Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fiction Review: Who Has Seen the Wind

I just read this novel for my neighborhood book group, and everyone enjoyed it. It's considered a Canadian classic (though I'd never heard of it before), originally published in 1947. 

It's a sweet coming-of-age story set in the Saskatchewan prairie in the early 1930's. Brian is only four years old when the novel opens, and it ends as he enters adolescence. In between are joys and sorrows, just like in real life, along with tender moments, plenty of humor, and some surprising insights from a young boy. It's not a fast-paced book but easily kept my interest, a "gentle story" as one of my neighbors put it, with a wonderful philosophical perspective that provided plenty of fodder for discussion.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Ten Books for Halloween

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's seasonal topic is Top Ten Books To Read for Halloween.  This was sort of tough for me because I don't read many scary or supernatural books anymore.  When I was in my teens and twenties, I read a lot of horror - pretty much everything Stephen King wrote and a lot of Dean Koontz, too - but I haven't read much of that genre in years.  So, I dug back a ways for some of these and only came up with 8:

  1. It by Stephen King (I could have made an entire list of Stephen King novels, but I remember this one being one of the scariest)
  2. The Dark Half by Stephen King (another favorite because it's about a writer)
  3. Shutter Island by Denise Lehare
  4. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (not really scary but a ghost story)
  5. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (scariest Crichton book)
  6. Wicked by Gregory Maguire (it's about a witch after all!)
  7. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent (more disturbing than scary but it is about the Salem witch trials)
  8. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (truly frightening in much too real a way)

For my list of Top Ten Books to Read for Halloween for kids and teens/YA, check out Great Books for Kids and Teens.

What are your top picks for Halloween reading?

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Monday 10/25! What Are You Reading?

Another Monday after another very busy week.  Soccer, school functions, and house guests this weekend.  My mom and her husband were visiting.  The guys all went to a Ravens-Bills football game, while my mom and I took the train to NYC to see a show on Broadway.  We saw Next to Normal which was stunningly good, with amazing music, great acting, and very powerful emotions.  So, lots of fun for all of us, but not a lot of reading time!  Things should start to slow down a bit, as the boys' soccer seasons begin to wind down.

Here's what we're reading:
  • I finished Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell, a classic coming-of-age novel set in the Canadian prairie.  It was wonderful - warm and tender, funny, sad - just like real life.  My mom is reading it now; our book group meets Wednesday to discuss it.
  • Now I'm reading a teen suspense novel/murder mystery, The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer.  I'm only on chapter 9, but it's already a very compelling story about two sisters, one of whom may have been involved in a murder.  It's hard to put down!
  • Jamie, 16, made a little more progress on The Stand by Stephen King, unfortunately because he was home sick for much of last week.  
  • Jamie also finished Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for his American Lit class.  He said the story was interesting, but he didn't like the way the book was written (he would have preferred to hear the story told from a first-person perspective, but, of course, that's impossible).  His class has now started Fahrenheit 451 by Rad Bradbury, an old favorite of mine.  When I was in high school, I read every Ray Bradbury book in our public library!
  • Craig, 12, has started The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost, the first book in an exciting, fast-paced time-travel series.  The real surprise is that Jamie and I both loved this series and have been trying to get Craig to read it for years.  He likes to be independent, so he rarely takes our advice on reading materials!  I think he'll really enjoy this book.
  • My husband, Ken, is still working on his English mystery, Cover Her Face by P.D. James.  He had very little reading time last week!
Last week on Great Books for Kids and Teens, I posted a review of Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, a wonderful teen novel about a boy who has a chimp for a baby brother.

What are you reading this week?

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Monday 10/18! What Are You Reading?

Rough Monday morning today.  I attended an all-day medical conference yesterday on my chronic illness along with two friends.  It was wonderful and interesting and very worthwhile...but a long, long day for me.  I'm pretty wiped out today.  Of course, both boys forgot assignments at home this morning, so I will be making a run to each school...Monday.

Thank goodness Monday also means What Are You Reading day!  Something to look forward to on a hectic morning.  None of us had a lot of reading time this week, but we squeezed in a little:
  • I finished Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel - review to come this week at Great Books for Kids and Teens.  I loved this middle-grade novel about a boy whose scientist parents are bringing up a baby chimp as a human to try to teach him sign language.  The book is funny, touching, fascinating, and thought-provoking.
  • I'm now reading a book for my neighborhood book group meeting next week, Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell, a coming-of-age story about a young boy growing up in a prairie town in Saskatchewan.  I'd never heard of it before, but apparently, it is considered a Canadian classic.  It's enjoyable so far.
  • My husband, Ken, planned to take 2 paperbacks with him on his trip to Texas last week but forgot both at home!  So, he bought one at the airport by one of his favorite authors, Robert Crais: The Forgotten Man, a Elvis Cole novel.  He says it was very good.
  • Now Ken is back to the novel he started last week, Cover Her Face, a mystery by P.D. James.  He was having trouble remembering all the characters last night as he tried to pick up where he left off!
  • Jamie, 16, is still reading The Stand by Stephen King for fun, and Into the Wild by Job Krakauer for school.  He was pretty sick last week and struggling to keep up with homework, so he didn't have much time for any reading.
  • Craig, 12, finished Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi for school and is looking forward to his class visit to the Renaissance Faire this week.  I don't think he's started a new book yet (that will probably require a little push from Mom!)
I had my hands full last week taking care of the kids and the house on my own while Ken was out of town, but I did manage to post reviews of a couple of old favorite animal middle-grade series, Warriors and Silverwing at Great Books for Kids and Teens.  Here, I posted a summary of all the books I read in September (better late than never!) and a short review of Blind Descent by Nevada Barr.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

P.S. Jamie just texted and said he doesn't need his assignment until tomorrow, and I e-mailed Craig's essay to his teacher...sigh...I love my couch (and my laptop!).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fiction Review: Blind Descent

Before I discovered book groups and broadened my reading horizons, I read almost exclusively mysteries and suspense novels. I don't often read these mass market thrillers any more, but I do still enjoy a Nevada Barr book once in awhile. Her unique twist? All of her novels are set in National Parks and her main character, Anna Pigeon, is a park ranger. As an avid outdoors person and frequent visitor to National Parks, I really enjoy these books.

Blind Descent was somewhat unique, even within Barr's normal approach because it was set in Carlsbad Caverns National Park and much of it takes place underground. There were many passages describing how the "cavers" explored and traveled through dramatic and harrowing underground passages in a lesser-known cave within the Park that only a few people had ever seen.

Normally, Anna is a strictly above-ground person, since she has claustrophobia, but she agrees to go along on a rescue mission because the injured caver is a good friend of hers who has specifically requested her presence. It seems like a straightforward - if terrifying - mission, until whispers of murder start to circulate. A very enjoyable read. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Books Read in September

I'm running a little late on this after a busy week and a weekend away.  September was a good reading month, in part because it was a rotten health month.  A nasty virus and bronchitis left me in bed for over a week...with nothing to do but read!  I read six books for kids or teens and three grown-up novels:
  • Ruined, a teen ghost story set in New Orleans.
  • Mockingjay, the fabulous end to the amazing teen/YA trilogy that began with The Hunger Games - highly recommended for teens and adults alike!
  • George Washington's Socks, a time travel adventure novel for middle-grade kids.
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman's award-winning story of a boy who grows up in a graveyard, filled with his trademark wit and whimsy.
  • Suspect, an original teen mystery
  • The Limit, a fast-paced middle-grade techno-thriller set in the near future
  • The 19th Wife, a fascinating historical novel mixed with a modern-day murder mystery
  • The Shipping News, an award-winning novel set in Newfoundland and populated by quirky characters.
  • A Soft Place to Land, a novel about the complex and changing relationship between two sisters who lost their parents.
Hope you had a good reading month, too!

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Monday 10/11! What Are You Reading?

Another Monday morning.  We had a wonderful weekend, camping with good friends.  The weather was absolutely perfect - I love fall!

We had a busy week but managed to fit in some reading:
  • I finished Blind Descent by Nevada Barr - a satisfying mystery by a favorite author who sets all her novels in National Parks (this one was set in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico).
  • My husband, Ken, finished Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, a middle-grade novel about a family that raises a chimp as if he were a human baby in order to teach him sign language.  After he finished it, I picked it up!  I'm really enjoying it so far.  Oppel is an excellent writer (my oldest son was a huge fan of his Silverwing series) and the premise is fascinating.
  • Ken is traveling this week, so his next book is a slim paperback, Cover Her Face, a mystery by P.D. James.  We've both enjoyed her books in the past.
  • Jamie, 16, hasn't had much reading time because of so much homework, but he's still working on The Stand by Stephen King for fun and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for his American Lit class.  He says he'd enjoy Into the Wild more if he was reading it on his own and didn't have to think about underlining important passages!  I want to read it when he's finished.  I loved the movie.
  • Craig, 12, is still reading Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi for his English class.  In conjunction with the book and their study of Medieval England, his class will be going to the Renaissance Faire next week.
Last week, I participated in a fun meme, posting my ten favorite authors of kids/teen books at my other blog and my ten favorite grown-up authors here.  I also posted a short review of the novel, A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White.

I also posted two new reviews at Great Books for Kids and Teens:  Suspect by Kristen Wolden Nitz, a teen mystery, and The Graveyard Book, a delightful middle-grade novel by Neil Gaiman about a boy brought up in a graveyard by ghosts.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Authors

My long-time readers may remember that I used to do a weekly meme, Ten for Tuesday, with a top ten list each week (you can check out my past Ten for Tuesday posts).  Well, someone else has started a very similar weekly meme, and I decided to jump in and participate!

The Broke and the Bookish has a weekly question for bloggers for its Top Ten Tuesday meme (see the similarities?).  This week's theme is Top Ten Favorite Authors.   Sounds like fun!

This is kind of tough, though, because I don't read a lot of authors repeatedly - I spend much of my reading time on new books by authors I haven't read before.  But I guess some stand out as repeat favorites.  I'll limit this list to grown-up books, but you can read my list of favorite authors for kids/teen/YA books at my other blog, Great Books for Kids and Teens.

So, here we go, in no particular order:
  1. Geraldine Brooks
  2. Jodi Picoult
  3. Orson Scott Card
  4. Jennifer Haigh
  5. Janet Evanovich (pure escapist fun, but I've read every Stephanie Plum novel!)
  6. Khaled Hosseini
  7. Barbara Kingsolver
  8. Wally Lamb
  9. Harper Lee
  10. Rebecca Wells
This was a tough, and I probably forgot a bunch.  With a few of these authors, I've only read one book of theirs, but I loved it so much, they became an instant favorite!   On the other hand, I left out a few where I loved one book but didn't enjoy another of theirs much. 

Who are your ten favorite authors?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Fiction Review: A Soft Place to Land

I had never heard of this author, Susan Rebecca White, before but picked up A Soft Place to Land on the Buy 1, get 1 Free table at Borders this summer because it sounded interesting.  I ended up enjoying it very much.

It's the story of two sisters and their relationship from childhood to adulthood.  When I started it, I worried it would be one of those idealized portraits of sisters, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was a well-rounded, realistic view of both the closeness of sisters and the conflicts that can tear them apart.

The novel begins with the two girls' parents being killed in a plane crash.  The sisters, who are four years' apart, deal with this disaster in very different ways.  Over the years, various circumstances and conflicts pull them apart.  Although they love each other, they often don't understand each other.  I thought the characters, dialogue, and situations were very real and sometimes reminded me of the complex relationship I have with my own sister.  Overall, it was an engrossing and enjoyable book.

352 pages, Touchstone Books

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Banned Books Week

As usual, I'm a bit late on this since Banned Book Week officially ended yesterday, but it still feels like the same week to me until Monday arrives!

I just wanted to share a wonderful podcast called Books on the Nightstand.  I absolutely love this podcast all about books and listen to it every week while I'm cooking Sunday dinner.  I highly recommend the podcast in general and hope you'll check it out.  You can listen online, download it from their blog, or download it from iTunes.

But, for this week in particular, Books on the Nightstand did an excellent podcast on Banned Books Week (as usual I just listened to it while making Sunday dinner which is why I'm a bit late with this post!).  If you have any interest in banned books, you'll enjoy this wonderful podcast.

Better late than never, right?