Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday 11/28! What Are You Reading?

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!  We drove about 8 hours to spend the weekend with my extended family in Rochester, NY.  It was a full weekend, with a large gathering each day with a different part of my family.  It was tiring but lots of fun - it was great to see everyone.  I've included a photo below of my sons with some of their cousins.  To me, that's what holidays are all about!

So, I had no time at all for blogging last week, after my Monday posts, but we still found time for reading:
  • I finished Goldstrike by Matt Whyman, a teen techno-thriller and the sequel to Icecore.  The fast-paced suspense novel was perfect for a busy week.
  • Now, I am reading the next selection for my neighborhood book group, The Songcatcher by Sharon McCrumb, about a song that has been passed down through generations from Scotland to the present-day Appalachians.
  • My husband, Ken, finished reading Unwind, Neal Schusterman's amazing teen dystopian novel.  He said the premise was super-creepy (yup), but he enjoyed the novel.
  • We stayed with my dad and his wife this weekend, and my dad lent Ken Stephen King's very new release, 11/22/63: A Novel, about someone who time travels back to 1963 to try to prevent Kennedy's assassination.  It sounds SO good!
  • Jamie, 17, was home sick early last week and then had 16 hours in the car, so he read a LOT.  He continued re-reading a favorite series, the Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, with Book 5: The Sorcerer of the North, Book 6: The Siege of Macindaw, Book 7: Erak's Ransom, and Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel.  He enjoyed the series very much (again).
  • Now, Jamie is reading a new teen dystopian series by Robin Wasserman, The Cold Awakening trilogy, starting with Book One: Frozen.  He and I really loved Wasserman's middle-grade trilogy, Chasing Yesterday.
  • Craig finished Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, and loved it.  I haven't seen him this excited about a series since Charlie Bone and The Unicorn Chronicles a couple of years ago.  We can't find Book Two - I think we lent it to a friend - so I need to check the library for him today.
  • I started a new middle-grade audio, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, last week.  Anne is a great author and a friend of mine, so I've been looking forward to this one.  Her trilogy The Cronus Chronicles was great!
  • We also started another middle-grade audio during our car ride, Wildwood by Colin Melot.  Mostly, it was just Ken and I listening.  I was disappointed that the boys weren't interested in listening to an audio book on this ride, despite the variety I brought along!  They preferred to listen to their iPods and read their own books.  I guess they are getting older...sigh...
What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)


Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Monday 11/21! What Are You Reading?

I'm a little late posting today.  I went to my son's middle school this morning and gave presentations about reading, books, book reviews, and writing to two 8th grade English classes.  I go back tomorrow for two more.  I had to promise not to embarrass my son!

Here's what we've been reading this past week:
  • I finished Midwives by Chris Bohjalian last night.  It's basically a legal drama about a midwife being tried for the death of one of her mothers and was very good.
  • Today, I plan to start Goldstrike by Matt Whyman, a teen techno-thriller and the sequel to Icecore which I really liked.  I'm in the mood for some fast-paced suspense.
  • My husband, Ken, realized halfway through Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld that he'd already read it!  That's not the first time one of us has done that!
  • Ken is now reading Unwind, Neal Schusterman's amazing teen dystopian novel - I've been bugging him to read it for ages!
  • My 17-year old son, Jamie, is re-reading a favorite series, the Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan so that he can read his latest one, Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel.  So far, he has read Books 3 and 4 (we think we lent Books 1 and 2 to a friend).
  • 13-year old Craig is reading Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney and enjoying it very much.
 Last week, I posted a review of The Roar by Emma Clayton, an awesome middle-grade/teen dystopian/sci fi novel filled with action and suspense.

I also posted two lists -  Top Ten Unread Books on my Shelf and Top Ten Unread Kids/Teen Books on my Shelf - and movie trailers for the upcoming adaptations of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games.  Both look so good!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

P.S. One question stumped me this morning at school.  A lot of the 8th grade girls enjoy Sarah Dessen's books, and I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read one!  Anyone have suggestions of other books/authors for teens who like Dessen's novels?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Unread Books On My Shelf

It's Tuesday, and that means it's Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Head on over there to link to lots of great blogs and lots of fun lists.

Today's topic is Top Ten Unread Books On My Shelf.  This was a very easy list for me - I could have listed 20 or 30 Unread Books on My Shelf easily!  So, I decided to go with the spirit of the week's topic and focus on the REALLY old books on my TBR shelf - those I keep meaning to get to but never seem to...
  • Emma by Jane Austen - this had to be #1 because I've been meaning to read something of Jane Austen's for years and bought this book a very long time ago.
  • Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut - ditto 
  • The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant - my mom lent this to me years ago.
  • Peony in Love by Lisa See - another one my mom lent me.
  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson - I got this for Ken as a gift one year and have been meaning to read it ever since; Bryson is a favorite.
  • The Counterlife OR Exit Ghost by Philip Roth - I've never read a Roth novel and both of these are waiting patiently on my shelf.
  • Breathless by Dean Koontz - I don't read many Koontz novels these days, but Ken says this one was great.
  • Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand - a special author for me because she has the same illness I have.  It's been on my shelf since last Christmas.
  • Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver - my friends have been recommending this to me for years!
  • The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos - I saved this one for last because it has probably been on my TBR shelf for 10 years or more!  Both my mom and Ken keep saying I must read it.

sigh....so many good books and so little time...

How about you?  What books have been sitting on your shelf waiting to be read?

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Movie Trailer

I had the TV on this morning while reading my e-mail when I was surprised by a movie trailer for the U.S. version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  Take a look:



I think it looks pretty good, and the casting looks pretty good (though the actress playing Lisbeth is too tall, a common Hollywood mistake), but I really think it was totally unnecessary to remake this movie because the Swedish version was excellent (with even better casting).  I guess some people won't watch a movie with subtitles.

Anyway, it is due out on 12/21/11 (much sooner than I expected), and I will definitely go see it, since I loved the books.

What do you think?

(NOTE:  I also posted the new movie trailer for The Hunger Games adaptation on Great Books for Kids and Teens.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Monday 11/14! What Are You Reading?

(I just tried to publish this very long post and somehow managed to delete most of it instead!!  Let's try this again...)

A bit of a rough week here last week, with both my son and I down with a flare-up of our chronic illnesses.  We had a nice weekend, though, and enjoyed a visit from my mom and her husband.  All that downtime last week left lots of time for reading:
  • I finished The Roar by Emma Clayton, a teen sci fi novel that my son recommended and enjoyed it very much.  We are both hoping there will be a sequel!
  • I read the classic picture book A Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes for the library's book discussion but then wasn't able to go to the meeting.
  • I referred to my Fall Into Reading Challenge list to choose my next book and settled on Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, a novel my neighbor lent me a very long time ago!
  • My husband, Ken, brought one of his birthday gifts, The Affair by Lee Child, on his business trip with him last week.  He'd been saving it for a time when he needed some light, fun reading.  I asked him last night how it was, and he said, "Candy!"
  • Ken is now back to reading Behemoth, the second book in the Leviathan trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld.
  • Jamie, 17, was home sick, so he plowed through a lot of books, including all of the new books he bought at Barnes & Noble the week before (gotta love a kid who spends several weeks' allowance all on books!).  He read  Book Four: Necropolis of the series, The Gatekeepers by Anthony Horowitz.
  • Next he read Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, another of his favorite series.
  • Jamie read The Demon King, a Seven Realms novel by Cinda Williams Chima and loved it.  he wants to read more by this author.
  • And he is finishing Graceling by Kristin Cashore, author of Fire which he also enjoyed.
  • Craig, 13, is reading Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, based on recommendation from his brother and a friend.  he says it is good but too scary to read at bedtime!
Despite being sick, I had a busy week at both of my book blogs.   I posted:


What are you and your family reading this week?


(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Memoir Review: Trail of Crumbs

 When I heard that Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunée was a memoir, focused on food, of a woman who grew up in New Orleans, I knew I had to read it – I love memoirs, food books, and New Orleans!  I mostly enjoyed this thoughtful story of a young woman searching for her identity, though it had some flaws.

Kim Sunée had an interesting start in life.  She was abandoned at the age of three in a market in Korea, adopted by an American couple, and grew up in New Orleans.  That would probably have been enough for an interesting memoir, but she also traveled all over the world, in search of her roots and her self, living in Sweden , France, and northern Africa and eventually visiting Korea.  Throughout the very different chapters of her life, food is a common thread of comfort and pleasure.

Growing up in New Orleans, you can’t help but see food as an essential ingredient to life and love, and Kim had loving grandparents whose cooking filled her childhood with happy memories.  Despite that love, she still felt like a misfit growing up, like she was different from all those around her (even her adopted sister, also from Korea), with an empty space inside where her history should be.  To fill that emptiness, she left home as a young woman, living in Sweden and France, going to school, and working as a translator, all the while searching for home and her own identity.

Much of the book focuses on her relationship with Olivier, a wealthy, older French businessman (founder of L’Occitaine) with an eight-year old daughter.  They meet in Sweden and live first in his country house in Provence and later in an apartment in Paris.

What I loved about this book was its focus on food. From the traditional Cajun/Creole dishes her grandfather makes to the Swedish food of her adopted father’s culture to the sensual pleasures of French meals, Sunée’s descriptions of food are enticing, and she includes recipes for a wide variety of dishes.  I was especially taken with her depictions of the landscapes of Provence and the southern French coast, as well as the fresh, seasonal foods cooked simply for their friends and family; I would love to have been a guest at their large wooden table in Provence!

More than halfway through the book, however, I found her narrative becoming a bit tiresome.  After she leaves Olivier, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.  There’s nothing wrong with that on the surface – she felt trapped by his wealth and expectations and was, after all, only in her 20’s.  She needed to find some purpose to her life, which is completely understandable, but she falls into a pattern of self-pity, melancholy, and aimlessness that is far less interesting to read about.  Although she is somewhat happier by the end of the book, there is not a lot of resolution.  I would have liked to hear how she transitioned from that directionless state to her current role (as I read in a bio) as food editor of Cottage Living in Birmingham, Alabama.

All in all, I was glad to have listened to this memoir. However, this is one of those books where I’m torn over whether to recommend the audio or the paper version.  The author read it herself, which I felt added to the experience of hearing her unique story.  On the downside, listening to a recipe isn’t very helpful; it would be nice to have the hard copy for the recipes (though some of them included such exotic ingredients that I probably couldn’t make them myself anyway).  All in all, a mostly worthwhile read for those who enjoy memoirs, travel, and food writing.

400 pages, Grand Central Publishing; audio by Books on Tape, Inc.

    

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Books Read in October

The months just fly by this time of year, now that Halloween is past.  I'm a bit behind in summarizing October, but better late than never, right?  That's pretty much my personal credo these days!

I read seven books in October, a bit more than usual for me but one was a picture book!
So, that's 3 teen/YA books, 1 picture book, and 3 grown-up books: 1 novel, 1 nonfiction, and 1 memoir.  A very nice mix!  And, look at that, I wrote reviews for almost all of them already (I plan to do the last one tomorrow) - unheard of for me to be that caught up!  So, my favorite book of the month?  Ooh, tough choice because they were all so very different, and I enjoyed them all.  I can't choose - it's between Linger, Forever, and The Eleventh Plague (all the teen novels).

Where Are You Reading Challenge Update: I already had a pin in Minnesota for Shiver.  The author Trail of Crumbs has lived in Korea, Sweden, and France, but I put the pin in New Orleans, where she spent her childhood because it is also near and dear to my heart!  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie takes place in a fictional English town, but there is a reference to nearby York, so I stuck the pin near there.  Since The Eleventh Plague takes place in a post-apocalyptic U.S., it's hard to tell where the characters are, but they mention a nearby Fort Leonard, and I found one in the existing state of Missouri, so that's where I stuck that pin.  That brings my total tally up to 15 different states and 8 countries outside of the U.S.:


View Where I Am Reading 2011 in a larger map

For my Fall Into Reading Challenge, which is already at the halfway point, I have read 4 of my list of 10 grown-up books and 4 out of 10 kids/teen/YA books.  So, maybe a little bit behind there, but not too bad.

How was your reading month?  What was your favorite book read this past month?


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fall Into Reading Challenge Question #7 & Update

You may recall that I have joined the Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted over at Callapidder Days.  She is posing a question each week, and this week's question is:

Is there a book that has had a tremendous impact on your life? One that made you look at life in a whole new way, or caused you to completely change something in your life?

You know, there is a book that had a tremendous impact on me, but I'm almost embarrassed to admit it because it was such a buzzed-about book for so many years.  In my late 20's, based on a colleague's recommendation, I read Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.  It was almost a joke at the time because this colleague, a man about 30 years older than me, was a good friend and was totally obsessed with Stephen Covey, so much so that another friend and I used to jokingly refer to him as Saint Stephen in our friend's presence.  But my friend lent me a set of audio tapes of Stephen Covey, and I have to admit, I was hooked.  I then devoured every word of the best-seller.

Based on the title, I expected a self-help book about business success, but the seven basic "habits" he discussed were so much more; they were about treating people with kindness and respect.  It was really a revelation to me.  It's not that I was a mean person or anything - more just self-absorbed and somewhat oblivious, like most young people!  Some of Covey's habits - like Be Kind To Those Not in Your Presence and Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood - literally changed my way of looking at the world and interacting with people.  In fact, I haven't read the book in over 20 years, and it's probably time to read it again.

Katrina over at Callapidder Days says today is also about the half-way point for the challenge and time to report on our progress.  Of my list of 10 grown-up books to read in fall, I have so far read 3 of them.  Several of the books on my list are book group selections, with the meetings coming up soon, so I know I will get through the rest soon.  I'll post a separate update (and a separate answer to the question) at Great Books for Kids and Teens.


What book has had a tremendous impact on your life?



Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Top Ten Books That Took Me Out of My Comfort Zone

It's Tuesday, and that means it's Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Head on over there to link to lots of great blogs and lots of fun lists.

Today's topic is Top Ten Books That Took Me Out of My Comfort Zone I had no trouble making this list because in the past seven years, I have a read a lot of books for my various book groups that I never would have chosen on my own.  I’ve focused here on the ones that I was pleasantly surprised by! 

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – I just recently read this for one book group and never would have chosen a book about the Vietnam War on my own, but it was well-written and powerful.
March by Geraldine Brooks – I’m a huge Brooks fan now, but I used to think I didn’t like historical fiction, until my neighborhood book group chose this one, and I loved it!
River of Doubt by Candace Millard – again, a selection by my neighborhood book group, nonfiction about Teddy Roosevelt’s trip down the Amazon, at a time when I rarely read nonfiction.  Absolutely fascinating.
The Lost Years by KristinaWandzilak and Constance Curry – read for a book discussion at a local bookstore.  It’s a memoir by a mother and daughter about the daughter’s spiral down into drug addiction – not a topic I would typically choose.
The Innocent Man by John Grisham – I love Grisham’s novels but probably wouldn’t have read this nonfiction book about an innocent man on death row on my own, until my book group read it.  Enlightening and eye-opening.
The Nine by Jeffrey Toomis – a nonfiction book about the Supreme Court?  Yawn!  But I read it for my neighborhood book group and found it very interesting.
Still Me by Christopher Reeve – I don’t normally read celebrity memoirs, but Reeve was an amazing and inspirational person.
Holy Skirts by René Steinke – Funny story with this one.  It was the very first book I read for my neighborhood book group, which had been together for about 10 years before I joined.  Every single person in the group hated it and thought the main character was a pervert – except me!  I liked the book.  Happily, they let me stay!
Shattered by Debra Puglisi Sharp – the very disturbing true story of a local woman who was kidnapped and held captive for days, after her husband was murdered.  One of our book group members is friends with the woman, so we read it and she came to our meeting.  The book was compelling, and I was surprised to find I could relate to the author.
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant – another historical novel that I would never have read on my own, but I found myself getting drawn into it and ultimately enjoying it.


So, that's my list!  I had a tougher time making my list of Top Ten Kids/Teen/YA Books That Took Me Out of My Comfort Zone - check it out over at Great Books for Kids and Teens.
How about you?  Which books took you out of your comfort zone?

Monday, November 07, 2011

It's Monday 11/7! What Are You Reading?

October is my favorite month, and it seemed to just fly by this year!  Here we are in November already, with the calendar seeming to move faster and faster toward the holiday season.  We are so overwhelmed with the college application process, I don't know how we fill find time for holiday preparations as well!

I didn't feel well last week, and then we had visitors for the weekend (my dad and his wife), so I had very little time for blogging last week but hope to catch up with all of you and with my own reviews this week.  It was a great reading week, though!
  • I finished Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich - lots of good laughs and light-hearted fun.  Stephanie and Lula (and Grandma) just crack me up!
  • I finally gave in to Jamie's urging to read The Roar by Emma Clayton, a sci fi novel that he said I would love.  He was right, as usual - it is very good so far and I'm staying up too late each night reading it!
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian author who has been compared to Stieg Larsson.  He enjoyed it very much.
  • Ken is now reading Behemoth, the second book in the Leviathan trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld.
  • Jamie, 17, read Book 3: Night Rise of the series, The Gatekeepers by Anthony Horowitz.  He really likes this series.
  • Jamie also finished reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for his World Lit class.  He thought the book was OK, but he didn't like the main character and the way that he treated his best friend.
  • Craig, 13, started a new marking period and a new book.  He took advice from his brother (!) and is reading Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney.
No new reviews last week, but I did post a discussion about plot versus character for the Fall Into Reading Challenge.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Fall Into Reading Challenge Question #6

You may recall that I have joined the Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted over at Callapidder Days.  She is posing a question each week, and this week's question is:

When it comes to fiction, are you more of a “plot person” or a “character person”? If you had to choose, which concept would win out when it comes to picking and loving a book: plot or character?

Oh, man.  This is like asking me to choose between my kids!   Of course, I prefer novels that have BOTH plot and character, and a lack of either one can make me dislike a book.  I enjoy certain types of thrillers, where the focus is on a fast-paced plot, and I also enjoy slower, character-driven novels where the characters are well-drawn and interesting.  The absence of either can ruin a book for me.

I may be risking banishment with this, but I am not a fan of America's #1 best-selling author, James Patterson.  I'll admit I have only read one of his books, but the characters seemed so flat and one-dimensional that I have never picked up another one, despite the fast-moving, suspenseful plots.  On the other hand, I have read so-called literary novels that bored me to tears because nothing seemed to really happen...though I think this is especially true for me if the plot-less novel is also depressing.  I don't need a happy ending, but I do need at least a glimmer of hope.

I just finished reading a Stephanie Plum novel, which is pure fluffy plot-driven fun, but Janet Evanovich has created great characters - I feel like I know Stephanie personally.

Sorry, I just can't choose!  Can't I have my cake and eat it, too?

How about you - which is more important to you - good plot or in-depth characters?