Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December '08 Summary

This was an excellent month of reading for me! In fact, I can't remember the last time I felt this good about both the selection of books and the amount read. Here's a recap:

Books - 10 (3,048 pages)

I also started two other books (Phineas Finn, and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) but I'll count them next month since they are not finished yet.

Audiobooks 2 (20 hours)

TBR List - gained 12 books this month, and one for kiddo

Mom & Son Book Club - 1

We read and discussed Beedle the Bard - it was hit!

Challenge Updates (for more details on these, see my left side bar)

  • Signed up for a new one, The Stephenie Meyer Mini Challenge. Completed 3 of the 4 books in the series. Only two were required for the challenge but I'm not saying I'm done until I read the 4th (which will be any day now).

  • The LOST Books Challenge - read another book for this one, so there are only 2 more to go. Not sure I'll finish this by the time the new season starts, but since I haven't watched the previous season yet, I'm not too concerned.

  • The 1% Well Read Challenge - I started another book (Phineas Finn) but haven't finished it yet. It's a long one, but I'm enjoying it so far. There's NO WAY that I'll complete this challenge on time, but I'm going to continue reading until I complete my list anyway. It's been a VERY enjoyable challenge. And I WILL be participating again in 2009.

All in all, a very successful and enjoyable month for me. How 'bout you?

This should be my last post of 2008 ... Happy New Year!


by Stephenie Meyer
629 pages

Last night I finished book 3 of The Twilight Saga. This one took me longer than the first two because I actually had to go to WORK this week - ugh. And although I can sometimes read blogs and write posts while at work there is NO WAY I can hide this huge book on my desk and sneak in a few pages now and then. So unfortunately my reading time has been severely limited.

As with books 1 and 2 I'm just going to do a list of thoughts for my review. Spoilers are included, so be warned.

  • Imprisoning Bella?! Forbidding her to go to La Push? What's the deal with that?! In what world is that ever ok? And the worst part is that she UNDERSTANDS it!?!? At least she sneaks away - that was a good decision. Way to fight "the man" Bella! (not)
  • And what's more, dragging Alice into the whole imprisonment deal was a really low blow. All for a CAR? Alice, I'm disappointed in you.
  • Jasper gets more and more interesting as the books go on. I'm glad to know his story. I totally did not see THAT coming (not the Confederate soldier part NOR the vampire war part). It makes his portrayal in the movie even worse - I so do NOT see him like that!
  • Some blogger pointed out that Bella never seems to walk anywhere - how true that is. I know they're all faster than her and all, but seriously now ...
  • Ok, I don't hate Edward as much as I did in the last book. He really is quite romantic, and I loved his "old-fashionedness". And his momma's ring was a really nice touch. And yeah, I know, they really love each other. Blah, blah, blah.
  • But couldn't he have bought her a separate bracelet instead of attaching HIS gift to JACOB's gift? That was mean. I know its a whole symobology thing (her heart and her "self" is split between the two guys, just like the bracelet) but it was still mean.
  • I LOVED the scene in the tent. Oh the tension! the stress! the barely contained passion! (Ok, ok, it's more like "oh the cuddling with Jacob and rubbing it into Edward's face" but that's just me.)
  • Thank God Bella finally really kissed Jacob. Yeah!!! I was so ticked at her when I realized she wasn't kissing back at first, but then it got better. Finally!
  • Maybe I'm jumping the gun here (and PLEASE do not give me any hints either way people!) but the sci-fi/fantasy I usually read is more ... fatal, I guess is the right word. I keep waiting for a major character to get killed but that's not happening. Not that I want anyone bumped off (except maybe Edward so that Bella and Jacob could be together) but it does seem sort of unrealistic that with all the danger around them NO ONE is getting killed. Wait, did I just imply that the rest of the book is actually realistic? Someone slap me now!
I'm off to the bookstore at lunch to buy book 4. It will be my first review of 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stephenie Meyer Reading Challenge

I just saw that Becky is hosting a mini reading challenge for any of the Stephenie Meyer books. Since I'm well on my way to completing the third book I decided to sign up for it. It will feel WONDERFUL to be able to complete a challenge that quickly! I know, I know, it's like cheating since I've already started reading, but the challenge has been going on for months and doesn't end until Jan. 30, 2009 - I'm guaranteed to complete this one!

Oh, and a quick funny story ... over Christmas I got to see my 14 yr old cousin who just finished reading all the Twilight books. Can I tell you how much fun it was to gush with her over them?! Ridiculous, but fun. We ARE on opposing sides though ... she can't stand Jacob and he's my absolute favorite. But I guess I have to forgive her for that, since she was the flower girl in my wedding 10 yrs ago (I think that gives her a free pass). :)

One more thing - I'm sorry about all the incorrect grammar and other errors in my last few posts. I was trying to get them up quickly (in between doing actual work) and didn't proofread at all ... OH THE HORROR!

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Moon

New Moon
by Stephenie Meyer
608 pages

Again, I’m trying to catch up on a few reviews and since it seems that everyone who is interested has already read the Twilight books I think a bulleted list will suffice for my review. Warning: If you don’t want to know what anything that happens in this book, don’t read this review!

  • Bella is pathetic. Obsessed and pathetic. I can’t believe she fell for Edward’s lie. She needs a hard slap and a healthy dose of self esteem.
  • I really can’t stand Edward. Did he seriously think that would fix anything at all?! I’ve lost all respect for him.
  • I really liked the way that Meyer showed time passing near the start of the book. It was creative and saved us from page and pages of boringness.
  • I am totally in love with Jacob! Forget everything I said about the actor who played him in the movie – I don’t care about that anymore. You girls can have Edward - I’d happily take Jacob over him any day.

  • Could we PLEASE have Bella kiss Jacob for goodness sake?! I mean, the poor guy! I’m happy to step in and show her how it’s done.
  • Part of me was hoping that Edward would get killed. Then Bella could run back to Jacob and he could console her.
  • I liked this book MUCH MUCH MUCH better than the first book.

I was supposed to be waiting for my friend to buy this book for me but I just couldn’t wait. I bought it on Saturday afternoon, read 150 pages while at my in-laws after dinner, went to bed at 11:30pm and read until 3am (275 pages), only stopped because I finally came to a place that was someone reasonable to stop at, then got up an hour early for church so I could read some more. If it had been a Friday night (meaning I didn’t have to get up for church in the morning), I would have read straight through to the end and not stopped at 3am. I literally could not put this book down. I get nauseous reading in the car but I read all the way to church on Sunday morning (yes, hubby was driving). I can’t remember reading any book this obsessively in a very, very long time. Bring on book three!


by Stephenie Meyer
544 pages

Since everyone and their mother seems to have read this book already I'm not going to write a full "review". Plus I need to write and post several other reviews before Wednesday so that's another reason to keep this short. I think a bulleted list will suffice ...
  • I'm not a fan of Young Adult books in general (not when I was younger, and not now) and this book didn't really change my opinion. The writing isn't great but it IS a page turner.
  • Am I addicted? YES!
  • Do I totally love Edward? YES!
  • I'd already seen (and reviewed) the movie so there wasn't much suspense for me.
  • Speaking of the movie, I liked Jasper MUCH better in the book. And Rosalie should have been much prettier in the movie ... although they did get her attitude right.

  • Midnight Sun was MUCH better than this book. Edward's storytelling is far preferable to Bella's. If I had read Twilight before seeing the movie and reading Midnight Sun, I might not have continued reading this series.

  • I don't see why everyone complains about Bella all that much ... she's really not that bad (so far into the series, at least).

  • In reference to the point above: HOWEVER ... at the end of the book I read the teaser for book two and wanted to smack Bella.
I know tons of people have reviewed this book. Feel free to post a link to yours in the comments, but I'm not going to add the links to the post itself - I'm sure the list would be longer than my actual post. :) But there IS one I want to link to, simply because it made me laugh out loud and because it sheds a "different" light on this book. But be warned, this reviewer is NOT a fan ...

My Sick-On-The-Couch Movie List

Sorry for the long absence here. First kiddo was down with the flu, then Christmas arrived, then I got tonsillitis (of all things!) complete with a VERY high fever that kept me on the couch for 24 hours. I was too sick even to read … *GASP* … so I spent the day watching movies. Here was the line up:
  • Hairspray (the musical) – had never seen it, enjoyed it more than I expected to
  • Oceans Thirteen – had never seen it, enjoyed it just like the other “Ocean” movies
  • break for a nap
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – watched it for the 2nd time, still just as moving as the first time – BONUS: it is based on a true story and the main character wrote several books … they’re going on my TBR list!
  • Ghost Rider – had never seen it, enjoyed it, especially since I love that song
  • break to make a bowl of soup
  • Last of the Mohican’s – Director’s Cut – I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this, but the Director’s Cut had 12 extra scenes! Besides, this is a movie I can watch over and over again

I was able to read the next day and I have several book reports to post within the next day or two. Hopefully I can catch up on all of YOUR blogs as well!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's on YOUR Nightstand? (the Dec. '08 edition)

It's that time again, time for the once-monthly "What''s on your nightstand?" carnival! And just in time for Christmas too. So here we go ...

*** With Me Wherever I Go ***

Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer - yes, I know, I'm late to hop on the bandwagon here! But I HAVE seen the movie (*sigh*) and I HAVE read Midnight Sun (*fluttering heart*) and I am embarrassingly addicted to this series. I breezed through the first 140 page last night before kiddo's flu turned into the throwing up kind. I wasn't reading much after that, needless to say. But on the bright side, kiddo being sick means that we can't go to several holiday parties which means more time for me to read - YES! (Really, I'm not that callous - poor kiddo is SO sick, it is just miserable at our house.)

*** On my desk at work ***

Phineas Finn, by Anthony Trollope - I've only just started this one - I'm reading it for the 1% Well Read Challenge (see my left sidebar for details)

PG Wodehouse: The Jeeves Collection - this is the BBC's radio dramatization of several Jeeves tales - I've been listening off and on at work, but I'm not enjoying this version as much as the regular audio versions that I've listened to lately

365 Nights: A Memoir of IntimacyBulleted List, by Charla Muller - a memoir of a woman who gave her 40 yr old husband a birthday gift of sex every day for a year - I haven't started reading this one yet (yes, it is still sitting there, just like in LAST MONTH's post)

*** In my bed ***

Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan - this is the audio version on cd, and it's book 11 in the series - I've been listening every night before bed (for more on this, see my left sidebar and my comments on The Wheel of Time)

*** Near my couch

The Ark, The Reed, and the Fire Cloud, by Jenny Cote - this is what I'm reading with kiddo now - it's the story of Noah's ark told from the point of view of the animals and it's great! Kiddo loves it so far. It's over 400 pages though, so I think it will take us a long time to get through it. (Yes, this is exactly what I wrote about this book last month. We HAVE been reading, but not that much unfortunately.)

Those are MY books ... what about yours? Join in the fun here or post your list in the comments. Happy reading!

Outwitting History

Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books
by Aaron Lansky
312 pages

While in grad school in the 1970s Aaron Lansky decides to learn Yiddish. Unfortunately for him, Yiddish books aren't exactly easy to come by. Suddenly he gets an idea - why not ask people to donate their books for college students to use? What began as a simple idea turned into a race against time to preserve Yiddish books for future generations.

Let me tell you right now - I LOVED this book. I couldn't get into it at first and I actually put it down for a few weeks, but once I read the first few chapter I was hooked.

To put it simply, Outwitting History is Lansky's love letter to books, specifically Yiddish books. But it is more than that; it is his love letter to a culture and a language that, in its original form, is disappearing before his eyes. (For a better summary of the book, click here.)

Lansky is ultimately successful in preserving 1.5 million Yiddish books. That's a great achievement, to be sure. However, what really struck me while reading was not his successes and failures, but rather the personal connections he made with the older generation of Jews.

You see, when he first asked for book donations, he expected to arrive at a home, pick up a box of books, then leave. What happened was very different. Upon arrival he would be welcomed in like a long-lost relative. Food would be served in abundance and conversation would ensue. Only after getting to know him better would the elderly Jews bring out their precious books. They would hand the books to Lansky one at a time, explaining the history of each book - how they came to own it, what it meant in their lives, and so on. Each visit had the potential to last for hours. These people were passing on their lives, their cultural inheritance, to the only person who wanted it. In most cases their children didn't speak Yiddish, nor were they interested in hearing about the past. But Lansky (and later, his colleagues) took his job seriously and did his best to soak in the stories and the history.

For me, this is so very similar to what I do with my grandparents. I want to know what they have to say, what their lives were like, everything about them. Maybe that's why I connected with this book so much. I think it is more than that though. The idea of a culture or a language passing into oblivion is horrifying to me. I admire Lansky for his commitment to do what he could to stop that from happening.

My copy of this book includes a reader's guide too. If your book club is interested in non-fiction, this would make an excellent choice. In my book club, this would have been a flop, unfortunately. But I highly recommend it - if it sounds even slightly interesting to you, go read it!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lovely Links #8

In this 8th edition of Lovely Links we're taking a trip through time and even through other worlds - enjoy!

  • Audio recordings from WWI-era England are now available for your listening pleasure. These recordings were made by one family and include family updates, songs, and other messages. The compilation is very short but eerily fascinating to listen to. We're hearing voices of people born between 1850 and 1904!
  • A 2,000 year old Greek computer? Yup, that's right. Check out this explanation and video - amazing!
  • Coming soon to a Colosseum near you, the Gladiators! Well, sort of.
  • Ever wish you could live in a fantasy world like Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter? Think you life is a bit boring? Here's how to add some fantasy to your own world and be prepared for whatever quest may come your way.
  • In the same vein, here's what to do if you find suddenly find yourself thrust into a Renaissance drama!
  • And finally, a fascinating 5 minute video overview of the amazing changes in information technology and other interesting facts.

Showing Off My Nerdiness ...

I've already confessed that I'm (ashamedly) addicted to the whole Twilight phenomenon.* Now I'm telling you how much I'm looking forward to the new Star Trek movie. Check out this trailer! (For those in Google Reader, you may have to come over to my blog to see it.)

So now you know the truth - I'm a total nerd for sci-fi stuff!

And, I'm very saddened to add, Majel Barrett Rodenberry, the talent behind Nurse Chapel, Lwaksana Troi, and the everpresent voice of the Enterprise's computer, passed away recently. You can read more about her here. She provided the computer's voice in this latest Star Trek movie as well; I'm so glad, because it just wouldn't have been the same without her.

* I FINALLY got a copy of Twilight from a friend last night - reading it will be my holiday treat to myself!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Finds 12/19/08

Five books made it on to my personal reading list this week ...

  1. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia - according to Stefanie, it "is a novel about memory–remembering, forgetting, trying to forget and attempting to find peace when forgetting is impossible–and about the past and how it affects the present" ... and that sounds fascinating to me.
  2. The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett - I had another Barrett book on my list last week - in her comment on my post, Dawn suggested this book as well - I've surprisingly enjoyed reading about arctic adventures so I think I'll enjoy this book - thanks Dawn!
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett - this is the story of a young, white, female reporter in the 1960s who decides to write an article about the black women working as domestics (aka "the help") in Jackson, Mississippi, along the way learning that people really aren't that different after all - Jessica raved about her ARC of this book
  4. Now Silence: A Novel of WWII by Toni Warner Shepard - WWII books are on my radar screen since I'm doing the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge in '09 - I heard about this one through BookMovement's newsletter - it's about the residents of a New Mexico town waiting for their loved ones to return from a Japanese POW camp - the author grew up in the Philippines during the 1940s so much of her book is based on firsthand knowledge
  5. Alan's War by Emmanuel Guibert - another WWII book that I'm considering for the War Challenge mentioned above - LitMob says this book "succeeds not only in recounting one man’s life and personal journey, but also as a work of true art. Mr. Guibert’s illustrations are stunning, and they allow the reader to experience the story on a level that is simply not possible without these black and white cells."

There's one new book on Kiddo's list this week ...

  1. Cave of the Dark Wind by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson - I heard about this through a Kids Picks post this month - I already have the Peter and the Starcatchers series on Kiddo's list, and now I know there are additional books in second series - I think he'll really enjoy these!

To check out other Friday Finds head over to MizB's!

Strange Intersections

Another blogger, I can't recall who, posted recently that she seems to unintentionally be reading books that intersect in some way (similar topics, similar time periods, etc.). The same thing just happened to me! I'm listening to THE MAN WHO LOVED CHINA by Simon Winchester and reading OUTWITTING HISTORY by Aaron Lansky. Both books have to do with preserving books in a foreign language - odd, right?

The CHINA book is a biography of Joseph Needham, a Brit who spend many years studying and writing about China. One of his goals while travelling in that country was to find and preserve ancient Chinese texts. The HISTORY book is Lansky's memoir of how he (and others) rescued one million Yiddish books from attics and dumpsters and preserved them for future readers.

In both non-fiction books the main characters learn a language that is not their native one, fall in love with the culture represented by that language, and work tirelessly to preserve it's history. It is a strange but fascinating intersection of topics and one that I definitely was not expecting to find!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


by John Lenahan
PodioBooks Audio Book
15.5 hours (that's my best guess!)

I added this to my Friday Finds a while back after reading Grasping for the Wind's great review and I'm SO GLAD that I did. This is pure fun! It was supposed to be a book for kiddo to listen to but so far I'm the only one who has heard it (although I did start TELLING the story to him while we were waiting in line to see Santa last week).

Author John Lenahan wanted a story he could tell his son at night before bed. It had to be fun and exciting - to keep the interest of a boy - and it had to be age-appropriate. And of course it had to be told out loud. That's the story of how he created Shadowmagic.

As the story opens we meet teenage Connor who lives with his single father, a brilliant but eccentric man. There's a knock at the door and in comes a woman claiming to be Connor's aunt, followed by a knight complete with horse and armor. A battle ensues and the next thing you know, Connor and his dad are chained up in a dungeon in Tir na Nog, the land of the fairies. Come to find out, his dad was actually born there and their return has caused all sorts of drama in "the Land".

The story takes off quickly and is sure to keep the interest of any adventure fan. Lenahan incorporates lots of Irish mythology and I'm always a fan of that (since Gram is from Ireland, I'm fascinated with Irish history, I've been there twice, and would love to live there one day). It's not a "deep" story but it IS fun and very enjoyable. I loved it!
Lenahan may write two sequels to Shadowmagic in the future - I'd love to hear them. There is certainly room for LOTS more adventures with the wonderful characters and lands he created in this book.

One other thing ... this story was meant to be listened to. It is out in book form as well but I really think it will lose something when if read rather than listed to. Be sure to listen to it (free!) while you can.*

For more info on Shadowmagic check out the author's website and his blog.

* To hear this audio book you need to create a free account with Podiobooks (click here to go to the main page for this book). Once you've signed up you can have the chapters delivered to you every few days OR listen to them through the feed whenever you like.

Has anyone else listened to this? Reviewed it? Does it peak your interest?

Typhoid Mary

Typhoid Mary
by Anthony Bourdain
160 pages

I requested this book when I first joined in October 2007. I finally got a copy of it in November 2008. And when it arrived, my husband picked it up before I could! He's a fan of Anthony Bourdain's tv show and he figured it would be fun to read. Luckily for me he put it down after a few chapters (he's a really slow reader and I would have had to wait quite a while for him to finish it).

I think most people have at least of Typhoid Mary, the turn-of-the-century American cook who spread typhoid in her wake. Bourdain takes a look at her story from the perspective of her job as cook, showing how her profession and the time she lived in shaped her actions. The book alternates between a discussion of food and cooking in the early 1900s, newspaper reports of Mary's case, and Bourdain's opinions on what Mary might have been thinking at any given time.

It was interesting for sure, but I can't say that this format really worked for me. I loved the background on the time period; I learned a lot in just a few pages that I didn't know before. However, Bourdain writes the same way he talks. If you are familiar with his TV show then you'll know what I mean. He is sarcastic, caustic, witty, and sometimes a bit much for me. I guess I want less opinion with my facts, and more facts in general.

That said, this was an easy book to read and I finished it in just a few days. It wasn't bad but it wasn't great either.

Have you read/reviewed this one? Is it something you'd want to read?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Survivors of the Chancellor

The Survivors of the Chancellor
by Jules Verne
143 pages
first published in 1875

*** The Story (In Music) ***

Here's the traditional version - sing along if you know it:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip.
That started from this tropic port
aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailin' man,
the Skipper brave and sure,
Five passengers set sail that day
for a three hour tour (a three hour tour).

The weather started getting rough,
the tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew,
the Minnow would be lost (the Minnow would be lost).

And here's my version for this book:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip.
It leaves for sea from Charleston town
but ends up sinking down.

The captain was a sullen man,
the first mate brave and strong.
Some passengers were mighty daft
and they ended up on a raft (they ended up on a raft).

A fire broke out in the hold,
at first no one was told.
But in the end they were bereft;
of the ship was nothing left (of the ship was nothing left).

OK, that's about as good as I can get it. Suffice it to say that if you are planning on an ocean voyage any time in the near future, do not read this book! It is believed that Verne based his tale on two recent disasters: that of the French frigate "Medusa" which sunk off the coast of Africa in 1816 and that of the British ship "Sarah Sands" which caught fire in 1857. So unlike many of Verne's other stories, this one could actually happen. *shiver*

*** My Thoughts ***

As with many other books written during this time period, racial prejudices are apparent in the characters thoughts and speech. In addition our narrator makes judgement about people based on their physical features (head shape, stature, etc); I think there was a "science" based on this idea but I can't recall the name of it. If you can read this with the prevailing thoughts of the era in mind then you'll enjoy it.

This is my second Jules Verne novel and I'm definitely pleased (here's my first, and here's where I gush about him). My only complaint is that, as with many books of the day, the chapter titles give away too much info for my tastes. I mean, if the chapter heading says "Bob Is Abducted By Aliens" then you pretty much know what will happen in that chapter. But as I say, it was common for books of the time so I'll have to forgive Verne for that.

FYI, I read this through Project Gutenberg at this link (although I did print it since I can't read online for too long).

*** The Lost Challenge ***

I read this book as part of the Lost (TV series) Reading Challenge. It was on the list because a minor character is shown reading this book in season 4 (upside down) before committing suicide. Interesting, considering that one of the characters in the book also debates killing himself (I won't tell you what he decided in the end though).

There are not a lot of direct parallels between the book and the show, but it is most definitely about surviving a horrible disaster and that is parallel enough for me.

*** Your Thoughts? ***

Has anyone else read this? Reviewed it? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Cole Family Christmas

The Cole Family Christmas
by Jennifer Liu Bryan, with Hazel Cole Kendle
74 pages

For my book club's upcoming Christmas party everyone is reading a Christmas book of her choice. Then, rather than a formal discussion of one book like we usually have, we'll do individual "book reports" while we eat. I didn't quite know what to read until Lisa at Online Publicist sent me The Cole Family Christmas - that made my choice a simple one.

The Cole Family Christmas is a children's book about one Christmas in the real life Cole family, circa 1920. Papa Cole is a miner in the mountains of Kentucky. He and Mama Cole have 9 children, ranging in age from 1 year to 18 years old. The family isn't rich by any stretch of the word but they do have enough, and that's really all they need.

This particular Christmas Mama and Papa tell the children they can write to Santa and ask for one special thing from the Wish Book (aka the big catalog). Just a few days before Christmas however, a huge snowstorm blows in. Will Papa make it home from his extra shift at the mine? Will Santa be able to make it with their special gifts? And how can the children make amends for breaking one of Mama's treasured possessions? What will this Christmas be like for the Coles?

I loved this book! It is a wonderful tale of family love and it is well worth reading. I didn't have a chance to read it with kiddo, but I plan to do that before Christmas (or maybe on Christmas Eve?).

One thing that makes this book extra special to me is the relationship between the authors. Hazel Cole Kendle is the youngest of the Cole children and the only surviving one as well. Jennifer Liu Bryan is married to Hazel's grandson. Jennifer wrote the book based on stories Hazel and her siblings told over the years. What a wonderful collaboration between generations!

If you read my blog regularly you know that I have a great relationship with my grandparents. What you may not know is that I write down all the stories they tell me in the hope that one day I can compile them into an informal book for the rest of the family to enjoy. Knowing what I do about the authors of this book made me love it even more, and inspired me to keep doing what I'm doing with MY grandparents.

And let me say that I loved the illustrations by Jennifer Julich. Not being an artsy person I don't really know how to describe them except to say that they conveyed the characters in a realistic but still fun way. They are perfect for this book.

To learn more about this wonderful book you can check out The Cole Family Christmas website.

What do you think? Is this something you'll add to your Christmas reading each year? I know that it will stay on MY shelf, and that's a great compliment considering that I give away almost every book I read.

*** There is still time to buy books before Christmas! This would make a wonderful gift for those who enjoy the simple things in life. And families with young children could add this to the list of books they read together around the holidays. Plus, a portion of the proceeds goes toward the Berea College Appalachian Fund, so it's a gift that keeps on giving! ***

For more Kids Picks click the button above!

Mom & Son Book Club #8: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Mom & Son Book Club #8

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by JK Rowling
108 pages

Hubby bought this book supposedly for kiddo, but I think he really bought it for himself. That's ok though, because we've all been enjoying it!

I read this to kiddo over about a week. My rule was that I'd only read if kiddo had already taken his shower and was quickly getting ready for bed, so that meant we skipped a few nights. On the nights we did read, we'd sit on the couch together - he eating a snack, me reading - then I'd follow him to the bathroom to read while he brushed his teeth.

Each night we'd read one of the Tales along with the accompanying commentary by Albus Dumbledore. The five Tales are:
  • The Hopping Pot
  • The Fountain of Fair Fortune
  • The Warlock's Hairy Heart
  • Babbitty Rabbitty and the Cackling Stump
  • The Three Brothers

After we finished reading last night I told kiddo that we needed to do our Mom & Son Book Club questions. His response? "Oh yeah! 'Cause they've been missing me on your blog, right?" Yes, dear readers, even kiddo knows about you and is concerned what you think!

Now, on to the questions. Oh, and as a reminder, I write out kiddo's answers just as he gives them to me and I add my comments in italics.

Did you like the book? Yes, but I didn't like some of the stories.

Which was your favorite Tale? The Three Brothers - it was a really exciting tale, and because it was in the Harry Potter books. I liked this one too, but I don't think I can say it was my favorite. Not sure I HAVE a favorite myself.

Which was your least favorite Tale? The Hairy Heart one - it was creepy, it was a scary story, and it was weird. I don't think anybody under age 6 (my age) should have that story read to them. Oh I agree! This one was quite creepy. *shiver* And rather difficult to explain to kiddo as well.

What did you think of the illustrations? (I used to say "pictures" but kiddo learned about illustrators this year and now he asks about the "illustrations" and the "illustrators" all the time.) I would like it more if it had more color, but otherwise it is fine. Color is a big thing with kiddo - black and white illustrations never get his full approval.

Would you recommend this book to your friends? Only if they liked Harry Potter and they weren't afraid of creepy stories. If they aren't afraid of creepy stories then they should go ahead and read it.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book? Hmm, not very much. This book is a very good book but some of it is a little scary. Anything else? Nope, that's it.

Thanks kiddo! I really enjoyed reading this book with you. I'm so glad you like Fantasy as much as your momma does. :)

Here's what other bloggers have to say about this book:
In Spring It Is the Dawn
Things Mean A Lot
Out of the Blue
Melody's Reading Corner
The Bluestocking Guide
The Book Lady's Blog
and your review should be here!

For more Kids Picks click the button above.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lovely Links #7

My Lovely Links for today include some serious and some fun topics ... hopefully a good mix of the two.

  • Any fans of Agatha Christie out there? Have you heard her actual voice before? You can do it here!
  • posted recently about the role and portrayal of religion in science fiction. I found it fascinating.
  • Are you the parent of a young boy? Check out this video about the gender gap between boys and girls in schools. And learn more about the book here.
  • How about some bookish TV? Check out this hilarious video.
  • I know many of you are quite particular about the way you organize your bookshelves, but this is a new one for me!
  • In this book-inspired website you can find out if you are a witch, get Shakespeare to curse you, learn how to play crazy games in a museum, and much MUCH more. (Read this post for more info.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Show & Tell: Funny Christmas Songs

I've got lots of reading and reviewing to catch up on, but I'm taking a few minutes of my regularly scheduling blogging to bring you Show & Tell with Mel. To see what the rest of the class is showing, hop over here.

I love Christmas. I love the lights, the sights, the music, the family get-togethers, the "Reason for the Season" - everything.

But I must admit, I really love silly Christmas songs. Here are five of my favorites. Do you have any others to add?

The Muppets sing the 12 Days of Christmas - Miss Piggy has always been my favorite muppet and she definitely is the highlight of this song

Crabs for Christmas - if you're not from Maryland, you've likely never heard this one before - steamed crabs are a HUGE thing in Maryland (that is the one food we're known for) - this song always makes me laugh - the accent a Maryland thing too, although most of us don't actually talk like that (but I DO know people that do!)

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas - this song makes me laugh every time - my sister hates it though, and she thinks I'm a bit off my rocker for liking it

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth - this is a classic and I love it, especially knowing the story behind it - great, huh?

The Chipmunks Christmas Song - the original version was a childhood favorite of mine, and the new movie version is one my son loves - I sing along in my chipmunk voice whenever either version comes on the radio in my car

Am I the only nut who loves this stuff?!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Notes on Democracy

Notes on Democracy
by H.L. Mencken
206 pages
originally published in 1926

When I volunteered to read and review Notes on Democracy I had never read anything by Mencken nor did I know much about him (other than the fact that the literary community in Baltimore, the city of his birth, just celebrated his birthday in September). I assumed that the book would be a brief overview of the democratic system in America along with his own thoughts on it. I wasn't wrong exactly, but I wasn't right either.

Notes on Democracy IS an overview of the American democratic system and it DOES contain Mencken's thoughts on that system but it is not a supportive book. It is satirical in many ways, with cutting commentary and inflammatory statements throughout. [RebeccaReads did an excellent overview of satire near the bottom of this post; it certainly helped me in my understanding of this book.]

Mencken wrote this book in the early 1920s. The US was recovering from The Great War and there was much political upheaval at the time. In his job as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, Mencken covered many important issues of the day including the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. He references many of these topics in this book, and this could be confusing the reader. However the book contains over 40 pages of end notes* explaining all the various references in the book; it's an excellent resource.

As for his opinions, Mencken is highly critical of democracy as a valid form of government. He explains in his own unique way how the mob mentality is at the core of democracy and how that necessarily means it is corrupt. He is extremely anti-religion as well.

However, despite his very inflammatory prose he makes some very valid - and currently relevant - points about the democratic system. I think this is an excellent book to read if you are interested in American politics today. Regardless of your party affiliation this book will give you lots of things to consider.

I came across an excellent quote at this site, and I'm adding it here because I think it will give you a good idea of what this book is really like:

There is more truth in these pages than most Americans are willing to face. Nor will there ever come a time when they will face them. For what Mencken delivers here is probably the most scathing attack on the idea of mass rule that has ever been written. Mencken is known as the chief heretic of the American civic religion, and this book shows why.

A big thank you to Lisa Roe at Online Publicist for sending me this book!

Has anyone else read this book? Do you plan to? I'd love to have your reviews to list here as well.

* The end notes and the excellent introduction to this edition of Notes on Democracy were written by Mencken scholar Marion Elizabeth Brooks. Just reading the end notes would give you a great mini-education in American political history from the founding of the nation up to the early 1920s.

Friday Finds 12/12/08

My Friday Finds for this week:

  1. The Black Death, by Katherine Weikert - this book takes the census records from one medieval manor and uses it to create a fictional account of the residents during the plague years - LitMob's review brought it to my attention

  2. When We Were Gods, by Colin Falconer - this is the story of Cleopatra and Amanda says it is very good - I'm intrigued!

  3. Know It All, by Susan Aldridge - this book is filled with facts and randomness, according to Letters on Pages - it sounds like the perfect gift book for Christmas or to leave on my coffee table (once I clean it up) for when guests are over

  4. The Air We Breathe, by Andrea Barrett - this one sounds fascinating to me! According to the Reading Group Picks newsletter: In the fall of 1916, America prepares for war—but in the community of Tamarack Lake, the focus is on the sick. Wealthy tubercular patients live in private cure cottages; charity patients, mainly immigrants, fill the large public sanatorium. Prisoners of routine, they take solace in gossip, rumor, and—sometimes—secret attachments. But when the well-meaning efforts of one enterprising patient lead to a tragic accident and a terrible betrayal, the war comes home, bringing with it a surge of anti-immigrant prejudice and vigilante sentiment.

  5. Not Yet Drown'd, by Peg Kingman - this came from the same source: Catherine MacDonald is astonished to receive from her twin brother—who had apparently drowned a year earlier in the monsoon floods of 1821—a kashmiri shawl, a caddy of unusual tea, and a sheaf of traditional bagpipe music in his handwriting. When had he sent it? And why had he retitled a certain tune "Not Yet Drown'd"? Irresistibly, she is drawn to India to search for answers. With her stepdaughter and their two maids—one an enigmatic Hindu, the other a runaway American slave—she follows an obscure trail of tea, opium, and bagpipe music, discovering unsuspected truths about the man she is seeking.

  6. Power of a Praying Parent, by Stormie Omartian - Confessions of a Mommy Blogger brought this to my attention (although I'm not sure how I got to her blog ... it's not one I've ever visited before) and it looks like a great resource for me

  7. Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen, by Bob Greene - I heard of this book years ago but had forgotten about it until Dreamybee posted a comment about it on my WWII reading challenge post - in her words, "North Platte is this little town in Nebraska and the military trains ran through there with all these young soldiers going off to war. The town rallied around the troops to entertain them and basically let them know that they were appreciated and that someone was thinking about them." - this jives with what I remember hearing about the book, so I'll definitely have to read this one

No new books in kiddo's list this time around.

Have you found any good books this week? I'd love to hear about them. Post a comment or head over to MizB's page to link up to your own Friday Finds post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun
unfinished draft
by Stephanie Meyer
264 typed pages

I'm not sure that this exactly counts as a book since it is actually an unfinished draft of a book, but this is MY blog and I'm going to count it anyway. So there. (Sorry, I'm feeling a bit smug today.)

After seeing the movie Twilight (my review is here) I felt like a giddy teenager and I still can't get enough of Edward. Completely embarrassing, but true. I'm sure you, my lovely readers, won't tell anyone my secret, right? 'Cause seriously, it is REALLY embarrassing.

So I searched out the draft of Twilight and dug in. I've been reading it on my lunch break at work for the past week. That's not necessarily a good idea though, as I keep getting all hot-under-the-collar ... and then I have to get back to work. Ugh.

I'm not going to review this one since it IS only a partial draft; it wouldn't be fair. But I will say that I really enjoyed seeing things through Edward's eyes. I'm completely bummed that it stops before the infamous meadow scene that everyone raved about, but other than that I really enjoyed it for what it was - the beginning of the story from a different perspective.

Unlike (most) other Twilight fans, I'm going about my addiction backwards: first the movie, then Midnight Sun, then the original books. On Dec. 20, I'm picking up a copy of Twilight from a book club gal and I'm sure I'll have my nose in it during the entire holiday season - I can't wait!

Jeeves Takes Charge

Jeeves Takes Charge
by PG Wodehouse
3 cassettes, 4.5 hours

I'm sure you're getting tired of hearing about it by now, but I'm still enjoying my fling with Wodehouse (read about my earlier affairs here and here). This is yet another collection of short stories and it includes the following:
  • Jeeves Takes Charge - in which we learn how Jeeves came into the employ of Bertie Wooster, and how Bertie came to rely so heavily on Jeeves's judgement
  • Without the Option - in which Bertie's pal is jailed and Bertie must impersonate said pal for several weeks
  • The Artistic Career of Corky - in which Bertie has adventures in New York
  • The Aunt and the Sluggard - in which the New York adventures continue
  • Jeeves and the Uninvited Guest - in which Bertie and Jeeves have a falling out of sorts while still in New York
  • Jeeves and the Hard Boiled Egg - in which I found reason to laugh out loud yet again

As I've said before, I'm not a huge fan of short stories but this collection was quite enjoyable. I'd like to get back to an entire novel by Wodehouse, however I'm working through whatever is available at the library so I'll take what I can get.

I've gotten some great recommendations for other Wodehouse creations from my readers - thanks! Have I convinced any of you out there to try him out yet?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

November Summary

I know, I know. It is already Dec. 9 and I'm just now posting my Nov. reading summary. Man, I am LATE getting this done! Oh well, here goes ...

Books – 5 (1,779 pages)
My TBR list gained 10 titles this month plus 2 more for kiddo.

Audio Books - 1 (6 hours)
  • Right Ho Jeeves (6 hours)
  • and I'm still listening to Book 10 of The Wheel of Time series (see my left sidebar)

Mom & Son Book Club

  • no meetings but we're still reading The Ark, The Reed, and the Fire Cloud (mentioned here)

Challenges – 2 in progress

  • The Lost Books Challenge - reading books related to the TV show "Lost" - I've finished 2 books so far and have three left to read before Jan. 21 ...
  • The 1% Well Read Challenge - reading 10 books from the list of 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die - I'm at the same place that I was last month (completed 4.5 books and have 5.5 to finish before the end of February) ... not making progress on this one at the moment

Plus I celebrated my birthday earlier this month (yeah!) and spent 10 days in Florida visiting my grandparents for Thanksgiving (one of my very favorite holidays) so all in all this was a great November!

[*Note to self: You finished this one before your birthday; it won't count for your annual total since you counted it for the past year already.]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What Kiddo Bought on Vacation ... Spyology!

On our recent trip to Florida Gram told me she wanted to buy kiddo a book that he'd really enjoy. She always wants to buy him something, but needless to say I was thrilled with the idea of a book. So she gave him $20 and we headed out to the bookstore.

Kiddo made a beeline for the Harry Potter and Star Wars books. They were like magnets to him; no matter how many times I'd pull him away to look at something else, he always ended up back over there within minutes. Now I don't object to either HP or SW but enough is enough ... and I've had enough.

Finally I sat on the floor next to a promising shelf and started pulling out books one at a time, every few minutes calling to kiddo to check them out. It worked! After a few minutes kiddo was on the floor next to me and we were examining books about dragons (including a adorable smallish boxed set about different types of dragons), instructions on how to become a wizard (I wish I could remember the name of this because it was a beautiful book inside and out), journals, and a book about spies.

After ten minutes or more of consideration - and about an hour total in the store - kiddo decided to purchase Spyology. Now THIS is a cool book!

I read a post about it a while back (and added it to kiddo's wish list!) so I knew what to expect, but what I didn't realize is that kiddo would find it so fascinating! He carried that book around EVERYWHERE we went - in the car, to his cousins' house, to the store, to bed, and he even tried to take it to the beach but I nixed that one. And it's a BIG book - just over 12" tall - so not exactly easy to cart around.

I'll be honest - I haven't sat down to read this with him yet. We've been so busy! Plus we're reading two other books right now (hopefully we'll have Mom & Son Book Club reviews of them both soon). But it looks really great! There are all sorts of pockets with clues, flaps, secret hidden things, and the cover even comes apart (that red piece in the center turns and part of it can be removed from the inside). Kiddo has spent hours playing around through the book on his own. At his cousins' house he used it as part of the game they were playing and got everyone to be spies with him.

I'm highly recommending this book for young boys (or girls who are into spy stuff). Kiddo isn't a huge spy fan, but this book definitely got his attention. It would make a great Christmas gift for a kid you know! According to the web it's meant for ages 9-12 but kiddo isn't even 7 yet and he LOVES it. Obviously it's one that I'll be reading to him bit by bit (there is LOTS of text in this book) but he's having fun with it already.

Monday, December 8, 2008

War Through the Generations - Reading Challenge

Now here's a challenge I can really get in to!

I'm fascinated with World War II since my Grandfather fought there. I've written about him before but in case you're new to my blog, here's the short story: Grandpa landed on Utah Beach on D-day, was wounded about a month later, met my Gram in England while he recuperated, and they will celebrate their 62nd anniversary in January 2009. Grandpa is 90 now, Gram is 84. They are who I visited for Thanksgiving.

But getting back to the point of this post ...

War Through the Generations is meant to be a multi-year challenge with each year focusing on a different war. This first year focuses on World War II. Readers can sign up each year they are interested or opt out that year if they are not interested.

There's a blog dedicated to this challenge and it's a very interesting one at that! The challenge hosts have some great ideas for content that they are just beginning to develop. I'm looking forward to seeing it grow over the next few months.

The nice thing about this challenge is that I can set my own goals. The minimum number of books you're allowed to sign up for is 5 though. To be on the safe side I'm going to stick with that number. Personally I get more satisfaction from actually completing challenges successfully than I do from trying to stretch myself to read more. Anyway, here's my list so far:

  1. Red Rain (Tim Wendel) - a new book about a little known footnote to WWII, Japanese fire balloons
  2. The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections (Tom Brokaw) - this is a follow up to his original book, The Greatest Generations - I've not read that one, but it may be my 5th book for this challenge

  3. The Rising Tide (Jeff Shaara) - Book 1 in a trilogy following 4 different characters through WWII

  4. The Steel Wave (Jeff Shaara) - Book 2 in that trilogy (the 3rd isn't written yet)
The reason I chose these four is that they are already sitting on my bookshelf just waiting to be read. I'll need to come up with one more book but I'm sure that one will catch my eye over the next year.
I've seen several other bloggers sign up for this challenge so far. If you have, what books have you chosen? If not, is it something you are interested in? I'd love to have you join along with me!

Jeeves and the Old School Chum and other stories

Jeeves and the Old School Chum
and other stories
by P.G. Wodehouse
audio book - 3 cassettes, 4.5 hours

After my recent first exposure to Wodehouse I had to run to the library for more. I can't seem to get enough of the absolute absurdity that is Bertie Wooster!

This set of stories included the following:
  • Jeeves and the Old School Chum
  • The Ordeal of Young Tuppy
  • Episode of the Dog McIntosh
  • The Love that Purifies
  • The Spot of Art
I'm not going to summarize the stories; they don't make sense - or sound even remotely funny - when I do that. You'll just have to trust me that they ARE, indeed, funny. Quite funny.

I didn't like this series as much as the longer Right Ho, Jeeves but I think that's because I'm not usually a fan of short stories. The action and characterization has to be condensed so much and I feel like there is less to enjoy in this set of tales. However, they ARE still funny and I'm glad I picked them up. I doubt I'll tire of good ole P.G. any time soon!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Finds 12/5/08

Hi everyone! Did you miss me for the last two Fridays? I sure missed you - or at least, I missed your blogs. :) My vacation to see family in Florida was wonderful though.
Since I didn't have internet access while I was gone, I didn't have a chance to add many books to my TBR list. But I did add a few, so here goes ...
Additions to my TBR list
  1. How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas Foster - because of this review by Rebecca
  2. The Sixteen Pleasures, by Robert Hellenga - I'm not sure about this one, but Trish had great things to say and I'm intrigued
  3. The King's Daughter, by Sandra Worth - British royalty is always interesting, and according to this review the author gives lots of additional info in her note at the end - I love that!
  4. The Lieutenant, by Kate Grenville - historical fiction set in Australia - according to Marg it will be released in the US in Feb. 09
  5. The Partly Cloudy Patriot, by Sarah Vowell - a few weeks ago I put Vowell's other book, The Wordy Shipmates, on my Friday Finds list - I still haven't read anything by her, but Nan's review of this book makes me think I'll really love her
  6. The Ice Diaries, by William R. Anderson - 5 Minutes for Books really enjoyed this book about the underwater exploration of the North Pole - since I enjoyed Shackleton's South Pole experiences so much, I'm thinking that this will be a good book for me -
  7. The Illiad, by Homer - yes, I mean the REAL Iliad - Rebecca's been reading some mighty hefty tomes over at her blog and her comments on this book have me very interested in reading it - in fact, I'm committing to read it (or listen to the audio version) in 2009

Additions to Kiddo's TBR list

  1. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson - I remember parts of this classic story, but Nan's review reminded me that kiddo has never heard it - it's a must-read-together book for this Christmas season
  2. The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, by Penelope Lively - I've never read any of her books (although a good friend has recommended them to me) - after seeing Dewey's review I think kiddo would enjoy this somewhat creepy tale - NOTE: it makes me so sad to know that this is probably the last book I've added to my list that I can directly attribute to Dewey. I could always count on her for interesting recommendations. She will be missed.
  3. Shadowmagic, by John Lenahan - kiddo really enjoys audio books, and this book was MADE for audio - Grasping for the Wind did a great recap/review of it - I think both kiddo and I will really enjoy this one
  4. The First Thanksgiving of Low Leaf Worm, by Richard Scarry - I know Thanksgiving is over, and I know this book is a bit young for kiddo, but come on people! It's about Lowly the Worm! Lowly, aka Low Leaf, was my very favorite Richard Scarry character and I still enjoy reading about him as an adult. He brings back such lovely memories. When I saw this post about Thanksgiving books I was so thrilled to see Lowly that I had to put this book on kiddo's list. Hmm, maybe it really belongs on Momma's list ...
  5. The Island of Mad Scientists, by Howard Whitehouse - if Semicolon's review made me laugh I can only imagine how funny this book must be! It will be a tongue twister for read-aloud time I'm sure - and kiddo LOVES when I get mixed up because of crazy wording.

That's not such a long list considering that my last Friday Finds post was on 11/14/08 and that I've been adding titles steadily since then!

What have YOU added to your list lately? Post a comment here or join in the fun by adding your post here.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin