Nazi Germany and the artists that were forbidden by Hitler.  3.5/5 stars

The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank:  Okay I had deja vu reading this one also but I think it was because I had read parts of it years ago.  This is a work of fiction that reads more like a hilarious memoir. It tells the nonlinear story of  Jane Rosenal, first as a teenager befriending her older brother's older girlfriend to her own affair with an older and famous editor in New York, and all told with  incredible wit!  The part that affected me most was her relationship with her father and his illness which took me sweepingly back to my own father's pneumonia.   Curious  about what Bank has written more recently, I  came up with The Wonder Spot, published in 2005.  4/5 stars

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen:  I grabbed this one off the shelf because I knew I could rely on Dessen to take me away and it did.   Abandoned by her alcoholic mother, Ruby is hoping to stay  under the radar for a few months until her 18th birthday liberates her.  She keeps it all balanced until the dryer breaks and the landlord comes to fix it and turns her in to social services.  Social Services sends her to live with her next living relative, her sister, Cora, who left the house 10 years ago without looking back.  Cora and her husband, Jamie, have money and provide Ruby with a much easier life. This new life shows her things are not always as they seem even in the nice part of town.   Dessen's books are a joy to read because she has a good grip on the dynamics of a teenager, from which great characters are born.  I've read almost all of her collection with just two left; The Truth about Forever and Along for the Ride.   4/5 stars

     I love how books can sweep you away into someone else's life and your own life can be forgotten just for a few moments of reading-I needed that last week so a deep thank you to books and the beautiful shelf near my bed so they could be close at hand for easy grabbing!!  I hope in this list you maybe find a title or an author to try...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Two week recap

I started July off with a bang of reading and high hopes of lots of blogging to go together.  Alas I've been sideswiped with this awful back problem, which contradicts how I usually feel (young and healthy compared to old and restricted to certain activiites).  You know like, "Oh, Eunice I don't think I can do that know, my back...!!  I worked with a chiropractic friend for two weeks with only limited improvement and I now have an appointment on Wed. for acupuncturist.  I've never tried acupuncture and am fairly excited about this and pray it will help. 

In the meantime I have to get caught up on the amount of books I've read compared to the amount of blog posts.  My solution is to write a snippet about each one here for you today.  I have a ice pack at my back so I can sit up and type. 

Here are the books I finished during our Michigan trip:

Maggie's Door by Patricia Reilly Giff:  This is the companion to Nory Ryan's Song, which describes Nory's life in Ireland during the potato famine.  Maggie's Door describes her journey from her small, empty village to the bustling, crowded docks where she will take a boat to Brooklyn, NY-her older sister's door-safe from the poverty and starvation of Ireland.  I love this author and enjoyed this sequel  and plan to read Water Street as well.  Perfect historical fiction for elementary audience.  5/5 stars

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs:  Cute cover made me buy it awhile ago and it was a cute story but the dialogue was over-the-top for me.  Phoebe's lives in Los Angeles, has two best friends, loves to run and misses her dad, who died 6 years ago.  Her mom comes home from a vacation with a new fiance, Damian, from Greece and her mom plans on moving there and expects Phoebe to go with her.  Phoebe hates it, then loves it because of hot guy, Griffin and well, she does love running along the beach.  Think The Lightning Thief for older Valley Girls. Yes, I plan on reading the sequel, Goddess Boot Camp.  3/5 stars  **reading from my own shelves challenge**

Serena by Ron Rash:  This book will make my top ten list for the year.  This is the brutal tale of Serena and George Pemberton who build a timber empire by falling trees thoughout the Appalachian Mts in 1929.  Serena, new to the mountains, is a force to be reckoned with and she scared me.   Weaved into their story is a young woman who worked at the timber camp and is the mother of George's illegitimate son.  This truly is a page turner and I plan to read more of Rash's books because his writing fully captured my attention.  5/5 stars

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next batch of books-my laying in bed with an ice pack reads!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by Alan Bradley
370 pages

I've been getting a great deal of reading done as I try to relax and heal my back.  It's not easy for me to lay around all day but I'm having a fantastic time finishing so many books.  Cleaning my house will just have to wait.

Languishing on my pile since last summer was Alan Bradley's novel and winner of the Debut Dagger Award, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  I'm done now and so happy to have finally read it.


In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

(from GoodReads)

My thoughts:

I'm not a huge fan of mysteries because well, they often scare me too much.  This one was more of a thoughtful mystery with a very entertaining heroine.  Flavia is a rule breaker, a curious adventurer who doesn't really listen to anyone else but her own instinct.  Harriet, her mother, was  killed in a mountaineering accident when Flavia is just one yet the connection between mother and daughter is strong.   She doesn't understand her two sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, who lay about reading and weeping all day long and her father has never fully recovered from his wife's death and spends his day moping about the house as well.  Flavia seems to breathe new life into her family as she races about on Harriet's old bike trying to fit all the odd clues together.  

My favorite quote:

Closed? Today was Saturday.  The library hours were ten o'clock to two-thirty, Thursday through Saturday; they were clearly posted in the black-framed notice beside the door.  Had something happened to Miss Pickery? 
I gave the door a shake, and then a good pounding.  I cupped my hands to the glass and peered inside, but except for a beam of sunlight falling through motes of dust before coming to rest upon shelves of novels there was nothing to be seen.
"Miss Pickery!" I called, but there was no answer.
"Oh, scissors!" I said again.  I should have to put off my researches until another time.  As I stood outside in Cow Lane, it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
No...eight days a week.    (57-58)
I love any great quote that highlights the library and the use of the word "scissors" as an explicative makes perfect sense!!  There is a second Bradley book featuring Flavia de Luce, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag #2-the title is interesting and I know Flavia will shine again.
4/5 stars
adult mystery fiction

Other reviews here:

FyreFly's Review
Stainless Steel Droppings

My back is still pinched and my thoughts are scattered but as this is a book that counts for Reading from my own shelves challenge I wanted to write my thoughts out and pass the book on.  My chiropracter's wife wants to read it so I'm happily passing it on at my appointment tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Travel Game

by John Grandits; illustrated by R.W. Alley

I love this book! 

Opening paragraph:  My family owns a tailor shop.  It's on the first floor at 857 Broadway in  the city of Buffalo, which you can find on the globe next to Lake Erie in the state of New York in the country of the U.S.A on the continent of North America.

Tad, our wee main character, describes the tailor shop and how the suits are made and how each family member has specific tasks to accomplish at the shop.  Tad likes helping out at the shop but is enticed one day after lunch to play a favorite game with his Aunt Hattie.  They use a globe and a book: 1001 Pictures from Around the World by George P. Smithers to begin globe-trotting.  Aunt Hattie says:  "Okay, you close your eyes, and I'll spin the globe.  Then you put your finger down, and that's where we'll go." (15)  When Tad points his finger down he's landed in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean and so Aunt Hattie takes her turn.  This next time they land in Hong Kong.  They use 1001 Pictures from around the World (which, by the way, is not a real book, I checked) to research Hong Kong and what it looks like.  You can't travel to some place and not have an idea of what it might look like since Tad admits he's never been outside of Buffalo.  Aunt Harriet uses her vivid imagination and story-telling skills to help Tad visualize their exotic destinations. 

This book is a must-have for my library in the fall and I have tons of ideas on how to use it. I  plan to read it to 5th graders as an introduction to research and world geography. It will also work for discussions on imagination, community, family and visualizing.  The illustrations are detailed and add to the coziness of the book.  R.W. Alley is the same illustrator as There's a Wolf at the Door written by his wife, Zoe B. Alley.

Highly Recommended
5/5 stars
Picture Book
Author website-John Grandits
Illustrator website-R.W. Alley

Other reviews:

Katie's Literature Lounge (she has an activity created to go along with this book)
Tasha at Kids Lit

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lazy days

dedicated to the one I love
I've had all week to post reviews and what have I been doing...

laying around...groaning and moaning in complete agony!!!

I have a pinched nerve at the base of my spine which is affecting my left leg and
causing great distress in my brain-meaning the pain overrides
everything else I try to think about.  My back and leg did hurt during our Michigan trip but the pain
skyrocketed when I got home. 
I dislike pain (most of us don't...), dislike not being able to walk or
do any number of the household chores waiting for me after camping. 

Thankfully my helpful husband has stepped right up to the plate and
taken over...just as he did when I was on bedrest during my last pregnancy.
Okay, that is not to say he hasn't stepped up at all in the last 7 years but this
is different-he's become some what of a man servant for me!

He's doing the massive loads of laundry left from camping, he's planned and made meals (salmon, even), and he's driven me
to and fro chiropractic and doctor appointments all in-between getting me glasses of ice water, breakfast,
etc.  He's a Godsend, literally.
Yesterday after pain was not subsiding from adjustments I headed to my regular doctor for some relief.  It came in
the form of muscle relaxers and pain meds.  As an organic mama I'm not a big fan of over the counter, under the counter or behind the counter drugs but something had to be done or I was going to pull my head off.  Really.

Today I'm lucy in the sky with diamonds...
loopy with a dry mouth and eyelids at half mast.
Small price to pay for a pretty decent sleep last night.
oh, and I'm not a-weepin' and a-wailin'  as I was
the day before.  Yes,  I even cried walking through my chiropracter's
waiting room yesterday.  (not a positive advertisement) 

During the low pain moments I have accomplished some reading...

I finished Devil on my Heels by Joyce McDonald-a great historical fiction that let me escape to Florida's orange groves for a bit.  I will finish The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley today and I'm going through my stack of food magazines to clip the recipes I want to save.  I used to save all my Vegetarian Times copies but the stack gets to be too much so now I clip them and put them in a three-ring-binder. 

Thankfully friends have kindly taken my girl  to the pool several times this week.  Fetching ice packs and refreshing my water glass is not her idea of summer fun either!!  Hopefully by next week things will be much improved on this end-then I will be crying for joy with new appreciation for walking and sitting pain-free!

What about you...what has you crying for joy this week?