Just finished Fannie Flagg's Welcome to the World, Baby Girl for my library book club. While I love the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, I had never actually read one of her books. I was delighted by the novel and without giving away the ending...shocked! The story follows Dena Nordstrom, a big time tv journalist with small-town roots, who struggles with her increasingly demanding boss and her loneliness. Both parents dead and no real relationship with her few remaining relatives, Dena (aka Baby Girl) makes work her life until it causes health problems. Recovering with relatives in her hometown of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, Dena must confront her feelings about herself and her mysterious mother who disappeared when she was fifteen. Her journey to discover what happened to her mother was the most interesting portion of the book. I was shocked by the reasoning behind her mother's disappearance. I never saw it coming. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, it wasn't as much of an issue but I can understand how painful it must have been to give up her child. Well worth your time. If you like this type of title, you should also try Billie Letts and Jodi Picoult.
For adult fans of Mo Willems delightful children's books Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny, follow up with his equally delightful biography of the year he spent traveling the world shortly after graduating from college. Willem's humorous look at the world through his unique artwork is well worth your time. While size might hinder some, You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons is a quick read and you'll find yourself chuckling aloud.
I've decided to start a new feature on my blog in order to force myself to post at least once a week. So, I will be posting books I've encountered that, to me, are beautiful. Either beautiful covers, illustrations or overall work. Basically whatever strikes my fancy. Hopefully, this will introduce some new and old titles to my readers.
Are you passionate about your hobbies? So much so that people call it an obsession? Well, you're not the only one! In her book Who Are You People?: A Journey into the Heart of Fanatical Passion in America , Shari Caudron explores people's inner passions as she searches for her own. Barbie doll collectors, pigeon racers, furries, and Andy Griffith reenactors are just a few of the fans she encounters in her travels. A great, light read. Recommended highly!
Decided to revisit one of my favorite authors Jerry Spinelli for one of his newer titles. Milkweed follows a young orphan boy who doesn't know his name or where he's from but has found a new home with Uri, a street urchin. Uri names the small boy, Misha and takes him under his wings. He teaches Misha how to survive on the streets of Warsaw, Poland during World War II. Uri and the ragtag group of orphans he runs with are Jews. Misha with the help of Uri's fairy tales decides he must be a Gypsy. As the crew moves about in the periphery of Warsaw stealing food, Misha meets a young Jewish girl named Janina. He begins taking food to her and becomes a permanent part of her family when the Nazis move them to the ghetto. It's an interesting look at the Nazi's treatment of Jews from a child's point of view. As a small boy, Misha is entralled by the Nazi uniforms and their "parades" until he realizes the horrors going on around him. Recommended read.
I know I haven't posted in a long time but I've been going through some job changes and I'm also working on a few chapters for a book with some of my colleagues. Needless to say, I've been busy, busy, busy. But I haven't neglected my reading. Oh no, I'd never do that. So, here's what I've read in the past month or so.
Of course, I was one of the first in line for the last Harry Potter. I really enjoyed it but felt the ending was a little tidy. But overall a great read. Sad that it's over but enjoyed the ride. I won't go into details because I'd hate to spoil it for those who wish to read it and are still waiting to get it from the library.
One Night at the Call Center had a very interesting plot. Set in India at one of its many international call centers a group of co-workers (some of which are old lovers, friends, etc.) receive a phone call from God. Very interesting setup but I don't think it was as great as it could have been. The call from God was actually a very small but poignant part of the book. Worth the read if you are interested in India culture.
A Thousand Splendid Suns was probably my favorite of the ones above. I adored The Kite Runner and Hosseini did not disappoint with his second novel. Highly recommended.
The Mangler of Malibu Canyon is just a great fluff read. If you like twins who are biker chicks and private investigators, this is for you. Funny, sarcastic mystery. Great for a beach read.
Recently I thought I would give Christian Fiction another try. I haven't read any in years but at one point I had read everything by Janette Oke. So, I gave The Calling of Emily Evans a quick read. It just didn't live up to my expectations. The characters are too superficial. But don't regret reading it. I'll just try others. Let me know if you have any good recommendations on the Christian Fiction front.
A new copy of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne recently came into the library and I picked it up for a quick read. A young adult title, this book centers around Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a Nazi commandant during Hitler's reign. After a family dinner with Hitler, Bruno's father is transferred to a post as Out-With, guarding a high fence behind which hundreds of people in striped pyjamas live. Bruno is confused by the fact that all the people, besides soldiers, live behind this fence and one day while exploring he discovers a new friend, Schmuel, on the other side. Slowly coming to understand that Schmuel is a Jew and that he shouldn't like Jews, Bruno keeps his growing friendship with Schmuel secret. Eventually Bruno decides to climb under the fence and explore Schmuel's world. The ending is very unexpected. I was shocked and set the book aside, dumbfounded. I realized that it was a concentration camp but I never thought about the name, Out-With. Bruno was mispronouncing Auschwitz. Can't believe I missed that. A must read just for the ending. Boyne brings to light a very different viewpoint and brings to light many remaining questions.
One more down in my Newbery Challenge! I absolutely loved this book. Almost as much as I enjoyed Jacob Have I Loved. How did I miss out on so many good books as a child. I wasn't necessarily a popularity reader so I read some interesting things but I wish I could replace all the Sweet Valley High reading with titles like this. Although, I'm still hesitant to give up Baby-Sitter's Club. HA! Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt is the story of Julie Trelling, a seven year old, sent with her brother to live with her Aunt Cordelia after the death of her mother. From this new place in the country, Julie grows into a young woman and experiences all that goes along with it...loss, embarassment, friendship, and most importantly love. Really a must read for teen girls. Timeless!
Browsing library shelves and picked up Falling Boy by Alison McGhee the other day and just finished it. To me, this was one of those books that while you're reading it you think...Why am I still reading this? But no, I continued on and hoped that everything would be tied up in the end. That in the last chapter it would all make sense and I would be astounded by the revelation. Unfortunately, deep down inside I knew that was unlikely to happen. I finished and thought...I don't get it. So, I quickly launched Amazon and the author's website looking for insight. All I found were glowing remarks from authors and readers about the outstanding imagery, emotional energy and depth of this book. What am I missing? It wasn't horrible but what was the point? Obviously I have no depth. I am depthless. Is that a word?
Well, I'm no longer sitting in my living room clutching my pillows and jumping at every sound. Why not? I finished The Shining by Stephen King. I have never read a King novel before although I have seen almost all of the films based on his works. Let's just say that I don't think I will be picking up one again. I had seen the movie and it (and Jack Nicholson) has always scared the wits out of me. The novel was no different. In fact, I thought it was even creepier if that was in any way possible. I always thought topiaries shaped as animals were freaky. Now I have justification. If you didn't like the movie, there might still be hope for the book. A lot of items were left out of the movie. Creepy things. Also, some of the elements of the book were changed in the movie and happened to Jack Nicholson instead of the child, Danny. The book focused mainly on Danny, his gift (aka the shining) and the hotel trying to take control of it. I don't necessarily get creeped out easily but Stephen King has one hell of any imagination. I enjoyed the novel and it was nice to sit down and be scared out of your wits but I don't think I want to do it again any time soon. HA! One more decade down and many more to go!
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field was a trial for me to get through. The story details a doll's adventures as she travels from owner to owner over the course of a century. She ends up living in locations as far-flung as Boston, New Orleans, India, and an island in the South Pacific. A fun and interesting concept for a novel especially seeing the world change through her eyes. However, the language seemed stiff to me. I do understand that writing for children in the 30's was different than the way children authors write today. But it kept bogging me down. I had read somewhere that there was concern over the racial stereotypes and an anti-Christian theme used throughout the book. Neither of these issues seemed foremost to me but I guess one can always find something to take issue with in any book you read. Just remember it was written in 1929! Also, I don't believe in re-writing books so I have no intention of reading Rosemary Wells updated version although I've heard it's great for smaller children.
The second title in my Newbery Challenge was The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars. This book simply didn't capture me. I finished it easily since it is a rather short book (142 pg.) but didn't find myself really connecting to any of the characters in what seemed to me to be a character-driven book. Sara appeared whiny and self-centered to me as did Aunt Willie. I was appalled when Aunt Willie refused to fix Charlie's buttons instead preferring to watch tv. I did, however, feel the world of Charlie was far more interesting. Just my two cents.
I just finished Jacob Have I Lovedby Katherine Paterson as part of my Newbery Challenge list. This title has been in the back of my mind for years and surprisingly I never read it. For shame!!! All the years I missed out on a really great book.
Set on a tiny island in the Chesapeake Bay during the 1940's, Jacob Haved I Loved tells the story of Louise (aka Wheeze) and her twin sister, Caroline. Louise, a hard-working thirteen-year-old, helps support her family and Caroline's music lessons by progging for crab. She finds it hard to live with her over-indulged sister and often feels left out because she is not as pretty as the lovely Caroline. The entire island seems to be under Caroline's spell. But the mysterious appearance of Captain Wallace creates a new connection for Louise. But soon even that relationship is usurped by Caroline. Frustrated by the strained relationship with her family and life on the island itself, Louise must break free from what she sees as a small life and create her own in the mountains.
Like I stated earlier, I absolutely loved this title! It would have been the perfect read for me as a teen. I'm sorry I didn't give it a try then. I can see a lot of myself in Louise. While I don't have a twin, I have experienced sibling rivalry to a degree and have myself felt unworthy. Louise was a truly likeable character. A bit unusual for me but I also enjoyed the setting. I'm not much for water settings since I'm landlocked. It's sometimes hard to relate but Paterson does an excellent job of pulling you into the island and its characters.
Finally finished my first book in my first official blog challenge. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott was my first selection from 1870 in the By the Decade challenge. A huge fan of Little Women and the rest, I was somewhat disappointed with this one.
The story surrounds newly orphaned Rose Campbell who comes to live at "Aunt-Hill" where her six aunts fuss over her to no end. A sickly child, whose small size belies her age of thirteen, Rose finds herself overwhelmed by her seven boisterous boy cousins. However, the arrival of her new guardian, Uncle Alec, and his progressive ideas on how to raise a little girl creates a new environment in which little Rose blossoms.
It was a interesting book in terms of the "old-fashioned" upbringing encouraged by the aunts and the "progressive" forms taken by Uncle Alec. In one part, the aunts were appalled with the idea that he might let Rose wear bloomers. And don't get me started on Rose piercing her ears. How far we've come! However, some elements of the book were overbearing. For example, the gentlemanly demeanor of the boys became annoying at times. The story was a little too sweet for me and Rose herself was almost sickeningly so but a lot can be said of my mood at the time. I'd love to hear other thoughts on it!
I've been on a juvenile kick lately due to the recent publication of Nancy Pearl's Book Crush: For Kids and Teens. If you are looking for recommended reads for kids of all ages, this is a one-stop shop. Based on it's title and Ms. Pearl's recommendation as a fantastically funny read, I picked up Daniel Pinkwater's The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. Aimed at ages 5-9, this book succeeds in being laugh out loud funny as Arthur, out to buy the family Thanksgiving turkey, ends up with a 266 lb. chicken complete with walking leash. Arthur's father forces him to return Henrietta. Hilarity naturally ensues when Henrietta gets loose leading the town to call in a "top-notch" chicken wrangler.
If you're looking for another good read (especially for a boy around the same age), you should try the Hank Zipzer series. My own recommendation. Number one is entitled Niagara Falls, Or Does It?. This series features the "mostly true confessions of world's best underachiever." You can't get any better than that, can you? I actually found myself laughing out loud. Henry Winkler does a great job of showing that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. And yes, it is that Henry Winkler. Go Fonzie!!
I just watched the newest version of Charlotte's Web last night. Personally, little can touch the classic cartoon version for me but I was pleasantly surprised by this version. If you are a lover of the classic book by E.B. White, I certainly encourage you to see this movie. It's great for little kids and touches on the death of Charlotte very tenderly. Why not read the book aloud with your children and then share the movie together?
Special features also include a list of the schools and libraries from each state that participated in the Guinness World Record breaking event last Dec. for the "Most People Reading Aloud Simultaneously in Multiple Locations." I saw my old elementary school on there and was proud that many schools in my area participated.
Who knew this blogging idea would lead me to challenge myself at such great lengths? I need more books to read like I need another hole in the head. Nevertheless, here I go with another challenge....The Newbery Challenge. Since I've read a majority of the winners from the last 15 years I chose to go further back in making my selections.
2000's - Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 1990's- The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides 1980's - The Eight by Katherine Neville 1970's - The Shiningby Stephen King 1960's - Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein 1950's - Casino Royale by Ian Fleming 1940's - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 1930's - The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain 1920's - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 1910's - The History of Mr. Polly by H.G. Wells 1900's - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin 1890's - What Maisie Knew by Henry James 1880's - King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard 1870's - Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott 1860's - The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins
I'm not a big author reader but after discovering Jodi Picoult in a Dear Reader forum, I've since anticipated every new novel she's published. Her latest novel, Nineteen Minutes, follows a community as they struggle to comprehend a horrendous school shooting. Told in alternating chapters, the reader gets an upclose look at the childhood of the perpetrator, Peter Houghton, prior to the shooting and the heartrending days and months after the deadly event. What lead such a shy, intelligent teen to take matters into his own hands? What's more, how do friends and family cope with the tragedies that have transpired? In light of the recent Virginia Tech tragedies, this was a difficult book to read but very worthwhile in the questions it raises about school bullying. All of Picoult's title deal with difficult subject matter and this title was no different; however, it was nice to see her step away from the formulaic rut her books had fallen into and give her characters a real voice. A worthy read but if you only have time for Picoult's finest, I suggest My Sister's Keeper or The Pact...definitely the best in this reader's humble opinion.
As a librarian, I have a sick habit of liking to read books about librarians, libraries, and books. Go figure! I personally believe these titles only exist on a librarian plane. Do others outside the profession even know they exist? Probably not, that is why it is up to me to bring these titles to the light.
I recently finished The Case of the Missing Books: A Mobile Library Mystery byIan Sansom. In this mystery we follow the newest librarian of Tumdrum and District Public Library, Israel Armstrong, as he travels from his somewhat hip London home to start anew in a small Irish town. His first professional appointment as a librarian is doomed from the start when he arrives to find the library has been closed...permanently. Visiting his new boss at the Department of Entertainment, Leisure and Community Services, Israel finds that the appointment is more than he expected. In fact, a lot more. The entire contents of the closed library is missing. All 15,000 titles. Who could possibly steal that many books or would want to for that matter? An iron-clad contract forces Israel to begrudgingly accept his fate as the new Outreach Support Officer and begin his journey of 15,000 steps as he crosses the Irish countryside in his battered mobile library looking for the missing materials.
While I found the book a little slow going at the beginning due to the specific dialect of the characters and the long-winded confusing conversations between characters, it did pick up at the middle. Sarcastic and witty comments from Israel the outsider really made this a fun romp through the countryside. Recommended!
Learned an interesting tidbit today that I felt like passing on.
Do you know the difference between an acronym and an initialism? Well, neither did I until recently. I always thought that abbreviations like NASA, NATO, ABC, SUV, etc. were all the same but technically they aren't.
Abbreviations such as NASA or NATO are acronyms. Acronyms are pronounced as if the were a word.
An initialism such as ABC or SUV are abbreviations formed like an acronym but are pronounced letter by letter.
The question I've always wanted to be asked and surprisingly never have been is "What is your favorite book?". I suppose it is best that this question has never been asked because I'm not sure what it would be. But there are a few books that I get all tingly over when patrons at the library check them out. I feel excited that they will soon be experiencing what I consider to be the greats. Not necessarily wordsmiths like Shakespeare but those authors that stuck with me as I grew up. Basically, no "adult" book could ever be considered a favorite. Favorite status is restricted to those titles that have shaped my life. Books like the ones below.
Anne of Green Gables--L.M. Montgomery Ah, the beauty of Prince Edward Island. The absolute best book if forced to choose. Anne with an 'e', Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, Gilbert Blythe, Diana Berry, Rachel Lynde....they are like family to me. I have my own relationship with each and every character. Such kindred spirits! On splendid mornings, I've even developed the habit of re-naming ordinary landmarks. Who doesn't want to live in a world with the Lake of Shining Waters or The White Way of Delight. Ready for a little secret...I've never actually read beyond the first two novels of the series. Don't tell! They'd banish us you know.
Little House on the Prairie--Laura Ingalls Wilder
I don't have this particular set but I do own a boxed collection bought for me by my grandmother. I've shared the adventures of Half Pint and her family at least once a year for 20 years. Definitely a must read for every little girl.
Look back over my favorites, I discovered that I had a real thirst for pioneer stories. Living in Oklahoma, I always felt familiar with wide open spaces. Given the opportunity to settle a new territory like these characters I would have been found severely lacking even with the lessons learned from them. Good thing I was born in the 20th century. Strawberry Girl--Lois Lenski
Every title by Lois Lenski is a true classic. This particular title won the Newbery Medal in 1946. One of my fondest memories is hurrying to the L's to find the next title in her regional series. I still have the book report that I wrote on one of her other titles, Cotton in My Sack. It is so amusing to look back at your childhood handwriting. Sadly, these titles are in storage at my local library and no child can serendipitously discover this great author and illustrator will browsing the shelves.
Addie Across the Prairie--Laurie Lawlor
Another pioneer story fit for lovers of Little House. The entire series follows the journey of Addie and her family as they travel to their new homestead. I bought a little porcelian doll much like her Eleanor at an antique fair as a child. Weird, I know.
I also have a great love of young adult and children's fiction. They are so easy to read. I can sit down and in an hour or so be finished with a very worthwhile book. Never let anyone tell you that you are too old to be reading something. Sometimes all we need is an uplifting tale that reminds you to always be young at heart.
As you'll learn if you read this blog, I have eclectic reading tastes. So, don't look for any themes here. I completely judge a book by it's cover. That's what first draws me to a book. In fact that was how my most recent read was selected.
Candy and Me: A Love Story by Hilary Liftin was a hilarious look at one candy-lovers history with the greats (i.e. bottlecaps, smarties, circus peanuts, twizzlers, tootsie rolls and so on). These candies and many others were there for every big (and not so big) moment in her life. Recently, I put together a candy box for a friend's birthday and just let me say that the search for much loved childhood favorites is something that must be done at least once in your adult life. The feeling you get when you find that elusive box of candy cigarettes (very un-pc, by the way) or that favorite brand of jawbreakers...I can't even describe it. Promise me you will go and do that right now! Go! Now! You promised!
Other candy related titles:
Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America
Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams Michael D'Antonio
Well, here it is...the first ever post from me, a new blogger. I've often thought of creating one in the past since I enjoy writing in a small journal. But I was always afraid that I wouldn't be able to keep it up to everyone's standard. Then I realized that no one is probably even reading this so I'll just do what I want. So there! My desires are to fill this blog with my thoughts on literature. But as I peruse other blogs, I realized that this little experiment could quickly get away from me with politics, entertainment, etc. So, please bare with me as I try to sort it all out myself. Thanks for reading...if you're out there.