Sunday, January 31, 2010

Library Thursday, Sunday Report

We went to the library last Thursday, and it was a great occasion. I meant to bring snacks, because going straight from school to a double library session is a bit hard, but forgot (of course). So instead I dug deep and offered a more desired treat -- dollars for the library vending machines.

Should I mention that I find it horrible that our library has them? I gather they are there to lure the Teen Reader. Stupid kids today, always on my lawn. But they are magnets of desire to my pre-teen bunch. Luckily for me, the machines only accepted coins today, so they were forced to SHARE. And listen to my pearls of wisdom on the benefits there-of. Meanwhile, my hold shelf offered up:
  • The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver. I'm a little intimidated by this, as it seems a bit erudite. I hope her humor and humanity leaven it enough for proletariat me.
  • Bed of Roses, Nora Roberts. This is actually for my sister, who apparently bought it a few weeks ago. You're welcome, Ms Roberts.
  • The Prisoner, by Carlos J. Cortes, a finalist for the Philip K Dick SF award, as pointed out by Jo Walton.
I then browsed the picture books, and accepted a few offerings from the children, and, at the second library (the snack sustained us), I tripped over a new offering:
  • Space Captain Smith, by Toby Frost. The title sold me.
  • Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Dominion War, by Diane Carey. I have not the foggiest idea how this book ended up in my library bag. It may have fallen in. Should I read it? Is this a sign? The first time I saw it was at home unloading the bag.
  • The Picture of Morty & Ray, Daniel Pinkwater & Jack E. Davis. This is a fun take on The Picture of Dorian Gray, even though the reference went over my kids' heads.
  • Morris Has a Cold, by Bernard Wiseman. From the library recommended lists.
  • Flap Your Wings and Try, Charlotte Pomerantz. Another recommended book.
  • The Hungry Ghosts, by Julius Lester. I like this author.
  • "I'm Not Cute!" by Jonathan Allen. The cute illustration attracted me.
  • Mrs. Marlowe's Mice, Frank & Devin Asch.
  • When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really Really Angry. Molly Bang. These last three also came from the first three shelves of the picture book section. Reading my way around from two directions at once!
  • A slew of Star Trek and Transformer comics, which I hope to dodge. A Sonic the Hedgehog book-like object lurked among them.
  • Gecko & Sticky: The Villians Lair. Xan and I liked Shredderman, but couldn't find it, so we tried another book by the same author.
  • Some music, including 2 CDs by Hannah Montana. Actually, I think one is by her, and the other by her Jekyll & Hyde alter ego. I embrace current culture.
Total Books from Library Elf (counting all the kid stuff that I'm legally responsible for even if I hope not to read it): 105. Stuff on my card: 96.

I'll go sign up for Library Loot this week. That's a weekly event hosted in turns by Eva's A Striped Armchair and Marg's Reading Adventures (this week's host) where bloggers can share their library finds of the week. Some of them make me look restrained.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Y Read? Y Not: You Had Me At Goodbye

Today is Reading on the Beach's A-Z Wednesday, with Y the starring letter. Every week bloggers are invited to spotlight a book starting with the letter of the week. You show the cover, tell the title, give a synopsis, and post a link. Just to be annoying, I like to actually read (sometimes just finish) the book on that day, so I include my little review. Makes things more interesting. Then I sign up on her page to see what everyone else came up with.

Last week I read an X book, but never got around to posting. That comment challenge is eating up all my internet time. Hey, I can count the comment when I register this book! I should have thought of that last week. Anyway, this week's book is You Had Me At Goodbye, by Jane Blackwood, a fun romance about a couple hiding out in a refuge in Martha's Vineyard for a summer. Both were promised the same cottage for the summer, so after trying to kick each other out, they end up sharing. Luckily the "cottage" is three stories tall, so there is plenty of room.

They fairly quickly become friends and enjoy bantering together, but then find that their joking relationship makes it hard to be understood. One of their first jokes is him offering to have a summer fling with her, so when he (and she) really want that fling, neither can take the other seriously. It's a nice twist on the basic misunderstanding idea -- there is a reason they can't just talk, and it's because they've defined their friendship against taking that talk as sincere.

Nothing is all that deep, but the characters are interesting. Kat's escape is from her ex-fiance and the loss of her business; Larry (Lawrence, to everyone but Kat) needs to write a new book but finds he has nothing to say. They have lots to tease each other about, and it was fun to watch. There was also enough extra information in their backgrounds to keep things interesting, and I like the pace of the viewpoint changes from Kat to Lawrence and back. The rich visiting friends were kind of silly, but I don't expect much from tertiary characters. B.

I found this book as part of a personal library challenge -- I'm trying to read a book from each shelf of my library. I'm in no rush -- I'm aiming at a bookcase a month, so 3-5 books, depending on where in the library I'm at. In case you are wondering, I'm on B in the fiction section, where I started. I'm trying to pick from a variety of genres, to stretch myself a little.

PS: Last week's book was Christopher Bennett's X-Men: Watchers on the Walls. It's very sad that I kept this X book around for weeks and weeks, read it last Wednesday, and then fell asleep

without posting it. It was interesting to me because I don't know much about the X-Men besides the movies, and these seem more based on the comics (with one funny reference to the movies, postulating some crazy world where Wolverine was tall). However, I disliked the plot contortions necessary to drive the correct moral lessons home -- the people with the silliest moral positions turn out to be right in all respects. Humph. Only recommended for dedicated X-Men fans. C.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Law and Order, Dragaerean Style: Iorich

Steven Brust's Dragaera books do many different things, most of them well. The first few are smart-alecky books about a clever assassin, and before most readers stopped to think about the moral issues in rooting for the assassin, Brust thinks about that and does things with it. He writes all over the timeline as well, with a separate kind of book dealing with history starting hundreds of years ago. Of course, with some of these characters, that's current news.

The new book, Iorich, is a good one. I appreciate how Brust writes Vlad's narrative without ornament, so his characters don't sneer except with their words. If I'm really tired when I read his books (which often happens, as I'm prone to finishing them no matter how late it gets) I'll start hearing everything in a dry, flat tone. When I reread while my brain is working, suddenly I hear the inflections and laugh out loud. I like books that only work with your brain turned on.

I'm not sure how I feel about Vlad's family life; his son is just old enough to have a presence. Also, there are so many books in the background that even though each book is complete in itself, I feel like I should reread them to understand everything. I don't really know what Cawti is about right now, for example. I should probably mention here that I have a mind like a sieve for Brust's work, which is a problem when the book expects you to pay attention. I forget the huge big secret almost every time, which seems impossible to everyone (yes, I mean Kiera's secret identity).

Reading this book is a good reminder of how much fun rereading the series is. I also highly recommend Jo Walton's reviews of all the books on, since she reread them all so we don't have to. B+, but it might climb higher with rereads.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Boys and Unicorns: Ariel

Steven Boyett's Ariel was written about twenty-five years ago; I heard about it by reading about a sequel that is coming out about now. The world has Changed -- technology doesn't work, and magic creatures wander about. The hero, Pete, finds a young unicorn whom he names Ariel, and they become familiars: a pair linked together by love and magic. Unicorns can do magic, but they are only available to virgins. This is not an issue at first, but later Pete finds that restriction a bit chafing.

Of course, the necromancers, sword masters, killer griffins, and unicorn horn collectors distract him from his girl problems a bit. It's a fun ride as long as you remember that Pete is a young boy whose almost terminal testosterone poison renders him dumb as a stick. Most of their journey is marching to New York so they can be captured by the big bad necromancer. Luckily the trip is interesting, because the goal is idiotic, as they realize seconds after arrival. I felt echoes of Huckleberry Finn, with Jim rafting down the Mississippi towards New Orleans, because that's the worst place for him to go.

The worst part of the book is the ending, which Boyett even acknowledges in his afterward. It's not so much that the boy and the unicorn have to separate, it's how that happens, and how little control either have over it, and what Pete decides to do with the rest of his life. That stuff made me recoil a bit. I don't think betrayal is a good place to start a new relationship, that's all. I shall pretend the last few pages never happened, as I had to do with the last minutes of the latest Terminator movie. B-.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Library Loot: Saturday Review

Man, that comment challenge is killing me. By the time I find five posts that I can convince myself to comment on, I'm sleepily drooling on my keyboard, forget about posting to my own blog. And my follow page overfloweth. So I'm a tad bit behind now...

Thursday was our school's Multicultural Night, which had me running around like a Library Chicken with its head chopped off. (Among other things, I was responsible for providing picture books for each continent representing some of the cultures found there. Antarctica was a particular challenge). So Library Thursday became Library Friday. Sans Kids, but since I had to get to four libraries I managed to avoid browsing. I went to: our school library, to reshelve all the cultural books I had borrowed, our old school's library, because I love picking out books for KG's, our county library, where my hold shelf sang to me, and a super-quick stop to my city library, where I dropped off and then raced back to start picking kids up. (By the way, has anyone seen my wallet? It disappeared somewhere around there...)

My hold shelf gave to me:
  • Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund. A unicorn book, which will go nicely with Ariel, another unicorn book I am currently reading.
  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body, by Neil Shubin, which I saw recommended somewhere. Teacherninja maybe? Yep. Thanks!
  • Chalice of Roses, romance short stories.
  • Heart of a Shepherd, Rosanne parry. I think this is a Cybil's pick.
  • Chameleon, by Charles R. Smith. YA book not about a white kid.
  • Animusic 2 (video0. Recommended by P.
Then I walked out. Amazing, eh?

Total Books and stuff from Library Elf: 94. That still seems a bit high...

I'll go sign up for Library Loot this week. That's a weekly event hosted in turns by A Striped Armchair (this weeks host) and Reading Adventures where bloggers can share their library finds of the week. Some of them make me look restrained.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bogey: Two Under Par

Kevin Henkes writes brilliant picture books and sensitive chapter books. When I saw Two Under Par at a local library I snapped it up. It was okay, but definitely not a hole in one. There's a blended family learning to come together, a boy learning to substitute his real step father for his mythic missing dad, and a miniature golf course.

My fifth grader read it and said he liked it, but I found it pretty bland. C+

Sunday, January 17, 2010

100+ Book Challenge

This is my official page for my 2010 100+ Reading Challenge. This doesn't seem like a very hard challenge -- just read 100 books, any books, although I'm not counting picture books. I can link my reviews over to the main page if I want, but that's not a requirement. Thanks to J Kaye's Book Blog for hosting this challenge!

Books read in 2010
  1. Wanting Mor, Rukhsana Khan
  2. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin
  3. The Vile Village, Lemony Snicket
  4. Supreme Courtship, Christopher Buckley
  5. The Kids Are All Right, Diana Welch (and siblings
  6. Sea Glass, Maria Snyder
  7. Vanished, Kat Richardson
  8. Fire (Graceling), Kristin Cashore
  9. Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Ellen Emerson White
  10. When the Tide Rises, David Drake
  11. Kindred in Death, J.D. Robb
  12. Soulless, Gail Carriger
  13. X-Men: Watchers On the Walls, Christopher Bennett
  14. Two Under Par, Kevin Henkes
  15. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
  16. Scepter of the Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant), Derek Landy
  17. Ariel, Steven Boyett
  18. Iorich, Steven Brust
  19. You Had Me At Goodbye, Jane Blackwood
  20. Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen
  21. Deep and Dark and Dangerous, Mary Downing Hawn
  22. Lighting Their Fires, Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up World, by Rafe Esquith
  23. Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits, by Robin McKinley & Peter Dickinson
  24. Captain Alatriste, Arturo Perez-Reverte
  25. Picture This, Norah McClintock
  26. Isabel and the Miracle Baby, Emily Smith Pierce
  27. Son of the Mob, Gordon Korman
  28. After Tupac and D Foster, Jacqueline Woodson
  29. Beat the Turtle Drum,
  30. Scandal, Carolyn Jewel
  31. Zen In the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel
  32. Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector, Polly Aird
  33. Life Without Friends, Ellen Emerson White
  34. The Grounding of Group Six, Julian F Thompson
  35. Colibri, Ann Cameron
  36. Are You Alone on Purpose?, Nancy Werlin
  37. Noctures, Kazuo Ishiguro
  38. Someday My Prince Will Come, Jerramy Fine
  39. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (reread)
  40. Caught By the Sea: My Life on Boats, Gary Paulsen
  41. Academy 7, Anne Osterlund
  42. Chalice of Roses (anthology)
  43. Rampant, Diana Peterfreund
  44. Black Angels, Linda Beatrice Brown
  45. The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
  46. Does My Head Look Big in This?, Randa Abdel-Fattah
  47. Unwind, Neal Shusterman
  48. A Touch of Dead, Charlaine Harris
  49. The Drunkard's Walk, Leonard Mlodinow
  50. Good Poems, (ed) Garrison Keillor
  51. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
  52. Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, M.T. Anderson
  53. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Lynne Jonell
  54. Huntress (anthology)
  55. Blood Memories, Barb Hendee
  56. Who is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas?, Martha Freeman
  57. Spinning Through the Universe, Helen Frost
  58. The Private Patient, P.D. James
  59. Dragon Spear, Jessica Day George
  60. Promise of the Flame, Sylvia Engdahl
  61. Pink Brain, Blue Brain, Lise Eliot
  62. Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer
  63. Ender in Exile, Orson Scott Card
  64. Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, Lilian Jackson Braun
  65. Olivia Kidney, Ellen Potter
  66. Divine Misdemeanors, Laurell K Hamilton
  67. Space Captain Smith, Toby Frost
  68. The Year of the Bomb, Ronald Kidd
  69. Alex & Me, Irene Pepperberg
  70. Shredderman: Enemy Spy, Wendelin Van Draanen
  71. Shredderman: Attack of the Tagger, Wendelin Van Draanen
  72. Shredderman: Meet the Gecko, Wendelin Van Draanen
  73. So Totally Emily Ebers, Lisa Yee
  74. Taken, Norah McClintock
  75. Free Fire, (Joe Picket novel), C.J. Box
  76. Point Blank (Alex Rider), Anthony Horowitz
  77. Skeleton Key (Alex Rider), Anthony Horowitz
  78. Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson
  79. Spellbent, Lucy A. Snyder
  80. Oath of Fealty, Elizabeth Moon
  81. A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner
  82. Gift of the Unmage (Worldweavers), Alma Alexander
  83. Blaze of Memory (Psy-Changelings), Nalini Singh
  84. Dr. Frau, Grache H. Kaiser
  85. The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis, Barbara O'Connor
  86. Tentacles, Roland Smith
  87. Domestic Arrangements, Norma Klein
  88. Hangin' Out With Cici, Francine P. Pascal
  89. Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It, Sundee T. Frazier
  90. Dead in the Family, Charlaine Harris
  91. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little, Peggy Gifford
  92. The Ages of Chaos (Stormqueen! & Hawkmistress!) Marion Zimmer Bradley
  93. How to Teach Physics To Your Dog, Chad Orzel
  94. A Local Habitation, Seanan McQuire
  95. Eternal Kiss, Trisha Telep
  96. The Firelings, Carol Kendall
  97. Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, Florence King
  98. Silver Borne, Patricia Briggs
  99. Never Less Than a Lady, Mary Jo Putney
  100. The Demon's Covenant, Sarah Rees Brennan

Steampunk?: Soulless

Gail Carriger's Soulless is a lighthearted romp through an alternate Victorian England. Alexia is a confirmed spinster at twenty six whose mother never even tried to marry her off, because her father is Italian and Alexia is not only dark but bookish. So she serves as a chaperon to her younger, blonder sisters, and amuses herself by reading and sparring with London's head werewolf. Did I mention the werewolves? And the vampires. We meet Alexia when she accidentally slays an attacking vampire while trying to sneak some sandwiches at a ball.

Carriger's real twist on the vampire/werewolf trend is the addition of the soulless category. Alexia's special snowflake power (a must for urban fantasy, it seems) is to neutralize the supernatural with her touch -- a vampire or werewolf in contact with her is transformed into a human. No fangs, no fur, no fun. Well, maybe just a little fun -- the (mostly predictable) romance is between Alexia and that head werewolf, who verbally spar while falling in love and mixing it up with various baddies.

I liked the idea of the soul as a measurable quality; I hope the future books look at this in more depth. People with lots of soul can become immortal (vampire, werewolf), but there is no way of knowing how much you have until you try. Except for Alexia, who knows exactly how much she has -- none. A few times she ascribes her common sense or lack of creativity to her soulless state, but it seems this is mostly a metaphor. On the other hand, this is a fantasy...

This was a fun read as it played off the Victorian times but kept Alexia true to the setting while still an active and interesting heroine. There is some gore and an icky automaton, but Alexia does her best to keep her eyes averted so it's not too graphic. B+

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Puppy Dog Tails and Sugar: Why Gender Matters

Several friends recommended Leonard Sax's Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences to me in quick succession, so I put it on hold at my library. A few months later (apparently many friends are mentioning this book), it came home with me. I read it and then gave it to my eleven year old, who had been interested by all the questions I asked him, testing the book's various theories.

Sax thinks that modern society likes to pretend that males and females are the same, with the differences between the sexes dwarfed by variations within people altogether. He thinks this is wrong, and that pretending it is true serves both boys and girls ill. He is particularly interested in children, both because he was a family doctor and because childhood is when the differences are strongest.

The beginning chapters look at some of these differences, pointing out the different rates of development in both physical and mental maturity for boys and girls, and how little overlap there is between the two. He thinks vision and hearing are dramatically different, and posits that a huge contributor to lower male success in (especially elementary) school is the fact that boy hearing is much less acute than girl. A classroom voice that sounds respectful and calm to a girl will be almost inaudible to a boy. He also points out that eyeballs are very different between the sexes, with motion sensing rods denser in boys while color sensing cones predominate in girls.

Later chapters examine the different social structures boys and girls tend to establish, and how differently they react to problems or even just situations at school and with their peers. I found it all very interesting, although I wish I had more data for this claims about the physical differences. The evidence about the benefit of single sex schools seems powerful. I did find his description of male adolescence very depressing, and I'm really hoping that my sons do not become the horrible people he describes all boys as. I'd hate to think that trust, honor, and moral courage are female-only strengths. I'll have to hope that I did not train them out of all their female-oriented ways (he describes the outlier boys who do not become ravaging hoodlums, and gives advice on how to cure your sons so they can evolve into thugs).

This book gave me a lot to think about, especially when looking at schooling for my sons.

Young Reader Challenge

Becky is running a Young Readers Challenge for 12 books in the E and J sections of the library, or books for 0-8 year olds (and people who liked being those ages). My youngest is 8, although I have a younger nibling next door who will maintain my fig leaf for a few more years.

I'm going to list the eligible books, but only count the ones I really love. I've been keeping track of eligible books since I saw this challenge:
  • Wanting Mor, Rukhsana Khan. This was a great book, but more for my eleven year old than my eight year old. It's shelved as J, but not J enough to really feel right for this challenge.
  • Merry Christmas, Ollie!, Oliver Dunsier. Not really my cup of tea, but my kids got into my spirited delivery.
  • Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, Helen Recorvits.
  • Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner, Amy Schwartz
  • Come Along, Daisy, Jane Simmons
  • Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Dear America book by Ellen Emerson White. A bit too old for this challenge, although shelved as J.
  • Vile Village, Lemony Snicket. Again, a bit old for 8.
  • Two Under Par, Keven Henkes. A little old, a little dull.
  • Scepter of the Ancients, Derek Landy. Again , old.
  • The Gingerbread Boy, Paul Galdone. Cute.
  • Rabbit's Birthday Kite, Maryann MacDonald. Not nearly as trite as the title implies.
  • Spinning Through the Universe, Helen Frost. Old.
  • Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Lynne Jonell. More a 10 year old book.
  • Black Angels, Linda Beatrice Brown. Fourth and Fifth grade.
  • Spinning Through the Universe, Helen Frost. Fifth Grade.
  • Dragon Spear, Jessica Day George.
  • Olivia Kidney, Ellen Potter. Hmm, I think I will try this on my eight year old. If he likes it, I'll move it down. I enjoyed it a lot.
  • Wolves in the Walls, Neil Gaimon. Very spooky.
  • The Three Bears, Paul Galdone. Nice pictures that make Goldilocks look bratty.
  • Owl at Home, Arnold Lobel. Small sweet stories about an Owl who, in the words of my eight year old, is not the sharpest tool in the shed.
  • The Goat Lady, Jane Bregoli. Nonfiction book about a neighborhood character.
  • Zinnia and Dot, Lisa Campbell Ernst. Two grumpy chickens learn to share an egg.
  • The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis, Barbara O'Connor. Two boys investigate a creek.
  • You Bad Dog, Leslie Baker. A small dog gets a big dog in trouble, but they stay friends.
  • The Good Little Bad Little Pig, Margaret Wise Brown. Echos of Emmet's Pig for me.
  • Thunder at Gettysburg, Patricia Lee Guach. Kid's eye view of the impact of the battle on the village -- rather intense. Right at the top of the age range here.
  1. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin. Great book, I shall force my eight year old to read it. Update: He did, he loved it, he bought it with his Xmas money.
  2. Who Wants to be a Poodle I Don't, Lauren Child. I get a kick out of Lauren Child's humor, illustrations, and games with text. She's also the author of the Lola and Charlie books.
  3. Lawn Boy, by Gary Paulsen. I think my 8 year old would love this.
  4. Gus and Grandpa, Claudia Mills
  5. Shredderman: Secret Identity, Wendelin Van Draanen. Lots of fun. The eight year old should read it.
  6. The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner. We all loved this as a read-aloud.
  7. When Sophie Gets Angry-- Really, Really Angry, Molly Bang. My eight year old and I liked how the colors reenforced the emotions.
  8. Who is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas? Martha Freeman. Simple and sweet.
  9. Mrs. Marlowe's Mice, by Frank Asch and Devin Asch. Great pictures that live up to the text.
  10. Mr. Putter and Tabby Spin the Yarn, Cynthia Rylant. P and I enjoyed this one as much as we liked the others (which is a lot)
  11. Martha Doesn't Say Sorry!, Samantha Berger. P and I laughed at Martha's skills and expressions, and were almost sorry when she Learned Her Lesson.
  12. Lost! A Story in String, Paul Fleischman. When the power goes out, a modern girl worries that her head will explode without screens. Gramma tells a story and illustrates it with string games; the appendix shows how to recreate each string design.
Which makes TWELVE! So I'm off to sign in at the challenge post. But I hope to keep listing more books, although I admit I've forgotten to list the books from my Reading-the Library Challenge here. Oops.

Lalala-- Library Thursday

You know, if I read four library books each week, that would be a lot. Because I have some books at home I like to read as well. And if I go to the library each week and check out ten books, and then read four, and then sneak off to the library accidentally on some other day, well. What we have here is a word problem that I should submit to my third grader. Unfortunately, he's asleep right now, and so I shall chronicle my latest trip to the halls of pleasure.

Once again it was me and four kids, children carefully primed with our destination. Although there was a bit of confusion as to where Library Behavior should start (hint, if you are standing in the open door to the library, then yes, shouting is Right Out), everyone seemed to be ready to rustle some reading. From the hold shelf I got:
  • Animusic, a DVD of music animation recommended by my third grader. It was a bit of a disappointment to the first grader, who was hoping for the long-awaited Transformer video. Apparently robots playing musical instruments do not qualify.
  • The Lion and the Mouse, a picture book by Jerry Pinkney, recommended by Bookie Wookie, a great blog by a dad and his kids.
  • Ignis, a picture book by Gina Wilson, also from Bookie Wookie
  • Muslim Child: Understanding Islam through Stories and Poems, a kiddie book by Rukhsana Khan, because I liked her Wanting Mor
  • Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz, the first in the Alex Rider kid spy books, recommended by a friend
  • The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, by Lilian Jackson Braun, because I like beating my eyeballs against a wall
  • Soulless, by Gail Carriger, because it is recommend all over
  • Academy 7, by Anne Osterlund, a YA which I found recommended somewhere while on the new comment challenge
  • The Year of the Bomb, by Ronald Kidd, ditto only more kiddie than YA
See, I'm in good shape here. You can only really count four (OK, five, I almost forgot the Kidd book) of those books, so I'm not falling behind. We are ignoring the 2 CDs I forced my sons to choose. And I didn't get any other books, because of my iron will (and because of the unfortunate misunderstanding about the promised purchased of some crackers and my forgotten wallet, and whether or not I should drop everything and race off to get it or whether unnamed people should express their disappointment by lying on the floor and wailing like a siren before being hastily and bodily removed). So we skipped the second library again! See how good I am at limiting myself!

Unless you count the books I somehow acquired a few days ago, when I stopped by to drop off some books that were due:
  • Banana Heart Summer, by Merlinda Bobis
  • Enigma, by C.F. Bently
  • Free Fire, by C.J. Box
  • The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Vol 2. Which year, I wonder.
  • You Had Me at Good Bye, by Jane Blackwood
These books are all from the B column of shelves at the library. I've given myself a mini-challenge of reading a book from each shelf, starting with fiction. I started last year, but paused because of an outbreak of sanity. I seem to have recovered, thank you. Oh, and somehow I also got two more books from the recommended snare pit:
  • A Person of Interest, by Susan Choi
  • Irreligion, by John Allen Paulos (for obvious reasons to people who know us)
And I forgot the books I checked out for Number One Son:
  • Sonic Hedgehog, Volume 4. It seems very odd to see Sonic the Hedgehog and the words "volume 4" on the same line. The mind boggles.
  • Shadow Puppets, by Orson Scott Card. Somehow missed last week. Probably due to the max-ed out hold limit.
Total items out: 93 (according to Library Elf, my overdue fine savior). Hmm, I seem to be moving backward. Oh well, they are probably all picture books, right?

I'll go sign up for Reading Adventures' Library Loot this week. That's where bloggers can share their library finds of the week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wacky Wednesday: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Today is Reading on the Beach's A-Z Wednesday, with W the starring letter. Every week bloggers are invited to spotlight a book starting with the letter of the week. You show the cover, tell the title, give a synopsis, and post a link. Just to be annoying, I like to actually read (sometimes just finish) the book on that day, so I include my little review. Makes things more interesting. Then I sign up on her page to see what everyone else came up with.

I really wanted to pick a library book, because I am extremely over-extended. I'm tired of having my reading dictated by what is due tomorrow. To express my frustration, I went by the library the other day to drop something off and accidentally picked up six more books. So I'm ignoring the mountains of books I own and concentrating on the library. Luckily I had a few books I've happy to drop everything and devour. For example, Ellen Emerson White's Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

I'm a huge fan of E.E. White, having been hooked on her President's Daughter books. She writes about families that are sarcastic and high achieving, and I am sarcastic and admire people who achieve. So I've been chasing down all her other books, and only recently found she had written two Dear America books. This is my first, the diary of Molly Mackenzie Flaherty, a high school junior in 1967 whose brother just shipped off to Vietnam. (I'm getting his diary next.)

Molly wants to understand what is going on in Vietnam -- she supports her brother but isn't sure she supports the politicians. She pushes against the restrictions of her school, which has limitations on what girls are supposed to do. She lives in Boston, and has a good view of the Beautiful People (hippies) and other protesters in the Commons. And she wants to do something, anything, and ends up volunteering in a V.A. hospital and helping out in a ward full of young amputees. And the letters from her brother keep her worried about what is happening on the other side of the world.

I liked this historical book -- as I read it, I forgot that it was supposed to be an educational trip through the sixties; things seemed to happen because they were part of Molly's life (as a contrast to the Civil War book I just read), not just because I had to know something else about the period. And I had a strong feeling that White's other books have hooks back here -- I'm pretty sure Molly shows up in All Emergencies, Ring Super. I love tracing back those kind of connections. B+

March Toward the Thunder: Civil War, with Canadians

Joseph Bruchac's historical novel about the civil war, March Toward the Thunder, follows Louis, a young (fifteen) Abenaki Indian, after he enlists in the Union army for some money and adventure. Bruchac's appendix explains that he loosely based the story on his ancestor's time in the army, but the main thrust of the book is educational; it has a bit of a prize token feel -- Louis meets with various situations and people to give a representative view of the American Civil War.

Women in combat? Check. Basic training, 1860's style? Check. Black soldiers? Check. Abraham Lincoln? Check. Fighting Irish? Check. Nurse Clara Barton? Check. General Ely Parker, Indian officer? Check. The plot chugged along, collecting all the historical coupons, with a few bonus Native American ones included.

It was fun having Louis as our viewpoint character, because his vantage point as an Abenaki and as a Canadian gave him some distance and an interesting take on events. He was a bit too perfect; although very young, he was among the most mature of his peers. He was free of prejudice. He was never tempted by gambling or sloth or women. He had infinite patience, super skills in the woods, good hygiene, and relentless quiet optimism. Most of these virtues were attributed to his Native American heritage, which flattened him as an individual. So a interesting book to read, but without resonating emotional impact. B.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thursday Library Explosion

This post is a bit late (this being Saturday evening and all), but Thursday we had our regularly scheduled library day, complete with four kids. Three of whom apparently thought we were going to an amusement park, so we ended up leaving a bit abruptly, in disgrace, and with a squashed finger that caused great resentment but earned no sympathy (if you are roughhousing, things can get rough). Injuries sustained during misbehavior are their own reward.

Unless they are mine, in which case they are tragic.

Lucky for me, my hold shelf overflowed:
  • Scandal, by Carolyn Jewel. I saw this romance praised on two blogs somewhere.
  • Wild Life, by Molly Gloss. I think Jo Walton recommended this author, although for a different book.
  • Black Angels, by Linda Beatrice Brown.
  • Kindred in Death, by J.D. Robb
  • Into the Tangle of Friendship, Beth Kephart. For some challenges I haven't mentioned yet.
  • Beat the Turtle Drum, by Constance C. Green. For Shelf Discovery Challenge.
  • Shadow of the Giant, by Orson Scott Card. For X.
  • Ender in Exile, by ditto, for ditto. Actually, I'm not sure if I've read this one, so I might.
  • Children of the Mind, again by OSC, for X.
  • War of Gifts: An Ender Story. Another in the same series. Is it wrong to encourage one's children to share one's compulsive tendencies? He didn't even ask for this one, but I knew he'd want it.
I couldn't put it on hold, because I had reached my hold limit (oops), but on the shelves we found a book X wanted. And I forced everyone to pick out music, so 4 CDs but I forget the names. And we didn't enter the other library, because of the regrettable behavior in the first.
And because 86 items out is enough for any family.
  • The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, by M.T. Anderson. I hadn't realized this was a real book.
I'll go sign up for A Striped Armchair's Library Loot this week. That's where bloggers can share their library finds of the week.

Another Challenge: Comment Challenge 2010

This is a blog-reading rather than a book reading challenge. Motherreader and Lee Wind are hosting a community-building challenge of commenting on five book blogs a day for three weeks. At the end of that, we will have achieved world peace, or at least reading lists long enough to reach the moon.

I've always wanted to go to the moon.

I will also attempt to get five comments somewhere on my blog each week. Since even my mother never bothers to comment, this is not as easy as it may seem. I may have to bribe my sister with chocolate.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Vile Village: Wednesday is Double V

Today is Reading on the Beach's A-Z Wednesday, with V the starring letter. I meant to read Vanished, by Kat Richardson, the fourth book in the Greywalker series, but life intervened. As I was chivvying the boys into bed, I realized I was on page 50 and doomed, so I jumped ship onto Lemony Snicket's seventh book, The Vile Village.

By the way, the challenge isn't actually to read the book in a day; that's my own goofy implementation. It's just to highlight a book, show the picture and give a synopsis. But that's not hard enough for me...

Fans of the series know what to expect -- doom, gloom, and a lot of vocabulary asides. The three orphans find themselves the wards of a village of nasty crow-lovers, who want the kids to do all the chores so they have more time to torch rule-breakers. Count Olaf lurks in the background, and the two lost triplets are crying out for help.

I knew which way things were going before every twist, but the story isn't about the route, it's about the scenery along the way. And don't think that the characters don't mature and grow -- Sunny especially makes great strides in this book. I can't read two of these too closely together, so I'll continue my slow progress through the series. B

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To Take a Dare

My second book for the Shelf Discovery Challenge features a life as exotic to me now as it would have been back then. To Take a Dare, my selection from the second chapter, "She's At That Age: Girls on the Verge," is by Paul Zindel, an author I knew and read in junior high, and Crescent Dragonwagon, whom I am sure I have never heard of before. The protagonist has a lousy family (this seems familiar to Zindel readers) and her early-developing and large breasts change the way everyone treats her, until she runs away from home and carves out her own life. I have to say, this book doesn't really seem to fit in with the others in that chapter; the protagonist, Chrysta, isn't so much dealing with puberty (although that hits her hard and knocks her down in the beginning chapters) but with premature adulthood. Her problems don't really belong in the same focus group as a Judy Blume character, or even a L'Engle.

It's narrated in first person, so you see Chrysta's tough persona and hear the basic goodness inside. She even mentions that she lives a charmed life -- no drugs, not much violence, and she's good at finding jobs and getting along. Honestly, that's the part that amazes me the most -- I still find the prospect of moving to a new town and finding a job and an apartment rather daunting, but she handled it dozens of times before she turned fifteen. The title explicitly refers to Dare, the young boy she tries to mentor (almost adopt). She finds a job, finds love, even finds a career, and also finds that some mistakes can't be fixed, some choices have irrevocable consequences. But I'm still stuck on that find-an-apartment thing...

It's different from most books nowadays; it preaches different messages, and leaves out a lot of common currency nowadays (no AIDS, no crippling trauma from sexual abuse). It doesn't make me want to drive my children from my home at age thirteen, but it does make me interested in knowing real people who followed their own paths so young. B

Al Capone Ate My Shorts: Kids on Alcatraz

Living on Alcatraz doesn't quite become routine for Moose Flanagan, even though Al Capone Shines My Shoes is Gennifer Choldenko's second book on the island. The convicts are too spooky, even the supposedly tame ones the warden has doing his household chores. And the danger of jeopardising his father's job as a prison guard weighs on the whole family; times are tough in this depression era.

A lot of historical detail is slipped into this book, but the emphasis stayed firmly on Moose and his problems, not on showcasing an interesting piece of history. Moose's sister seems to have autism, but that's not a diagnosis yet, and the people around her vary in their acceptance of her strangeness. Moose himself realizes how difficult she makes things and how much attention she siphons from their parents, but he also loves her and wrestles with guilt over his resentment.

Moose likes to please people, an attitude I share. If a friend is interested in something, I'll try to muster up some interest as well, in support. To Moose's astonishment (and my inner sympathy), his friends find this approach two-faced, especially when added to his googly-eyes over the spoiled and vindictive (but pretty!) daughter of the warden. There's baseball tension, pressure from Al Capone who may have helped get Moose's sister into the special school, and general kid politics to keep me interested. B+

Support Your Library Challenge: Super Size Me!

J Kaye's Book Blog is hosting the 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge, and I'm proud to sign up. I should probably sign up twice, because I support two local libraries (city and county), but that's too weird and anyway there is a risk of them consolidating in the middle of the year. I know I pretended that I was going to sign up at the lower levels, but it's time to face some reality. Also, I'm counting the Young Readers and picture books I read with my kids, so the numbers should zoom along. I'm going for the Super Size Me! (100 books).

Seeing as I have over 70 items checked out right now, it doesn't seem too unlikely. But not all those things are books! At least four are movies. A few of them are for my kids, and I don't even want to read them. Really, there is no problem here.

I'll group my books in bunches of ten, and star the ones I really like. When I really need to procrastinate on something (like laundry), I'll make sure to update the links.

Books Read in 2010 from a library:

Wanting Mor, Rukhsana Khan
Merry Christmas, Ollie!, Olivier Dunrea
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, Helen Recorvits
Countdown to Summer: A Poem For Every Day of the School Year, J Patrick Lewis
Dragon, Actually, G.A. Aiken
The Kids Are All Right, Diana Welch (with Amanda, Liz, & Dan)
Who Wants to Be a Poodle I Don't, Lauren Child
Come Along Daisy, Jane Simmons
Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner, Amy Schwartz

Sea Glass, Maria Snyder
Vanished, Kat Richardson,
* Fire, Kristen Cashore
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Diary of Molly Mackenzie Flaherty, Ellen Emerson White
When the Tide Rises (the RCN), David Drake
Kindred in Death, J.D. Robb
Soulless, Gail Carriger
The Lion and the Mouse, Jerry Pinkney
Two Under Par, Keven Henkes

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
Scepter of the Ancients, Derek Landry
Ariel, Steven Boyett
You Had Me At Goodbye, Jane Blackwood
Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen
Deep and Dark and Dangerous, Mary Downing Hawn
Lighting Their Fires, Rafe Esquith
Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits, Robin McKinley & Peter Dickinson
Captain Alatriste, Arturo Perez-Reverte
Gus and Grandpa, Claudia Mills

The Hungry Ghosts, Julius Lester
Morris Has a Cold, Bernard Wiseman
The Picture of Morty & Ray, Daniel Pinkwater
Picture This, Norah McClintock
Isabel and the Miracle Baby, Emily Smith Pierce
Son of the Mob, Gordon Korman
After Tupac and D Foster, Jacqueline Woodson
Beat the Turtle Drum
Scandal, Carolyn Jewel
Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector, Polly Aird

Life Without Friends, Ellen Emerson White
The Grounding of Group 6, Julian F. Thompson
Colibri, Ann Cameron
Are You Alone on Purpose?, Nancy Werlin
Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro
Someday My Prince Will Come, Jerramy Fine
Caught By the Sea, Gary Paulsen
Academy 7, Anne Osterlund
Chalice of Roses (anthology)
Rampant, Diana Peterfreund

Black Angels, Linda Beatrice Brown
The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
Does My Head Look Big in This?, Randa Abdel-Fattah
Unwind, Neal Shusterman
A Touch of Dead, Charlaine Harris
The Drunkard's Walk, Leonard Mlodinow
The Gingerbread Boy, Paul Galdone
Rabbit's Birthday Kite, Maryann MacDonald
Good Poems, Garrison Keillor (ed)

Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, M.T. Anderson
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Lynne Jonell
When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really, Really Angry, Molly Bang
Huntress (anthology)
Blood Memories, Barb Hendee
Who Is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas?, Martha Freeman
Spinning Through the Universe, Helen Frost
Mrs. Marlowe's Mice, Frank Asch & Devin Asch
Wolves in the Walls, Neil Gaimon

The Private Patient, P.D. James
Dragon Spear, Jessica Day George
Promise of the Flame, Sylvia Engdahl
Pink Brain, Blue Brain, Lise Eliot
Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer
Ender in Exile, Orson Scott Card
The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, Lilian Jackson Braun
Olivia Kidney, Ellen Potter
Divine Misdemeanors, Laurell K Hamilton
The Three Bears, Paul Galdone

Owl at Home, Arnold Lobel
Space Captain Smith, Toby Frost
The Year of the Bomb, Ronald Kidd
Alex & Me, Irene Pepperberg
Shredderman: Enemy Spy, Wendelin Van Draanen
Shredderman: Attack of the Tagger, Wendelin Van Draanen
Shredderman: Meet the Gecko, Wendelin Van Draanen
So Totally Emily Ebers, Lisa Yee
Taken, Norah McClintock
Ender's Game: Battle School, Christopher Yost (from Orson Scott Card's book)

Free Fire: A Joe Pickett Novel, C.J. Box
Point Blank (Alex Rider), Anthony Horowitz
Skeleton Key (Alex Rider), Anthony Horowitz
Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson
Spellbent, Lucy A. Snyder
Gift of the Unmage (Worldweavers), Alma Alexander
Blaze of Memory, Nalini Singh
The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis, Barbara O'Connor
Dr. Frau, Grace H. Kaiser
Mr. Putty and Tabby Spin the Yarn, Cynthia Rylant

101-100 (Shall I keep going?)
Martha Doesn't Say Sorry!, Samantha Berger
You Bad Dog!, Leslie Baker
The Good Little Bad Little Pig, Margaret Wise Brown
Eternal Kiss, Trisha Telep (ed.)
The Firelings, Carol Kendall

Monday, January 4, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon: The Value of Story

I've seen raves for Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon all over the internet and the local libraries, but I've resisted it. I thought her contemporary books were okay; nice little stories with amusing but slightly annoying protagonists. Maybe I've just been slightly down on my own amusing but slightly annoying third graders. So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I really liked the new book, and I'm wishing I had read it earlier because I'd really like P to read it before I turn it in.

There's nothing ground-breaking in the tale; a girl sets off to make her fortune, leaving her impoverished family bereft without her. She makes friends, including a land-locked dragon, a disguised king, and an orphaned buffalo boy. But the book is interlaced with stories; almost every chapter has a story, told by any of the characters, many of them about the Man in the mountain where the girl's quest leads. Yes, she learns some Valuable Lessons, but the biggest lesson of all is the importance and beauty of stories.

I showed some of the book to my third grader, and he thought the format very attractive -- short chapters, many of them broken up by the interior stories. This is a book that calls out to be read, to be read aloud, to be share-read within families. This book is perfect for my Young Reader Challenge. A.

A-Z Challenge

Becky is hosting an A-Z Reading Challenge, and I'm signing up. I'm hoping to just accidentally read most of what I need; I am doing A-Z Wednesdays, after all. To raise the stakes, I'm trying to do the challenge at the 52 book level, with 26 titles and 26 authors. Since I read a lot of kidlit, this seems reasonable -- picture books count. I definitely don't have a list of books ready, so I'll keep a list running and fill in (and shift about) as needed.

Here are the rules:

~ align the author's last name or the title of a book (excluding "the", "a", etc.) with its corresponding letter in the alphabet

~ enter a different book for each author and title (total of 52 books)

~ complete the alphabet lists anyway that suits your fancy
(i.e.: complete each list separately in alphabetical order, read both "A" entries, then "B" entries, fit whatever you're reading into either list, etc.)

~ complete the challenge in the year 2010

~ enjoy the experience!

So, here are the letters, and I'll be filling them in with my books:

A: Are You Alone on Purpose, Nancy Werlin
B: Black Angels, Linda Beatrice Brown
C: Countdown to Summer, J. Patrick Lewis
D: Dragon Spear, Jessica Day George
E: The Eternal Kiss, Trisha Telep, ed.
F: The First Part Last, Angela Johnson
G: Game of Cages, Harry Connolly
H: How To Teach Physics To Your Dog, Chad Orzel
I: Irreligion, John Allen Paulos
J: Jack of Clubs, Barbara Metzger
K: Kindred in Death, by J. D. Robb
L: A Local Habitation, Seanan McGuire
M: Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, Kate Braestrup
N: Never Less Than a Lady, Mary Jo Putney
O: Oath of Fealty, Elizabeth Moon
P: Powers, Ursula K. Le Guin
Q: Quirky Yes, Hopeless No, Cynthia La Bria Norall
R: Roar, Emma Clayton
S: Soulless, by Gail Carriger
T: Tongues of Serpents, Noami Novik
U: Unwind, Neal Shusterman
V: Vile Village, by Lemony Snicket
W: Wanting Mor, by Rukhsana Khan
X: X-Men: Watchers On the Walls, by Christopher Bennett
Y: You Had Me At Goodbye, Jane Blackwood
Z: Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigal

A: Kelly Armstrong, Exit Strategy
B: Christopher Buckley, Supreme Courtship
C: Kristin Cashore, Fire
D: David Drake, When the Tide Rises
E: Rafe Esquith, Lighting Their Fires
F: Jerramy Fine, Someday My Prince Will Come
G: Neil Gaiman, American Gods
H: Mary Downing Hawn, Deep and Dark and Dangerous,
I: Kazuo Ishiguro, Noctures: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
J: P.D. James. The Private Patient.
K: Jon Krakauer: Where Men Win Glory
L: Grace Lin, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
M: Leonard Mlodonow: The Drunkard's Walk
N: Patrick Ness, Knife of Never Letting Go
O: Anne Osterlund, Academy 7
P: Arturo Perez-Reverte, Captain Alatriste
Q: Devyn Quinn: Siren's Call
R: Kat Richardson: Vanished
S: Maria Snyder, Sea Glass
T: Megan Whelan Turner, Conspiracy of Kings
U: Kaye Umansky: Clover Twig and the Flying Cottage
V: Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates
W: Diana Welch, (with siblings Amanda, Liz, & Dan), The Kids Are All Right
X: Xinran, Sky Burial
Y: Lisa Yee, So Totally Emily Ebers
Z: Zitkala-Sa, Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings

OK, December, and I finished off the titles.  Now to fill in those last pesky authors.

Sunday Summary: New Year

Well, my book choices so far this year are heavily dependent on what is due at the library this week. From the books I finished, only one does not fit that description. It was my U day book:
  • Where the Mountains Meet the Moon, by Grace Lin (great book)
  • Wanting Mor, by Rukhsana Khan (very interesting)
  • Uncle Boris in the Yukon, by Daniel Pinkwater (a memoir)
  • Ten Things I Hate About Me, by Randa Abdul-Fattah (disappointing)
  • March Towards the Thunder, by Joseph Bruchac
I am clearly very deadline oriented. Bookmarks inched along in:
  • Colibri, a bedtime read
  • Countdown to Summer, poems for school days
  • Parenting the Children of Now, a bit confusing
  • Dragon, Actually
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go, full of boys
  • Sea Glass, slow starting
  • The End of Racism, provocative but slow

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is my first post for the Shelf Discovery Challenge, after actually reading that book. I'm trying to read one book per section, and for the first chapter, "Still Checked Out: YA Heroines We'll Never Return" I only had one choice, Ludell by Brenda Wilkinson. Well, I may reread Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself because my only memory is reading it, so I'm not sure it counts.

Ludell is the only non-white heroine in the chapter, and her accent was hard for me at first, keeping me distant. The pace of the book also seemed jerky or syncopated -- jumps in time, then concentrated pages. But as I eased into Ludell's life, I started to really enjoy her story and the depiction of her life. I even liked the occasional jumps into the heads of the adults around her, which gave an added dimension to the book. All the other books in this chapter feature comfortably middle-class kids (like I was), so Ludell's life in segregated Georgia seemed even more remote. Yet like all kids she could rely on the parents around her to keep her safe, even if that parent was her grandmother. She had friends to rely on or who let her down. She had goals and dreams, sometimes even realistic ones. I think I'll try to hunt up the sequels, and I like the final chapters with their emphasis on her blossoming writing skills. B+

2010 Take Another Chance Challenge

I enjoy deferring decisions. If I have six rooms to clean, I might roll a die to see which to start in. I choose music in the car by sending pre-literate kids off to the library CD shelves to bring back spoils. (Their selections are definitely changed now that they are, in fact, literate. I may need to start blindfolding them.) So this challenge seems right up my alley.

Find Your Next Book Here has designed 12 challenges in all, and all have you pick books in a sideways kind of manner, from Challenge one, based on books whose author's name echoes yours, through blogroll roulette (2), and books by members of the same family (11). This sounds like fun! I'll start out on the baby level, A Small Gamble (3 of 12).

Challenge Five looks pretty easy: Title Word Count. I pulled the number two out of the generator, and top book on my library stack was a two-word title: Wanting Mor. I'm off!

I think I'll do Challenge 9 next: Same Word, Different Book. I have two books called Fire handy -- perfect!

Challenge 1 is also complete now, with Elizabeth Moon as my doppleganger. Oath of Fealty was a great continuation of the story begun in the Deed of Paksenarrion. That's the baby level! The next level, moderate, would mean three more.

Hmm, this is getting complicated. I'm going to list all the challenges on the bottom, and keep track up above.

Challenge 1: Read Your Doppelganger

Challenge 2: Blogroll Roulette

Challenge 3: 100 Best Book

Challenge 4: Prize Winner Book

Challenge 5: Title Word Count

Challenge 6: Genre Switch-Up

Challenge 7: Break A Prejudice

Challenge 8: Real and Inspired

Challenge 9: Same Word, Different Book


Challenge 10: Become A Character

Challenge 11: All in the Family

Challenge 12: Author Anthology Pick

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Wanting Mor: Hard Times in Afghanistan

Rukhsana Khan's Wanting Mor's front jacket promised a journey of unremitting misery. It's not enough that the narrator, Jameela, loses her extended family to an American bombing raid, or that her mother dies of illness, or that her dad is a boozing loser. She also has a cleft lip. So it was with considerable trepidation that I opened the first page of this book, expecting an educational lesson in how bad life can get.

Khan's touch is much more deft than that though. Yes, Jameela's life is unimaginably hard compared to the cushy lives of my kids, but she doesn't see herself as a victim. Her voice is authentic and hopeful, striving to follow her ideals and her mother's code but not always succeeding. Her commitment to Islam rings true, as do her attempts to honor her father even when it's painfully obvious that he doesn't deserve it. I really enjoyed this book, and I'll look around to see if Khan has other books available. The dangers and heartbreak of war show clearly, but so does Jameela's individuality and strength of spirit. A-.

Challenges: Well, I feel quite accomplished. This book starts off the 100 Books Challenge, the A-Z Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, Take Another Chance Challenge (#5), and the Young Reader Challenge. I'll come back and edit those as links when I get the challenge posts up.

Challenge Explosion!

I'm going to zip about and sign up for a bunch of challenges while I write this post. It's in REAL TIME, people, so hold on to your bologna sandwiches (that's a Trout Fishing in America reference, in case you boggled at my non sequitur there). I love the idea of lists, and challenges are lists you do with other book-loving people. And maybe I'll read some new books, and maybe I'll get a warm fuzzy sense of accomplishment for reading books I'd have read anyway. It's all good!

Here's what I've seen:
Well, that's probably enough to start. I'll have to do individual pages for many of these challenges, so I'll be peppering my pages with posts. But this way I'll feel like I'm ticking things off my lists as I read books! Warm and fuzzy times in 2010, here I come.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Fatal Waltz: Dancing in Place, Mostly

Tasha Alexander's Victorian mysteries about Lady Emily, widow and amateur sleuth, gently combine mystery with historical period setting, with a dash of romance. They are fun reads, especially with Emily's enthusiastic hobby of ancient Greek culture and art and her timely sense of independence, more subtly done than most; Emily seems grounded in her time, not suddenly transplanted from the twenty-first century.

This third book, A Fatal Waltz, doesn't break much new ground; she continues to be engaged, she continues to face opposition from conservative male grumps who disapprove of her modern ways, she continues to sleuth about with her buddies. Some book series are ready to go for hundred of episodes, and the characters don't change at all. In better ones, each book advanced the characters a bit; if the main characters are settled (see Roarke and Eve in the Death In books), then some attention is given to minor characters and their lives. Alexander's books read more as individual novels, with plot arcs and substance to each, so the stagnation is this book bored me a bit. I'm not sure if she is settling her characters in for the long haul, but if so, more attention needs to be paid to the life bits that keep me interested. If she was just getting her breath, than the next books about Lady Emily will be that much more interesting.

I grabbed the next one from the new book shelf at the library, so I obviously still have faith in Alexander. And the plot and dialogue keep me turning pages; I'm just hoping for a fuller feeling when I close the back cover. B-

Library Loot: End of Year

Happy New Year! I shall have lots of New Years Resolutions, but first I want to finish off my library journey from last year. Yesterday my kids were with their dad, so I had to make my library circuit by myself. Alone against the ravenous books, I fought bravely but was completely devoured.

At the first library, I managed to turn in the overdue book from last week, and was charged the princely sum of 10 cents. My city library is the nicest library in the world. Kindness like that deserves reward, doesn't it? Rewards like high circulation count. I walked out with:
  • Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children, by Rafe Esquith
  • After Tupac & D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Are You Alone on Purpose, by Nancy Werlin
  • Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Reality Check, by Peter Abrahams
  • Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage, by Alma Alexander
I had a few things due at the county library, so up the hill I went. I only had one book on the hold shelf, so things couldn't be too bad, right?
  • The Dazzle of the Day, by Molly Gloss. Recommended by Jo Walton on
  • Alex & Me, by Irene M. Pepperberg. (I think I have BookNAround to blame for this one.)
  • The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mlodinow (from Uncertain Principles, while I wait to read Chad's book)
  • NO Talking, by Andrew Clements (audio -- it's for the CHILDREN. Well, for X.)
  • Does My Head Look Big in This?, by Randa Abdel-Fattah
  • Blaze of Memory, Nalini Singh
  • Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen
  • Deep, Dark, and Dangerous, by Mary Downing Hahn
  • Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, by Lynne Jonell
To add insult to injury, I stopped by the Friends of the Library Sale wall. Hey, I'm a friend! Friends don't ignore each other, you know. At least these don't have due dates.
  • A Ceremonial Death, by B.J. Oliphant (aka Sherri S. Tepper)
  • Talk to the Hand, by Lynne Truss
  • Spartan Warrior: Legacy of Blood, by Michael Ford
  • The Curse of the Viking Grave, by Farley Mowat
My final score is now 79. I shall go look at Library Loot to comfort myself that other people also think they have infinite reading time.