Friday, November 12, 2010

I Love You Rituals by Becky Bailey

I recently took a 6 week Love & Logic parenting class. Our city's public school system did it for free (which warms my cheap, penny-pinching heart) and I went with a couple friends who have similarly aged kids. It gave me some desperately needed skills for dealing with Stinky's recent brush with the terrible twos and things have been running much more smoothly around here lately.

Our instructor heartily recommended I Love You Rituals by Becky Bailey as a complement to Love & Logic. I had a gift card to Barnes and Noble so, rather than get it from the library like I would normally do, I just bought it. I hoped it would be the kind of book I'd like to keep on hand for quick reference when I needed it.

Thus far it has not disappointed. As I read through the rhymes and games I knew Stinky would love them all. She gives specific ideas for things you can do with your child but also gives ideas for creating your own. I've used several of her rituals over the past few weeks and have come up with a couple of my own. Our mornings are much more pleasant when I start them with a loving ritual instead of not very nicely asking Stinky to go back to bed because it's freaking 6 in the morning. We have weathered several pre-naptime tantrums with the help of her sweet revised nursery rhymes.

Some of the games and rhymes seemed silly to me as I was reading them but they work when done with a 2 1/2 year old. If you have younger children this is a great book for helping you bond and build trust and all those other lovely happy things you want in your relationship with your babies.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Karen by Marie Killilea

A few weeks ago I was talking to the lovely EK and somehow we got to talking about reading and the mail and whatnot and we ended the conversation by deciding to start sending packages of books or other fun things to each other. I started by sending her an ARC of Matched by Ally Condie. She reciprocated by sending me an old, slightly battered copy of Karen by Marie Killilea. And I'm already planning my next three packages to her and have decided this was pretty much the best idea ever. Getting a (mostly) unexpected package from a friend is enough to completely make your day.

Karen is an incredibly charming book. It's the true story of a little girl growing up with cerebral palsy in the 1940s when no one really knew what it was or what to do about it. When it became apparent that something was wrong with their baby girl, Marie and Jimmy Killilea were told to put her in an institution and forget about her as people with cerebral palsy "have no mentality."

The story of Karen's growth and development and her family's fierce loyalty and fight on behalf of those with cerebral palsy is so sweet. But what has really struck be about this book is how different the field of medicine has become over the past 60 years. After giving birth, Marie stays in the hospital for at least a week and spends most of that time away from her baby. Karen's doctor suspected she had cerebral palsy, possibly for a long period of time, but didn't tell her parents about it until they begged him to tell them why their almost year old daughter was still laying there like an infant. There have been so many little things that just boggle my mind and make me grateful to live when I do (and that I'm healthy and so are my children).

A lovely read, perfect for lounging on the couch and enjoying the cool, rainy days we had this week!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Third Quarter Books

I'm late on this but I am a little busy what with the 2 children and the packing and moving and whatnot. Also, my reading was so slow this quarter. I kept picking up books and then not finishing them because one kid needed this and then the other kid needed that so I couldn't ever get into a book. Jones in particular is at an age where he needs me pretty much constantly and there just isn't much time to do the extras. Oh well. Some day I will read again!

28. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
Looooove. I have to admit, though, that with the exception of the desserts, I don't think I'd eat any of the recipes she shared.

29. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
Some good stuff but overall eh.

30. The First Year of Homeschooling your Child by Linda Dobson
Good resource for when you're just starting out and have no idea where to begin.

31. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath*

32. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
I renewed it as many times as I could and almost threw in the towel. I'm not sure why I had such a hard time though.

33.Homeschooling: The Early Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 3- to 8-Year Old Child by Linda Dobson
Not quite as useful for me as her other book, but still a good starting place.

34. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman*
Put me to sleep. I have no idea what that was all about.

35. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Took me a while to get into but when it ended I was sad. I spent a long time thinking about all the different ways Francie's life could have gone.

36. Matched by Ally Condie
I was in need of something fluffy. This totally fit the bill.

37. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Good but could have been better.

Gave up on:

1. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Killed me.

2. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
The dead aunt made me want to stab something.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

From Goodreads:
Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

*just a smidge spoilerish. Stay away if you want to come to the book knowing nothing.

About 10 pages in to Mockingjay I was very worried. It was weak, almost painfully so. Katniss's self-pitying navel gazing was not what I had come to expect from the Hunger Games series and I found myself slogging. I had expected to sit down and devour this in a day while neglecting my children and personal hygiene so I was really disappointed when the first chapter, only 15 pages, took me a full day to get through.

Fortunately, after a slow start in the first few chapters, Collins brings the action, which is where she really shines. Unfortunately, Mockingjay is definitely the weakest in the series. It's a fine end to the journey and with any other author I would likely be satisfied but since I know what Collins in capable of I found myself disappointed. I remember sobbing over deaths in the previous books but found myself completely dry eyed this time around and thinking, "I should be devastated over this!" but I wasn't.

Although it doesn't stand up to the previous two, there is plenty to love here. Katniss finally pulls herself together and once again becomes the reluctant hero we know and love. Finnick and many of the other supporting characters are fabulous. I really loved the ending. I kind of expected Collins to go a bit darker but I will never argue with a happily-ever-after.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


It comes out August 24th!

Only $8.45 to pre-order on Amazon. Normally I would just get it from the library but the wait list for this is going to be insane and I don't see myself waiting patiently for 6 months for it to get to me!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Original Review

I just finished Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I....didn't get it. Occasionally there would be a section that I'd be like, "Hey! I think I know what he's talking about!" and then it would lapse back into Greek and my eyes would glaze over and I'd fall asleep. Which is why 86 pages took me about 2 weeks to read.

But! My edition includes some of the poem's original reviews from 1855 when it was first published, both the positive and the not so positive. I read this one and laughed out loud:

It is impossible to imagine how any man's fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth, unless he were possessed of the soul of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love. This poet (?) without wit, but with a certain vagrant wildness, just serves to show the energy which natural imbecility is occasionally capable of under strong excitement.
-Rufus W. Griswold


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

From Goodreads:
This extraordinary work chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful - but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time. Step by careful step, Sylvia Plath takes us with Esther through a painful month in New York as a contest-winning junior editor on a magazine, her increasingly strained relationships with her mother and the boy she dated in college, and eventually, devastatingly, into the madness itself. The reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is rare in any novel. It points to the fact that The Bell Jar is a largely autobiographical work about Plath's own summer of 1953, when she was a guest editor at Mademoiselle and went through a breakdown. It reveals so much about the sources of Sylvia Plath's own tragedy that its publication was considered a landmark in literature. 

To be perfectly honest I fully expected to loathe this book.  It sounds so horribly depressing and I much prefer sunshine and rainbows.

And then I read it in one day (almost to the neglect of my children) and LOVED it.

Esther's descent into madness, to me, didn't feel dark or depressing or horrific. The way she tells her story feels a bit like someone telling you about their recent vacation. It's sort of a personal narrative with feelings and whatnot but without the darkness and dramatics you would expect from someone falling into serious mental illness.

What I really loved, though, is that Plath brought her poetry into her writing. She is probably mostly remembered for this novel, but she was first and foremost a poet and it shines through in her prose. There were a few bits I read over and over just because I loved the wording or the imagery. One of my favorites:

Marco hooked an arm around my waist and jerked me up against his dazzling white suit. Then he said, "Pretend you are drowning."

I shut my eyes, and the music broke over me like a rainstorm.

I LOVE that.

Well played, Sylvia Plath. Well played.

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child by Linda Dobson

From Goodreads:
Are you considering homeschooling for your family? Today, many parents recognize that their child's school options are limited, inadequate, or even dangerous, and an increasing number are turning to homeschooling. But where do you start and how do you ensure the highest-quality educational experience, especially in that pivotal first year?
This comprehensive guide will help you determine the appropriate first steps, build your own educational philosophy, and discover the best ways to cater to your child's specific learning style, including:
·When, why, and how to get started
·The best ways to develop an effective curriculum, assess your child's progress, and navigate local regulations
·Kid-tested and parent-approved learning activities for all age levels
·Simple strategies for developing an independent child and strengthening family and social relationships 

I have been waffling about possibly homeschooling my kids since before Wes was born. My biggest problem is just that it's overwhelming. There are so many different philosophies and curriculum and STUFF. I couldn't figure out where to even start.

I happened to grab this book just because it was there while we were waiting to watch a movie at the library. As it turns out, it was a perfect starting place. It lays out the different basic homeschooling approaches and gives an example of a day in the life of each. It's also incredibly reassuring and filled with blurbs from homeschooling parents who share their, "What I wish I had known"s. It sets realistic expectations and discusses socialization at length, which is one of my major concerns.

I was worried I wouldn't be able to read straight through since it looked like it might be exceptionally boring, but that wasn't a problem at all. As soon as I finished it I put her other book about homeschooling in the early years on hold at the library.

I did notice a bias toward the Unschooling philosophy, though, which is not necessarily a direction I'm leaning. I would have preferred a more unbiased approach but I still found this book incredibly helpful and reassuring. It's a great resource for those who are considering giving it a go and need a little help finding some direction.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Throwing in the Towel: Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

I put Jude the Obscure on my 2010 Classics To-Read list mostly because, for a couple months during my pregnancy, I was working really really hard at getting Aaron to get on board with Jude for Baby 2's name (still love it but Aaron just couldn't do it. Too much like Judy, which is a word he occasionally uses for a certain female body part).

I have been trying for weeks to read this book. I have renewed it from the library as many times as I'm allowed to but you know what?

I hate it. I gave it an honest try but it has killed my will to live and I am giving myself permission to just give up on it and return it to the library and never think of it again.

Apologies to Thomas Hardy and my friends who actually really like this one. I can't do it! I'm moving on.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

From Goodreads:
This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali.

As the book is divided into three parts I will likewise divide my review in three.

In theory Elizabeth went to Italy to eat herself silly and pursue pleasure for 3 months. I was hoping this section would be like Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life where she'd be like, "This thing happened, and I felt like this, but there was food! Let me tell you all about the food!" and you get to vicariously eat amazing things. Instead, Gilbert spends much of the first third of the book telling her back story and being like, "blah blah divorce, blah blah depression, blah blah loneliness." Every once in a while she'd delve into a glorious description of the FOOD and I'd perk up and be like, "FINALLY! Tell me alllll about the pizza! And the pasta! And sweet heavens, please describe the desserts!" And then she'd go back to whining.

Eat: FAIL.

However, I loved the following concept from the Italy section:
"...every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people's thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought might be--that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don't really belong there."

The man who explains this concept to her says that Rome's word is SEX. The Vatican's should be FAITH but instead it is POWER. They decide New York's word is ACHIEVE and LA's is SUCCEED. I loved pondering this concept, trying to come up with words for my city, my family, and my self.

The Italy section took me several days to read but the India section I easily plowed through in one evening. It was easily my favorite part of the book. I absorbed her talk of Yoga, enlightenment and meditation like a sponge, comparing and contrasting to my own faith and beliefs. I was completely fascinated and surprised by how much was compatible with my own belief system. I'm still not real tempted to run off to an Ashram, but I was fascinated nonetheless.

I especially loved when she discusses the concept of the turiya state, which is a state of constant bliss. She says,
"...most of us have been there, too, if only for fleeting moments. Most of us, even if only for two minutes in our lives, have experienced at some time or another an inexplicable and random sense of complete bliss, unrelated to anything that was happening in the outside world. One instant you're just a regular Joe, schlepping through your mundane life, and then suddenly--what is this?--nothing has changed, yet you feel stirred by grace, swollen with wonder, overflowing with bliss. Everything--for no reason whatsoever--is perfect."

As I read that I went, "I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT SHE'S TALKING ABOUT." And that made me happy.

This is also the section of the book where Gilbert stops feeling sorry for herself, and I always like when that happens.

Pray: WIN

This section was just sort of...there. She was supposed to spend her time in Bali discovering how to balance the things she learned in the previous two countries and I suppose she did but I was just kind of bored by it all. At this point I was plowing through just to finish. Also, file under Things I Never Never Never Needed to Know About Anyone: the things you fantasize about while taking care of your own business. She mentioned Bill Clinton and I wanted to vomit.

However, I did love the description of the "baby ceremony." Apparently the Balinese revere babies under 6 months of age as minor deities and therefore do not let them touch the floor. At six months they hold a fancy little ceremony where the baby's feet are finally allowed to touch the ground and they are "welcomed to the human race." It's such a sweet idea and Gilbert describes the ceremony in wonderful detail.

Love: EH.

So we've got one Fail, one Win, one Eh. If I could give half stars on Goodreads I'd give it 2 1/2 out of 5 but I can't so I was nice and gave it 3 instead. The whole idea of the book really appeals but I felt like, aside from the India portion and the parts I mentioned liking, it generally fell flat.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Second Quarter Books

Oh my, another quarter already? My reading is...kind of sad. Only 11 books. Yikes. I'm halfway through the year and only just over 30% done with my to-read list. It's not looking good, folks. I just don't have the time for reading that I used to!

*Starred books are from my 2010 to-read list of classics.

17. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit*
I hate to say it but I kind of liked the movie better

18. The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor
So fun. As are all his novels.

19. Run for Your Life by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Standard James Patterson with a little added light heartedness courtesy of the main character's TEN children.

20. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
Fun historical chick-lit

21. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw*
I so love this.

22. An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde*
I just love his plays. This one was no exception.

23. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Wow, I REALLY loved this.

24. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell*
Pretty much my new favorite book.

25. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle*
I was surprised by how much I loved this. I'll probably pick up the next one at some point.

26. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde*
I wish I could have known Oscar Wilde. His plays are so witty and fabulous and I just love them.

27. One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
Looooved. Criiiiied!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

From Goodreads:

Sometimes only remembered for the epic motion picture and "Frankly ... I don't give a damn," Gone with the Wind was initially a compelling and entertaining novel. It was the sweeping story of tangled passions and the rare courage of a group of people in Atlanta during the time of Civil War that brought those cinematic scenes to life. The reason the movie became so popular was the strength of its characters--Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler, and Ashley Wilkes--all created here by the deft hand of Margaret Mitchell, in this, her first novel. 

This was the longest. book. ever. And I loved it so much that I was STILL sad when it ended.

Where do you even start with a book like Gone with the Wind? With how amazingly fabulous and vibrant and well drawn the characters are? Or with how you were constantly amazed at how perfectly the movie went with the book? Or how in love you are with Rhett Butler? Or how just generally AWESOME the whole thing is??

I both love and hate Scarlett. I love her because she's strong and a survivor and I hate her because it took her 1000 pages to let go of stupid Ashley Wilkes. Paul Newman once said of staying true to Joanne Woodward, "Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?" Dude. Ashley Wilkes is hamburger. Rhett! There is your steak, my friend. Swoooon.

Character awesomeness aside, it was fun to suddenly side with the South during the Civil War. History class can only help you understand so much. I remember learning about how the South was fighting to preserve their way of life and I sort of got that but it was reading about how much things changed from that first barbeque at Twelve Oaks to trying to keep Tara afloat to the fall of the "Old Guard" that really drove it home to me. I even sympathized with the South. I GOT why the Civil War was so devastating. Finally. I'm a little slow.

There are few books I bother buying because, hi, that's what the library is for. But this? This I must own. It's one of those books that totally sucks you in and spits you out emotionally drained and a little dazed because, whoa.

I'm now going to go watch the movie. And then I'm going to read it again.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

From Goodreads:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger.
Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. 

The Help, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society before it, got a lot of buzz that for some reason had me assured that I would not care for it. I am so weird that way, but I just think they are never going to live up to the hype. And then I'm all surprised when they do.

My sister got it for my mom for Mother's Day and I was at their house and needed a book to read while nursing and it was just THERE so..I read the first chapter. And I totally stole it so I could finish it.

There was so much in this book that could have gone wrong, like the changing narrators or the southern accents (they can be so hard to read when written phonetically), but none of that tripped me up. I love that it was about race relations during a particularly volatile time in America's history but was also about women and the relationships we have with one another. It was both funny and heartbreaking. And generally really impressive for a debut novel.

I want the three narrators to be my neighbors and we'll be the type of friends who always leave their back doors unlocked in case there is gossip or cooking to be shared and I will gain 50 pounds because they deep fry everything. I just loved them.

I think my favorite part was when two white women are "worried about" another friend whom they believe is mixed up in the civil rights movement. "The racists," they whisper fearfully, "They're out there!" But one of those women is probably the most racist character in the book. I thought that small scene summed up so much in such a small interaction and Stockett does really well with those kinds of details.

 Just a generally awesome book.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

From Wikipedia:

Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech. The play is a sharp lampoon of the rigid British class system of the day and a comment on women's independence, packaged as a romantic comedy.

Who DOESN'T love this story?? It's been a long time since I've seen My Fair Lady but now I'm itching to rent it.

Pygmalion is just a fantastic play. There's a quote on the back cover of the copy I got from the library that really sums it up for me:

[George Bernard Shaw is] The most influential writer of his age...His plays can scarcely prove other than lastingly delightful since they are the product of vigorous intelligence joined to inexhaustible comic invention.
-J.I.M. Stewart in the Oxford History of English Literature

Exactly. It's witty and funny and the characters are so likeable and the whole thing is generally delightful. And I can't read it without singing, "Just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait!" which just improves the experience. This one goes on my hypothetical favorites list.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

From Goodreads:

Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard's Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon's invasion.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation's identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?

 I think it's kind of funny that all the descriptions of this book focus on Eloise when she's hardly in the book at all. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation focuses the vast majority of its 450 pages on Amy Balcourt and Richard Selwick, fictional historical characters contemporary and associated with the (also fictional) Scarlet Pimpernel in the early 1800s.

I haven't had a whole lot of luck with historical fiction in the last year. Most of what I've picked up has been mediocre to downright painful. I attributed this to my own personal preferences since Janssen loved A Curse Dark as Gold and Ten Cents a Dance while I thought they were...not good.

So I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Perhaps it's because this is thoroughly a quick-read love story in historical fiction's clothing. It's not trying to teach you anything about Napoleonic France or tell the story of how Bonaparte tried to invade England through fictional characters (although, a little more historical stuff would have been fun), it just revels in its lovey-dovey-ness while occasionally throwing in a name you know from history class. It's much more chick-lit-y than historical fiction-y.

My one complaint (and it's a biggie) is that it occasionally veers into..ahem...romance territory. If you know what I mean. Love scenes in any genre make me twitchy but in books they're especially bad and this book is no exception.

Romance scenes aside, it's a great beach read. Or middle-of-the-night-nursing read. Whichever.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor

From Goodreads:
In this incredibly fast-paced thriller, a conspiracy hatched close to the Oval Office results in the kidnapping of the president and the slaughter of a company of Secret Service agents commanded by ex-Navy SEAL Scot Harvath. The story careers from the ski slopes of Utah to the top of Switzerland's Mount Pilatus and sets Scot on an impossible mission: recover the president, evade renegade Swiss spy Gerhard Miner and his cadre of trained agents, and elude the American conspirators who are hot on his trail. Framed for murder, his reputation in tatters, his former colleagues turned against him, Harvath finds an unlikely ally in a beautiful Swiss prosecutor who's been checkmated by Miner once too often. Together they play a high-stakes game of mixed "doubles" to save the president and uncover the conspiracy. Brad Thor's debut novel is a tightly wound spy tale that makes up in excitement what it lacks in subtlety and character development.

Ah, Brad Thor. My dad loves his stuff so I've picked up a few of his novels since they're always laying around my parents' house.

Brad Thor novels are pretty much 24 in book form. Scot Harvath might as well be Jack Bauer. They are both agents doing classified government work. They are both always right about everything. They both must always go rogue at some point. They both always say, "With all due respect," when they are about to tell the president or some other high ranking official that they're stupid or crazy or both. They both get the crap beat out of them on a regular basis yet still manage to scale mountains/beat people senseless/save the world fresh off their deathbeds. And they're both awesome.

This isn't exactly the most intellectual of reading but it is so fun. I've loved all the Brad Thor novels I've picked up and I know I'll happily borrow any others I find on my dad's desk. They're fast paced and full of twists and the guy gets the girl and and the bad guy goes down hard. What's not to like?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

First Quarter Books

My reading dropped off a TON during the first quarter of this year. I blame the third trimester of pregnancy plus the fact that I'm now nannying 30 hours a week and between the two I'm exhausted and going to bed at 7:30 every night. There goes all my reading time! Hopefully I can kick it up a notch in the second quarter..I'm kind of embarrassed by my piddling 16 books! Maybe being up at odd hours with a newborn will give me a little more time to dig into my list for the year.

1. Super Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte*
Wanted to love more

3. These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
Could not love more

4. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton*
It took me forever to pick this one up but once I got around to it I couldn't put it down. So much depth and feeling and I wish I could have read it with a class so I could have been part of a discussion about all of it because I know there's so much there that I'm missing.

5. East by Edith Pattou
Good but really long.

6. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Also good but really long.

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*
Loved it, got bored in the middle, had to look up the rest of the story on Wikipedia to get myself interested in the last 14 chapters, then loved it again.

8. Night by Elie Wiesel*
Short but incredible. So much better than The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

9. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson*
So great. Almost as good as the Muppet movie!

10. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood*
Wow, I really hated this book.

11. Matilda by Roald Dahl*
I LOVED this book. And after The Handmaid's Tale it was so nice to read such a wonderful bit of loveliness.

12. Persuasion by Jane Austen*
That contented puddle of sighing mush on the floor? Is me. I freaking loved this book.

13. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder*
I expected to like this a lot more than I did.

14. The BFG by Roald Dahl*
Not quite as charming as Matilda and James and the Giant Peach but still lovely.

15. The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Nice and fluffy.

16. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling*
I was kind of disappointed by how boring I found this one. The story makes for such fantastic movies

*from my 2010 classics list

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

When Janssen came to visit last weekend she brought me an extra ARC she had of The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller (coming out in August). I haven't read anything in like a month so I was excited to have some nice fluffy YA reading to plow through and hopefully get me back into the swing of things.

(I get a bit spoilerish at the end so I marked that paragraph with **. If you don't want me to spoil any of the book for you just skip that part)

From Goodreads:
What if love refused to die?

Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves¸ before all is lost and the cycle begins again. 

 ARCs are kind of funny to read because there are always typos and it always kills me and then I remember that they will likely be fixed by the time the book is actually released. So I always end up having issues with ARCs that are kind of irrelevant. So yes, there were typos. A lot of them, actually. But most if not all will be gone by August and I need to get over it.

 The story itself was just what I was looking for. A fairly easy and light read with a nice little love story that didn't feel completely recycled from ten thousand love stories before it. I thought the reincarnation stuff was kind of fun and I loved that I was still rather unsure about who to trust until close to the end (although some of it was obvious and I was like WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO HIM?? and then I'd smack myself in the forehead).

**One thing I really didn't care for was the element of evil. I loved that Snope City was one of those crazy religious bible belt places and of course there needed to be an element of opposition, but the bad guy didn't need to actually be Satan himself. It felt a bit off kilter with the rest of the book when any number of bad guys or even the grandmother would have served just fine. Also, I didn't love the ending but I think that particular resolution was necessary just because it's a YA book. Had it been an adult book or, you know, real life, it probably wouldn't have turned out quite so neat and happy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I'm ashamed to say that my sole knowledge of Treasure Island comes from the muppet version. And I happen to LOVE that movie, which is part of the reason I added the book to my list.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it off-screen. It's a fairly quick read but full of adventure and swashbuckling and general awesomeness. Long John Silver (who was so well embodied by Tim Curry in the muppet version that I couldn't envision him any other way throughout the book) is such a perfect villain. Charming, with a real streak of humanity, and a sort of shifty-eyed-ness that makes it so you're never really sure which way he's leaning.

I listened to the book on Playaway which I think was the way to go. I wasn't tripped up by all the sailing terms like some of the reviewers on Goodreads mentioned and all the pirates had appropriately pirate-y voices. Plus the narrator was a good one, and that always makes such a difference.

It didn't even occur to me when I added Treasure Island to my 2010 Classics List that it might also be a fitting addition to my Boy List. But, by golly, I am really looking forward to listening to this one again with my boys in a few (ten) years.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

From the back cover:
For Kivrin, preparing for on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructions in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be retrieved.
But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin-barely of age herself-finds she has become and unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.
*A bit spoilerish. Proceed with caution

I had never even heard of Connie Willis, but apparently she's Kind Of A Big Deal in the sci-fi world. I picked up Doomsday Book as research for my own novel but it took me a really long time to get around to picking it up because, at 578 pages, I found it a bit daunting. And I had never bothered to look up a review so I had no idea if it was even a halfway decent book.

It's a really good book. The author spent five years researching and writing and the depth of her research shows. The descriptions of medieval life (and death) are rich and realistic. Her characters are vibrant and her main characters are well rounded. The really minor characters do tend to be one dimensional (and sometimes a bit like broken records) but it's a minor quibble.

The plot delves into "the ageless isues of evil, suffering, and the indomitable will of the human spirit" (from the back cover) in a way that doesn't sugarcoat or pretty up harsh realities or try to find meaning in something beyond human understanding. Part of me wants to say that this book has a dark streak, but really? It's not so much dark as realistic. *The last half of the book consists of a lot of people dying of the plague and all the nastiness that goes along with that. And, considering how many times I've learned and read about the plague, I was surprised to realize that this was the first time I felt any pity for its victims (I am apparently dead inside). Willis spares no one who honestly should have died. There are no miracles, no deus ex machina, just reality (you know...aside from the time travel bit). It's depressing but strangely refreshing.

This book isn't one I'd universally recommend. Willis could have used an editor who was a bit more liberal with the red pen and I could see some readers getting bored, but it totally sucked me in. Research-wise, it wasn't as useful as I had hoped, but still one that was definitely worth reading.

Monday, January 11, 2010


My plan for finishing the vast majority of the books in my classics list is to listen to them. I like fast reads, which many of these are not. I know me and I know I'll have a hard time making myself sit down and plow through them, so having someone else read them to me while I do other productive stuff gives me a much better chance of actually working my way through the list.

Right about the first of the year I put The Outsiders and Jane Eyre on cd on hold at the library. They came a few days later and I picked them up, transferred all 5 cds of The Outsiders to my iTunes, then transferred it all to my iPhone. Then I got out my headphones and went to work on the bathrooms. Except apparently the cds were badly scratched and about 2 chapters in the book became unlistenable. The same was true for Jane Eyre I was very annoyed.

And so I shunned cds and returned to my beloved Playaways.

Hopefully you've heard of Playaways, but it not, they're pretty much the greatest thing ever. It's a pre-loaded audio player. It's like an ipod devoted to just one book that you can check out, use your own headphones, and return. No transferring to a device or switching cds or anything. It can't get scratched and it's small enough to easily fit in your pocket if you're running or working around the house or whatever.

Plus, if the narrator is kind of a slow talker you can actually speed up the play a bit. When I listened to one of Rick Riordan's Lightning Thief books on Playaway last year I LOVED the narrator but he spoke really slowly. So I sped him up and thoroughly enjoyed my listening experience.

Unfortunately, there are a couple downsides. The first is that the audio quality is not great. The first one I ever listened to was Sense and Sensibility and the audio quality was so bad at first I almost couldn't listen. It seemed to improve after the first chapter but it was still not awesome. Every one I've had since then has been of varying clarity and quality.

The second downside is that there is limited availability of books right now. The concept is fairly new so they're still releasing books and libraries are still acquiring them. I looked for several books on my list on Playaway and either they haven't been released or my library doesn't carry them yet. However, every time I check my library has more and more so it's possible that many of the books I'd like to listen to will be available by the end of the year (if not I'll just read them the old fashioned way).

I've still got one book on cd in the car for when I'm driving around (which isn't often. It will take me forever to work through that one), but for the most part I've devoted myself to Playaways.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

From Goodreads:

In a compelling fiction debut, Nancy E. Turner's unforgettable These Is My Words melds the sweeping adventures and dramatic landscapes of Lonesome Dove with the heartfelt emotional saga of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.

Inspired by the author's original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questing, indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s. As a child, a fiery young woman, and finally a caring mother, Sarah forges a life as full and as fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes and our grandest dreams. She rides Indian-style and shoots with deadly aim, greedily devours a treasure trove of leatherbound books, downs fire, flood, Comanche raids and other mortal perils with the unique courage that forged the character of the American West.

Rich in authentic details of daily life and etched with striking character portraits of very different pioneer families, this action-packed novel is also the story of a powerful, enduring love between Sarah and the dashing cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. Neither the vast distances traveled nor the harsh and killing terrains could quench the passion between them, and the loss and loneliness both suffer only strengthen their need for each other.

While their love grows, the heartbreak and wonder of the frontier experience unfold in scene after scene: a wagon-train Sunday spent roasting quail on spits as Indians close in to attack; Sarah's silent encounter with an Indian brave, in which he shows her his way of respect; a dreadful discovery by a stream that changes Sarah forever; the hazards of a visit to Phoenix, a town as hot as the devil's frying pan; Sarah's joy in building a real home, sketching out rooms and wraparound porches.

Sarah's incredible story leads us into a vanished world that comes vividly to life again, while her struggles with work and home, love and responsibility resonate with those every woman faces today. These Is My Words is a passionate celebration of a remarkable life, exhilarating and gripping from the first page to the last.

Oh my word is this ever a five star book. Janssen reviewed it on her blog a while ago and then told me that I needed to ignore the painful title and get reading. It took me a while, but I finally got around to it and holy heavens, I freaking loved this book.

I loved the evolution of Sarah's writing as she got a little older and more educated through her reading. I loved her gumption and grit and passion. I loved the verisimilitude and the fact that her whole story took place not too far from where I live now so I could totally picture the ranch and the cholla and the flooding from the rains and all of that. I loved that I could relate to her teenage angst as well as her later trials as a mother. I love that, even though she looked at her sister-in-law as the type of person she'd like to be, I looked at her as the type of person I'D like to be.

I loved the love story. LOVED the love story. Like I wanted to grab Aaron and be like, "YOU BE JACK ELLIOT AND I'LL BE SARAH" except he would have been really confused and wandered off with a slightly scared look in his eye. Plus I know nothing about cattle ranching, but you know what I mean. Maybe.

Anyway, this is one of those that when people ask me what to read I will throw this book at them as fast as I can and tell them to get cracking. It's beautifully written and heart warming and rending and one of those that just sticks with you because it is just that good. And then makes you bawl at the end because that's what good books do.

These is My Words easily waltzes its way into my top ten.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Goodreads description is not actually a description of the book, so if you'd like a synopsis you can find a good one here on the Wikipedia page.

I wanted to like this one so much more than I did. I mean, it's WUTHERING HEIGHTS, a book that must be discussed only in tones of hushed reverence with proper respect.

And really, it was fine, just not amazing. The writing itself is exceptional but I struggled with the story. I never felt an ounce of love or admiration or anything positive for Catherine or Heathcliff. They were pitiful, self-involved creatures and Heathcliff was just plain violent and nasty. What is there to like?? Their only redeeming attribute was their love for one another and it's hardly portrayed at all before moving on to all the death and vengeance and whatnot. And, except for Hindley, none of Heathcliff's victims deserved what they got, especially since he mostly went after the innocent children of his supposed tormenters. I just felt like there was so little to redeem the story.

A major part of the problem here is one of incorrect expectations. Wuthering Heights is so often portrayed as a love story but it really is not a love story at all. Like .0126 of the story is anything to do with love while the rest is about violence and abuse and weakness and revenge. Sure, all this comes about because of love, but it is not a love story. And I sort of knew that but I still expected more than there actually was.

I did enjoy the ending though. Heathcliff (spoiler alert) really really needed to just die. I was so done with him. And I was glad that Cathy and poor Hareton had a happy ending. It left a better taste in my mouth there at the end than I was expecting. It would be even better if that obnoxious servant Joseph died at some point as well. Every time he opened his mouth I skipped over what he said because a. it was unintelligible and b. he never had anything of worth to say.

I can see why this book is a classic though. The story is haunting and the writing is beautiful. The setting is stark and unforgettable. The 1939 film adaptation is one of my mom's favorites and I'm looking forward to watching it. Probably not a book I'll read again though.

What I Read in 2009

First quarter:

1. Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson
Awesome book but a slow read. Recommend.

2. Specials by Scott Westerfield
The third book in the series, all of which I recommend.

3. The Snake, the Crocodile & the Dog by Elizabeth Peters
I love this series as well, but they do tend to be kind of long.

4. Head Start with the Book of Mormon by Vicki Lynn Rasmussen
A little book to help you teach your child to read while also teaching them to read the BoM.

5. Lord of the Silent by Elizabeth Peters
See #3

6. The Quickie by James Patterson
Standard James Patterson fare.

7. You've Been Warned by James Patterson
The first time I've met a James Patterson I didn't like. It messed with my head in a not good way.

8. Jacob Have I loved by Katherine Patterson
Never had to read this in elementary school and I really enjoyed it.

9. Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

10. Rollerskates by Ruth Sawyer

11. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
An improvement over #s 9 and 10

12. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Oh Sarah Dessen. You speak to the 15 year old me. Janssen and I both pretty much want to marry this book.

13. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Loved this SD as well.

14. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Another one most people got to read in elementary but not me. I loved it. Short but very sweet.

15. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Another sweet SD.

16. That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Least favorite SD.

17. The Goodbyes of Magnus Marmalade
A favorite from my mom's childhood and one I still very much enjoy.

18. Favorite Poems to Read Aloud
Another of my mom's. Love!

19. Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
To quote Janssen, "Perfect YA romance fluff."

20. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Oh man, I LOVED this. Dying for the next one.

21. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

22. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

23. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
Another good one by SD

24. The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
Catherine Called Birdy was one of my favorite books in elementary school so I'm surprised it's taken me this long to read The Midwife's Apprentice. I loved it.

25. The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters
Yet another in the Amelia Peabody series.

26. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
LOVE. Everything I want from a book. Going to pick up the next one (City of Ashes) TODAY and am annoyed that I let Aaron take the car so I can't go get it RIGHT NOW.

27. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Yes. Again. Don't judge.

28. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Still judging me, aren't you.

29. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Shut up.

30. City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
Enjoyable. The next one is at the library waiting for me right beside City of Ashes.

31. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
A really hard read. Short, but emotionally devastating. Kind of surprised that this is YA because the content is fairly adult (rape and abuse).

32. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
I listened to this on CD as Janssen suggested and loved every minute of it.

Second quarter:

1. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Short and so sweet. I read this aloud to Wes.

2. Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
The short and sweet follow up to Love That dog. I seriously loved both of them.

3. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Fun read but a tad long and slow in parts. My brother insists that the other books in the trilogy aren't nearly as good and I'm debating whether or not it's worth finishing the series.

4. People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
Yawn. City of Ember was decent but I had to force myself to finish People of Sparks. It took me far longer than most books because I just couldn't get myself to pick it up.

5. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Spent the first 3/4 annoyed at how confused I was and then the last 1/4 bawling because it was so beautiful and wonderful and bittersweet. There's a lot to this book and no room for me to write it. If you want, read Janssen's review here.

6. Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
I was prepared to love this but was actually kind of bored.

7. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Enjoyable, but a little slow in some parts.

8. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Pretty standard SD.

9. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Third in the trilogy and still so wonderful, which is rather rare. I never thought of myself as one who could even tolerate fantasy, but I have really loved this series.

10. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

The back cover of this book describes it as "heartachingly beautiful" and I'd have to agree. Bawled my way through the second half. Really well done.

11. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Excellent summer reading.

12. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce

I really wanted to like this book but I was hating life while trying to finish. Too slow for my taste. The middle just about killed my will to live and when someone said the word "mill" in conversation after I finished I actually flinched.

13. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
I just kind of plow through his fiction in order to get to his autobiographical stuff. The stories about his French class trying to use their limited vocabulary to describe Easter and his experience learning about the Dutch concept of Santa Claus were hysterical. His fictional short stories, not so much.

14. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Really enjoyed it except for the fact that the main male character was named Po (gag). But I can see why it won awards and got a bunch of 4 and 5-stars on Goodreads. Strong female lead, solid story, just enough fantasy to keep things interesting.

15. Wake by Lisa McMann
I think I enjoyed this book so much simply because the writing and the concept were so novel and different. Having read as much as I have lately it's nice to experience such a change of pace. It's a lovely story and I'm looking forward to reading Fade.

16. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
Another book that I was prepared to love based on tons of rave reviews but was disappointed. Really meh.

17. Waiting for you by Susane Colasanti

I really enjoyed how there would be 3 paragraphs of The Crazy percolating around in Marisa's brain and then she'd open her mouth and out would come something perfectly normal and maybe even witty. And I was like, why does this sound familiar? Oh yes. That's my brain.

18. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
I know NOTHING about programming but was still able to hang on through the (massively simplified, I think) technobabble and really enjoy the story. A great cautionary tale, solid writing, a smidgen of romance and the ability to totally change my perception of hackers. Not too shabby.

19. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald
A hearty "meh."

20. Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
So awesome. I found myself hoping that at some point Debbie would meet Greg Mortenson and together they would save the women and children of the middle east. It hasn't happened yet, but I have faith.

21. The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death: Reflections on Revenge, Germophobia, and Laser Hair Removal by Laurie Notaro
Like reading a wonderfully well written blog full of funny and touching short snippets

22. Beauty by Robin McKinley
Some parts were really well written while some parts had me cringing. The dialogue was too clunky.

23. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Somehow I had never read this. I loved every single moment of it, obviously.

24. The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Sid Fleischman
Quick, easy and lovely.

25. Paper Towns by John Green
Really enjoyable..has depth and substance while still occasionally making me snort with laughter

26. Eldest by Christopher Paolini
Longest. audiobook. ever.

27. Phantoms of a Blood-Stained Period: The Complete Civil War Writings by Ambrose Bierce
I half loved/half slogged through this book. The battle accounts were boring to me and didn't hold my attention very well since I had a hard time imagining so-and-so's battalion on the left flank and the cannonade on the center line and blah blah blah, but I really really enjoyed the devil's dictionary and his stories. Especially the ghost-y type ones.

28. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver W. Sacks.
Totally fascinating but also a bit difficult. I felt like Sacks didn't know his audience..sometimes he'd massively simplify things and sometimes he'd go on and on in psychobabble and leave me in the dust. I am now terrified my brain will do something weird and
erase everything after 1997 or leave me thinking my feet belong to someone else.

29. Tallulah Falls by Christine Fletcher

30. Fade by Lisa McMann
Liked it every bit as much as the first. Looking forward to the 3rd.

31. Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher
A lovely little bit of fiction based on the few biblical references to the Magi.

32. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman
Slowly but surely falling in love with Sid Fleischman. I've read two of his now and thoroughly loved them both. Will definitely be reading the rest of his books.

33. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
A bit Twilight-esque. But shorter! Which was kind of nice.

34. In the Company of Whispers by Sallie Lowenstein
A good and unique read, but I can't get over my annoyance that the biggest mysteries never got explained. I know it's supposed to be all up to my imagination and all but dang it, I want answers people!

35. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Really enjoyed it. Well done.

36. Wings by Aprilynne Pike
Fine. I expected to like it more than I did though. It didn't grip me.

37. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Lovely and short. My favorite bit was in the introduction when Beedle was described as having "an exceptionally luxuriant beard" but the stories themselves and Dumbledore's notes were all sweet little additions to the world of Harry Potter.

38. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I had never read this, which I think means I no longer qualify as a girl. I loved it though and am very much looking forward to the other books in the series.

39. The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer
Good, but a smidge depressing, as futuristic distopian type novels are oft wont to be.

40. Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
Good summer chick-lit

41. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
A wonderful story about just being yourself. Looking forward to reading the sequel.

42. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The fact that Bod was the same age as Wes when his family was murdered and he wandered off to be adopted by ghosts made me want to bawl (as do all things involving babies, now that I have my own) but I very much enjoyed it

43. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss
Aside from the fact that they were shipwrecked, this was the luckiest. family. ever. If you have to be shipwrecked then be sure to end up on their island because it has everything you could ever possibly need. Great book.

44. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Fascinating and ridiculously and painfully long. A bit like your favorite science class taught by a really excellent teacher. I frequently found myself laughing out loud even though science is decidedly not my subject.

Third quarter:

1. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
I loved The Giver and had no idea that it had a companion book. I loved it.

2. The Redheaded Princess: A Novel by Ann Rinaldi
I've discovered that I love pretty much anything that has to do with Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth.

3. I Still Have It, I Just Can't Remember Where I Put It by Rita Rudner
I've always thought she was great but now I really love her. This book was clean and giggle-out-loud funny.

4. Left to Tell: Discovering God Admidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza
I don't even know what to say about this book. Heart rending. Awe inspiring. Faith promoting. Amazing. Should be required reading.

5. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Simply gorgeous writing. Because of what it is I can't really say that I enjoyed it, but I can tell you I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

6. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Really fun. Although I have this insanely strong desire to slap several of the characters.

7. Austenland by Shannon Hale
Fine, but I didn't like that the point is that it's ok to have totally unreasonable expectations because just when you think you're going to have to give up on your totally unreasonable expectations, POOF! All your dreams will come true!

8. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Totally different from Austenland..would not have guessed they were the same author. But I loved it and am excited to read Enna Burning.

9. Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Mixed feelings. One of the things I loved about the first book, Stargirl, was that Stargirl herself was sort of this crazy mystery. In Love, Stargirl it turns out that all the stuff inside her head is ridiculously normal and I couldn't decide if I loved that someone so different was so like me in her head or disappointed because she should have been crazier. The book itself was fine though.

10. Savvy by Ingrid Law
Loved. Want a savvy.

11. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
I'm not sure how I HADN'T heard of this book, considering all the awards and whatnot. But I picked it up on playaway at the library because the blurb on the back sounded good. And I loved it.

12. The Hinky Pink: An Old Tale by Megan McDonald*
Just the type of book I would have loved when I was in elementary school. Cute illustrations.

13. Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Craig Hatkoff*
Somehow I was expecting more from this book. The story is fascinating but for some reason the book felt a little...blah.

14. Kenny & The Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi*
Slow start but I loved the ending.

15. The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide (Book 1) by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black*
I didn't particularly enjoy the movie and I think that may have ruined the books for me? Not sure. Going to read a few more to see how I feel.

16. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd*
Question: Why is it that when married women need to "find themselves" in novels they must do it through an affair? Couldn't they just take up surfing or something? Novels about philandering wives make me twitchy. Decent writing but meh.

17. Tithe by Holly Black*
I need something I can relate to in fantasy novels otherwise it all just feels TOO foreign. There was nothing in this book for me to relate to and I mostly just wanted to report her mom to CPS. The second half was better than the first but I still had to push myself to finish.

18. Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline*

19. Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
I have a lot to say about this book. Very little of which is positive. I got the first three in this series for free and I'm just going to toss them. Life is too short for bad fiction.

20. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
These books are so much fun. The writing flows. The stories are strong. Just a great ride. So glad there are still 3 more in the series!

21. Fire by Kristin Cashore
Janssen kindly let me read her ARC and I pretty much loved every second of its 461 pages.

22. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Good except for it's sort of similar in feel to Fire and reading them within a day of each other got me a little confused about which characters and events belonged to which book.

23. The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Seeing Stone (Book 2) by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
I think this series might just be kind of too dark for me, much like Holly Black's Tithe. They're really short, so I'll try one more to see how I feel but I doubt I'll finish the series.

24. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Kind of meh but I am apparently one of the very few who think so. I think YA fantasy is starting to feel sort of formulaic to me maybe?

25. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Hard but beautiful but boring all at the same time.

26. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Holy mother of awesome series. I want to marry Suzanne Collins. That's legal somewhere, right?

27. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
So incredibly awesome.

28. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

29. Sorcery & Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Yet another super awesome book. Love love love.

30. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Pleasantly surprised.

31. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Deeply unsettling but awesome.

32. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Great setting and premise and a decent story. Except the girl on the cover looks like Scarlett Johansson and the main character's name was Scarlett and for some reason I couldn't get over that.

33. Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow
Rather disappointing.

34. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
I really love this series.

35. Airman by Eoin Colfer
Becoming a serious fan of Colfer's. My favorite from him thus far.

36. Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer
Amazing and riveting but also bleak and soul-crushing. I have new pity for those stuck in polygamy.

37. The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen
A nice little love story.

38. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Oh Dan Brown. Such crazy talk presented in such logical ways.

39. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Loved. A great story and a great setting.

Fourth Quarter:

1. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson
So so so good. Especially awesome since I had just been to Ford's Theater and the Peterson house, but I think anyone could enjoy it.

2. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Loved. I saw her speak at the National Book Festival and I fell in love with her and decided to read all her books and they really haven't let me down.

3. River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Loved, even though I wasn't expecting to since I hadn't loved Razo in the previous books.

4. Swimsuit by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Pretty standard James Patterson fare. Fast-paced and enjoyable.

5. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Love. Obviously. Probably my favorite of hers thus far.

6. Medina Hill by Trilby Kent
Had potential but eh. Reviewed for the book blog tour here.

7. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
It started off so slowly that I almost gave up but by the end I was intrigued. The 2nd book in the series won a Newbery, so I'd like to stick with it and see where it goes.

8. Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
Not the great American novel, but with intrigue and romance and a princess in danger, what's not to enjoy? Bonus points for being a fairly quick read.

9. The Messenger by Lois Lowry
The sequel to Gathering Blue AND the book that ties The Giver and The Messenger together.

10. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Not as awesome as the Hunger Games books but not bad for a first book. It's also geared toward a younger audience. A good addition to the boy list. I'd like the read the next one.

11. The Wyrm King: Book 3 of Beyond the Spiderwick by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Because these books are so short and tend to be kind of confusing anyway I was halfway through before I realized I was reading an entirely different series than The Spiderwick Chronicles that I had halfheartedly been working my way through. So basically I have no idea what I just read.

12. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
Continuing to love this series.

13. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
I just bawled and bawled. It's sad to read books about bad things happening to good people. It's so much worse when those bad things actually happened and many good people truly suffered. Poor Afghanistan.

14. Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this because the cover and description make it seem like a total fluff book. But it had this kind of intergalactic politics gone wonky Star Wars vibe going on and I found it all very enjoyable.

15. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
I had non stop zombie nightmares afterward. I was not man enough for this book, apparently.

16. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale
I've never read a graphic novel before so as far as I'm concerned it was just dandy.

17. Rumors (Luxe #2) by Anna Godbersen
For some reason this one just dragged for me. I flew through the first one but just couldn't get quite as in to the second one.

18. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Beautiful and charming and love.

19. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
I think this series is only getting better. I can't wait for Wes to read these when he gets older.

20. Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets and Blood Atonement by Irene Spencer
I have nothing but love for Irene Spencer. Both of her memoirs are just...above and beyond. She has the kind of personal strength I wish for myself.

21. Idlewild by Nick Sagan
This was...trippy.

22. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
So good.

23. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Finally, something that is actually worthy of her.

24. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
Amazing and horrifying at the same time.

25. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
So in love with this author.

26. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Aaron's mom pulled this off the shelf and told me it should cut in my reading line. She's usually spot on in her recommendations and she didn't disappoint with this one. Loved it.

27. M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang
Fascinating play based on a true story.

28. Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande
Not quite as awesome as his first but still really really good.

29. When Science Goes Wrong: Twelve Tales from the Dark Side of Discovery by Simon LeVay
Excellent and fascinating stories but the writing gets a tad too technical in parts and there was at least one chapter where a diagram would have really useful.

30. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
Fun little mystery. I think the best part is that it takes place in Venice and it's always fun when books take you to places like that.

I read 146 books this year and about 45,671 pages. Not too shabby!

For the new year I'll be reading the 50 classics listed in the sidebar along with whatever else strikes my fancy. The slower pace will be welcome!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Super Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

From Goodreads:

The New York Times best-selling Freakonomics was a worldwide sensation, selling over four million copies in thirty-five languages and changing the way we look at the world. Now, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with SuperFreakonomics, and fans and newcomers alike will find that the freakquel is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

Four years in the making, SuperFreakonomics asks not only the tough questions, but the unexpected ones: What's more dangerous, driving drunk or walking drunk? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it's so ineffective? Can a sex change boost your salary?

SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as:

  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
  • How much good do car seats do?
  • What's the best way to catch a terrorist?
  • Did TV cause a rise in crime?
  • What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
  • Are people hard-wired for altruism or selfishness?
  • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
  • Which adds more value: a pimp or a Realtor?

Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is – good, bad, ugly, and, in the final analysis, super freaky.

Freakonomics has been imitated many times over – but only now, with SuperFreakonomics, has it met its match.

I love books that challenge my perceptions and make me think of things in a totally new way. Both Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics do that for me. And they do it in a way that is well written and entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny (the economic impact of a pimp is referred to as the "pimpact").

And as someone who generally finds economics deathly boring and too complex (with apologies to my economics professor father-in-law)(whom I've never taken a class from) the fact that I can really get into and understand these books is a testament to their awesomeness. The authors explain economic principles in a brief, concise way that is followed up by a really memorable example that helped me go, "Ah yes, I get that now." I kind of felt the way I did when reading Bill Bryson's A Brief History of Nearly maybe I've just had the wrong professors and the stuff that made me want to throw myself out a window in college could actually be really interesting and worth delving into.

An excellent way to begin my 2010 reading.