Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


by Justin Kramon
384 pages

*** About the Book ***

Finny: A NovelAt the start of the story Finny is an opinionated and slightly odd 14 year old girl who feels like she doesn't belong in her own family.  A chance meeting with an unusual boy named Earl starts her down the road to romance, but when her parents find out about her relationship they send her off to boarding school.  There she meets Judith, her gorgeous and intimidating roomate, and Poplan, the caretaker of the girls at the school and a quite unusual person.  

These people - Finny's family, Earl, Judith, and Poplan - plus a few others form the cast of Finny's life for the next twenty years.  Through good times and bad times, Finny grows up with this oddball group of people and they influence her for better and for worse.  Who will Finny turn out to be in the end? 

*** Why I Read It ***

The author emailed me to see if my book club would be interested in reading his book and having him visit our meeting.  After meeting him myself in New York at the Book Blogger Convention, I asked my club to vote on it.  The majority were interested in reading it and meeting Justin, so we chose this as our August book.  I'll be recapping that meeting in just a few days.

*** My Thoughts ***

Let me tell you what this book is NOT.  It is not a coming-of-age story ... not exactly.  It is not a Young Adult (YA) book ... too many "unusual" sexual situations to be appropriate for that audience.  It is not a re-imagining of David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens ... though there is a lot of that in there. 

As for what it IS ... well ... it is an unusual story of a not-always-likable girl and how she changes (or doesn't) over twenty years.  It is full of over-the-top characters with strange habits or personalities.   It is a story filled with both humor and sadness. 

The two things I enjoyed most about this book are the crazy characters and the glimpses of "truth" that sometimes appeared.  The characters remind me very much of those in Charles Dickens, with habits or personalities that can make you laugh, cringe, or think "Say what?!"  For me that was the biggest strength of the book and I loved many of the characters.  Then there were the times when a character would say or do something and I'd think "Yes, that is SO TRUE, that's exactly how real life is." I loved that about the book as well.

On the other hand, I didn't really feel that connected to Finny or invested in how her story would end.  I don't usually read books like this (not that any book is really "like" this one - it's someone in a class of it's own) because I don't feel like I get anything of lasting value from them.  For the most part I enjoyed reading this book, but I'm finding that I'm happier with my book choices when I don't stray from my tried-and-true favorite genres.

*** Author Events ***

If you are in the greater PA/MD/DC/NYC, Justin may be available to visit your book club.  You can contact him through his website if you are interested.  And if you'd like to meet him, he'll be reading from FINNY at the Baltimore Book Festival on 9/25 and possibly dropping in for my panels on 9/26.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you read FINNY? Heard of it? What did you think? I've you've read it, how would you describe it?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ready for some Really Old Classics?

It's time to blow the dust off those ancient scrolls and dig in to some Really Old Classics.  

This challenge is all about discovering the treasures of the ancient world.  "Really Old" in this case refers to anything written prior to 1600 AD, and the challenge is to read just ONE BOOK.  There are additional levels for the more ambitious out there, but how many other challenges can you say you've completed by reading just one book?! Not many, that's for sure.

Details about this year's challenge (which I'm co-hosting) and a place to sign-up can both be found at the 2010 Sign-Up page on the challenge blog. Be sure to start following the blog so you don't miss out on anything:  Happy ancient reading!


by Maggie Stiefvater
368 pages

*** About the Book ***
Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2)

This is the sequel to the paranormal YA novel SHIVER (reviewed here).  At the end of the the first book, werewolf Sam had been returned to a fully human state and was excited to spend the rest of his life with his girlfriend Grace.  Things don't go quite as planned in this book though.  Grace's parents finally begin to act like parents and forbid her from seeing Sam, and at the same time Grace begins to think that she might be becoming a werewolf herself.  In addition, there are several new members who voluntarily joined the werewolf pack and no one knows yet whether they can be trusted.

*** Why I Read It ***

I read SHIVER a while back just for a change of pace.  I've had the sequel, LINGER, on hold at the library since it came out a few months ago; it finally became available last week.

*** My Thoughts ***

ShiverOpinions on the story itself aside, I LOVE the cover art and stylistic choices made for this series.  In SHIVER the text inside the book matched the blue of the cover.  In LINGER the text throughout the book matches the gorgeous green of the cover.  I've never seen another book do that, and I love the effect. 

Now about the story ... again, it was just ok.  I still like the twist on werewolf mythology that the book is based on but I don't particularly love any of the characters.  Grace's life is a bit more believable in this book, meaning that her parents finally start paying attention to what's going on under their own roof.  And her reactions were pretty much what I'd expect from someone in her position.  Sam is sweet but a bit too passive for my tastes.  I did like the new dimension that Cole brought into the book, especially as the story played out.  Isabel is perhaps my favorite character, simply because she seems to be the most complex.

If there are more books in the series (does anyone know the author's plans on this?) I'll read them, but I won't be rushing to get them as soon as they're available.

*** Your Thoughts ***

For not really liking YA, I've been on a bit of a YA kick lately.  Here's what I've read relatively recently: the Twilight books, The Hunger Games (book 1), Shiver, and Linger.  I still want to check out GRACELING, but I think that's the last of this genre I'll be picking up for quite some time.  Of those books, which is your favorite?  Why?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

apologies ...

I apologize to everyone who received an odd email from me saying that I'd been mugged in England.  My email account was hacked as part of a money transfer scheme.  In addition to sending the fraudulent emails, the hacker also erased my inbox and deleted my contact list.  If you recently emailed me something, even if I already responded to you, please send your message again - I want to be sure I'm not overlooking anything.  Also, if you'd like me to have your email address again please send me an email and let me know - right now my contact list is very bare.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins
audiobook: 11.2 hours
narrated by Carolyn McCormick

*** About the Book ***

The Hunger GamesThis book has been written about many, Many, MANY times so since I'm behind on reviews I'm not going to recap it myself.  If you are not familiar with the plot please check out the summary at

*** Why I Listened To It ***

The plot summary of this book did not interest me in the least.  Even the glowing reviews by so many bloggers didn't do the trick.  After all, I'm not really a fan of YA or dystopian books. But when two members of my book club - whose reading tastes are very similar to mine - both said I just HAD to read it, I gave in.  Sort of.  Actually I reserved the audiobook at my library and it finally came in after months of waiting.

Plus, I thought it would be fun to get caught up in all the excitement over the release of the third book in the series just a few days ago and this was the best way to do it. 

*** My Thoughts ***

I wasn't blown away. (Yes, I'm bracing myself for the fiery darts that are now coming my way.) I mean, it was okay, and it generally kept my interest, but I was really expecting more.  One of my book club friends who recommended this has the same feelings as I do toward Twilight so I really thought we'd be the same on this book a well.  Alas, that is not the case.

To be a bit more specific yet stay spoiler free, here are some random thoughts:
  • Katniss - I don't know why everyone loves her so much.  Yes she's tough, but she's also rather oblivious to what's going on with Peeta during the Games.  There were many times when I wanted to smack her and say "Hello?! What are you DOING?!"
  • Gale - I'll give him the benefit of the doubt since we don't find out much about him in this book.
  • Peeta - Ok, so ... he's nice, he's strong, and ... what?  I don't get what the fuss is over him (from other readers).  I did feel REALLY bad for him in regard to the situation with Katniss though.
All that said, I'll still continue with the series.  I mean, I didn't DISLIKE it, I just expected to be really into it and that didn't happen.

 *** Your Thoughts ***

I can't be the only one out there who wasn't blown away by this book, can I?! If you're like me, please let me know.  Also, does the series get better from here? *crosses fingers*

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Morbid Taste For Bones

by Ellis Peters
published in 1977*
audiobook: 9 hours
narrated by Patrick Tull

*** About the Book ***

A Morbid Taste for Bones: 1400 Headwords (Oxford Bookworms Library)In this first book in the lengthy 11th century Brother Cadfael mystery series, we meet Brother Cadfael at his monastery, tending the garden.  Cadfael is not your traditional monk, having chosen to take orders in his later years after a full life as a warrior.  Because of his background he sees the world around him - including the people in it - differently than his brother monks.

The adventure begins when the Abbot sends a delegation to Wales to retrieve the bones of a saint and bring them to the monastery.  The people of the Welsh village are not happy with this and there is some protest against the monks.  When a respected member of the community is murdered and the clues around the body don't add up, Brother Cadfael steps in to find the truth.

*** Why I Listened To It ***

It caught my attention while I was at the library so I figured I'd give it a shot.  Plus I saw that there is a tv series based on these books which is also available at my library.

*** My Thoughts ***

This book was just okay to me.  I'm not generally a mystery fan so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it.  It wasn't overly predictable and the characters were pretty interesting, but I just couldn't get into it enough to really enjoy it.  It was easy to continue listening and at no point did I want to give up on it (I even laughed out loud a few times) but I don't see myself continuing on with this series.

 *** Your Thoughts ***

Have you read any of the Brother Cadfael books or watched the tv show?  What do you think of them?

* I include this info because that is the year I was born and of course I was happily surprised to find myself reading a book from that year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Steve & Me

by Terri Irwin
288 pages

*** About the Book ***

Steve & Me
Steve Irwin, better know as The Crocodile Hunter from the Animal Planet show by the same name, was a larger-than-life wildlife warrior.  His tragic death from a stingray barb to the chest in 2006 shocked the world.  In this book Steve's wife and partner-in-conservation, Terri, shares the story of their life together and their dreams for the future.

I've added a video from an episode of The Crocodile Hunter at the bottom of this post in case you want to check it out. 

*** Why I Read It ***

Hubby and I always enjoyed watching The Crocodile Hunter together.  Kiddo was a bit young to understand everything but he'd usually watch with us as well.  We continually joked about how over-the-top Steve Irwin, was but underneath the humor we both admired him very much.  When Hubby called me to say that Steve had died, I felt physically sick.  I'd never been impacted by a celebrity death in that way; I was devastated that the world had lost such an amazing spokesperson for wildlife and heartbroken for his family who I'd come to know and love through his show.  When I heard about this book I immediately ordered a copy from PaperbackSwap. It arrived over a year ago and I haven't picked it up until now.  Hubby started reading it the day it arrived and he loved it, but I worried it would be too sad so I kept avoiding it.  Then I saw Alyce's review and I knew I couldn't wait any longer.

*** My Thoughts ***

I have no idea why I put off reading this book. I should have picked it up the day it came through my door. It was such a pleasure to revisit the crazy passion of Steve's world, and it was an unexpected treat to see the incredible relationship he and Terri had. 

Many of the events and stories in the book were familiar to me because my family watched The Crocodile Hunter regularly.  Throughout the book Terri quotes Steve, and I could actually "hear" his distinctive voice sharing about a particular animal, often from an episode of the show I clearly remembered. 

Despite my familiarity with the show there was still a great deal of new-to-me info in the book.  I was amazed by Steve's connection to the wild places of the world.  Of course I knew about this already but the details were fascinating to read.  The book also touches on the plans Steve had to save whales in the Antarctic with the Sea Sheppard crew.  That was interesting as I'm a huge fan of the show Whale Wars.

I didn't realize what a powerful yet unexplained connection Steve and Terri had from the very beginning of their relationship.  It seems that they were truly meant to be together.  The humor and playfulness between them (especially regarding their plan to conceive a boy) was a joy to read. 

I picked this book up on Sunday night intending to read only the introduction.  It was around 1am when I finally put it down, and that was only because the next day was Kiddo's first day of school and I didn't want to risk oversleeping due to a book hangover.  The next day I read during my lunch break and again as soon as I got home, while Kiddo was at hockey practice.  I finished the book Monday evening around 1am.  I'm exhausted now but thrilled to have spent the past few days in Steve's world.  This is a book that will stay on my shelf to be read again, both by Hubby and by me.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Were you a fan of The Crocodile Hunter show?  What are your thoughts on Steve and his mission to protect wildlife?  Is this a book you'd like to read?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
290 pages

*** About the Book ***

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (P.S.)In a land where life depends on the predictable coming and going of the rainy season, one change in the weather pattern can result in catastrophe that spans years.  One year when William Kamkwamba was just a boy, the rains didn't come.  Crops died in the fields and the lack of food and money led to nationwide starvation in Malawi.  William, an avid student who was highly interested in science, was forced to drop out of school because his family could no longer pay his school fees.  He hoped to return once conditions improved so he studied on his own at the tiny library in town.  There he found an introductory science book with a windmill on the cover.  He decided that if windmills existed other places in the world, they could exist in Malawi as well.  Imagining all the things he could do if he had a windmill to supply electricity to his home, William set about building his own windmill from scraps.  In spite of ridicule from his neighbors, he continued in his quest and eventually succeeded.  After a while, reporters came to see his windmill and through them the world was reminded of what can be done if you simply have the will to create.

*** Why I Read It *** 

I saw a post at TLC Book Tours and was intrigued by the book's description so I signed up to participate in the tour.

*** My Thoughts ***

Although this book wasn't exactly what I expected, I still enjoyed it very much.  The first half of the book is devoted to William's life (and the life of his village) before the drought.  He goes into great detail about the way day-to-day life progressed and explains the strong belief in magic that influenced everyone's perspective. The most powerful section in this half of the book is his description of the drought and the famine that resulted.  This part of the story seemed to go on and on and on, and it helped me to see and feel how the drought continued to affect the Malawians lives even after the rain came back.

About halfway through the book William begins to build his windmill.  I have to admit that I am an extremely non-technical person so much of this part went over my head.  And I also have to say that I am IN AWE of William's ability to build a windmill, with mostly trash from the scrapyard, using only the basic diagram in a textbook written in English, a language he barely understood.  I can't even understand simple directions from IKEA showing how to put together a shelf.

I love the fact that William wanted to use his knowledge to improve his community.  After the success of his windmill he was asked to start a science club at a local school, despite the fact that he was a teenager and he'd never graduated himself.  And I was thrilled to see him end up in a school for future leaders in South Africa.

It may seem that I've given away a lot of the story but really I haven't.  There's still a ton to discover if you decide to read the book.

To get a better idea about William and his accomplishments, check out the video below. [If you're not already a fan of TedTalks videos, definitely make time to view some of the others - they are quick and fascinating and highly educational and inspiring.]  In it he references a video he made two years earlier in which he wasn't very eloquent (actually, it was painful to watch that first video); if you're interested in checking it out you can do so here.

*** Your Thoughts ***

This book is making the rounds via TLC Book Tours this month so I know many of you have heard about it already.  What do you think - is it something you'd be interested in reading?

If you'd like to see what other people think of the book check out some of the other tour stops (they are all linked on this page).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Children of God

by Mary Doria Russell
436 pages

"If I was led by God to love God, step by step, as it seemed, if I accept that the beauty and the rapture were real and true, then the rest of it was God's will too and that, gentlemen, is cause for bitterness. [...] But if I am simply a deluded ape who took a lot of old folktales far too seriously, then I brought all this on myself and my companions.  The problem with atheism, I find, under these circumstances, is that I have no one to despise but myself. If, however, I choose to believe that God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God." - Fr. Emilio Sandoz speaking, on page 5

Children of God (Ballantine Reader's Circle)*** About the Book ***

In this follow-up to her incredibly powerful book THE SPARROW, Mary Doria Russell returns to the character of Father Emilio Sandoz and his struggle to reconcile his experiences on the planet Rahkat.

In the previous book Sandoz believed he was called by God to make contact with the inhabitants of a newly discovered planet.  After living there in peace with the two alien species for a long time, Sandoz realizes that all is not as it seems.  Tragedy strikes,  and a mentally and physically broken Sandoz is the only member of the expedition to make it back to Earth.

Now Sandoz has begun to heal in mind and body but his faith in a loving God has been shattered.  In a strange twist of events Sandoz travels back to Rahkat - despite his vow never to return - only to find life there completely different than when he left.

This is much more than a "genre novel."  Russell uses the scifi elements in this book to help us examine the big questions in life: Do good intentions matter if the result is bad? Does the end justify the means? Is there really a God or is it the concept of belief itself that is important? 

*** Why I Read It ***

After our successful read-a-long of THE SPARROW, Florinda and I decided to continue on and read the next book together as well.  Both books were re-reads for us but we felt there was a lot to be discussed in them and that not enough people have read these amazing books.

*** My Thoughts ***

This was one of the first books I reviewed when I started this blog.  Here's a bit of what I had to say back then:
While I sometimes got frustrated with [THE SPARROW] I never did with this book. It goes more deeply into the characters, both human and “alien”. The culture is much more prevalent that in the first book as well. [... I think of THE SPARROW] as the background to the real story in this book.
After reading it again I still stand by what I said, but of course I have much more to add now. (You're not really surprised, are you?)

I love this book.  I loved the first book, but I love this one even more.  In my review of THE SPARROW I talked about the thing that bothered me in regard to Emilio's outlook on life.  Here's a bit of what I said then:
All along Sandoz has marveled that God has been working through many, many years to bring His plan to fruition. He believes that the whole purpose of God’s plan was to make contact with this alien race. But what if that was NOT the purpose of the plan? What if God is still enacting the beginning part of His plan, and this is only a step in the right direction? THAT is what I think Sandoz is missing – he is making God’s plan all about him, rather than trying to see himself as part of an even larger plan.
CHILDREN OF GOD (CoG) provides the rest of the story, allowing the reader to see the big picture.  That is the essence of why I love this book so much more than the previous one.  This quote from the book illustrates my point:
If I am to sustain my belief in a good and loving deity, in a God who is not arbitrary and capricious and vicious, I must believe that some higher purpose is served by all this. And I must believe that the greatest service I can do Emilio Sandoz is to make it possible for him to discover what that purpose may have been. - page 156
For me CoG is like the second, more important, half of the story - without it, the first part doesn't mean anything.

Reading THE SPARROW was a nerve-wracking process for me; there was so much foreshadowing of the "awful event" that it made me physically anxious.  Reading CoG was an easier and less intense experience.   There are some horrible things that happen in CoG but the affect on the reader is, in my opinion, much less intense.

As a side note, my re-read of CoG was unexpectedly enhanced by several other books I read recently.  I detailed the connections in another post, in case you want to check it out.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend these two books by Mary Doria Russell.  They give the reader so much to think about - they'd be fantastic book club selections!

*** Answering the Discussion Questions ***

As part of the read-a-long I posted discussion questions for participants to answer.  Below are my thoughts on a few of the questions.  Be warned: this section WILL include spoilers.
Over and over in this book (and in THE SPARROW) characters reiterate that they did not mean to do harm, or they did things with the best intentions.  Do their good intentions make them less responsible for the outcome of their actions?  Do intentions mean anything in the long run?  
Intentions are VERY important.  Unintended consequences are an unfortunate part of life; there is only so much you can do to prepare for possible eventualities before you finally have to act.  For me, this goes back to a conversation in THE SPARROW about the difference between "responsibility" and "culpability" in relation to an unexpected consequence. This does not excuse you from trying to fix any problems resulting from your actions, but your original intentions are vitally important regardless of the outcome.
On page 219 Danny thinks to himself: "if you believe in God's sovereignty and if you believe in God's goodness, then what happened to Sandoz must be part of a larger plan; and if that is so, you can help this one soul and serve God by returning with him to Rakhat." Later he uses this as justification for kidnapping Sandoz.  In your opinion, does the end justify the means?  Do you think that is what the author is saying though the actions of Danny, Vicenzo Guiliani, and the Pope?  Was it right for Sandoz to be taken against his will, given how the second mission turns out? 
I can't say that the end justifies the means but I can certainly understand feeling that way.  And I can't say what I would be capable of if the end result involved, say, keeping Kiddo safe.  That said, I don't think it was right to bring Sandoz back to Rakhat against his will despite how things turned out in the end.  (As an aside, did anyone else's book have the author interview in the back where she addressed this specific question? I found that entire interview fascinating but especially this part.)
History and religious literature are both packed with examples indicating that God's favor brings not wealth and happiness, but agony and torture. How could Sandoz, a Jesuit priest inculcated with stories of martyred saints, feel so betrayed by God? Is there a difference between what happened to Sandoz and what happened to martyred saints throughout history?

This was really my biggest issue with Emilio's character.  Not just that he reacted the way he did to his abuse - that, to me, is a wholly understandable result of being human.  But his attitude toward God even after his body and mind began to heal was completely beyond my comprehension.  The way I see it, there are two kinds of evil in the world: one is that caused by people who have free will, and the other is the result of living in a imperfect world (tidal waves, hurricanes, etc - natural events that aren't the caused by people).  Just because you are doing what you believe God wants you to do, there is no guarantee that either kind of evil won't affect you.  That is just the way the world works, and it boggles my mind that Emilio doesn't GET that.

*** In the end ... ***

I could write and talk on and on about this book - there is just so much packed in there worth discussing! I'm glad to know that there are others out there reading and reviewing it this month and you can bet I'll be commenting as soon as I see posts go up.

If you haven't read this, what the heck are you waiting for?! Get a copy of THE SPARROW and CHILDREN OF GOD then prepare to have your worldview questioned and to reevaluate what you believe, because that's what these books will do.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Irish Reading Challenge Recap

I've been sorting through my challenge notes and I realized that I've actually completed a challenge early - woohoo!  

I signed up for the Irish Reading Challenge at the Shamrock level, which means I had to read two books:
Both were great books and I definitely recommend them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Literary Connections in CHILDREN OF GOD

Literary Connections are those times when something you’ve read in one book comes into play in another book you read shortly after. It's been a while since I did one of these posts but my reading has been so unexpectedly interconnected that I just had to share it with you.

My reading has been very eclectic lately (big surprise, huh?) and not all of the books have been great reads.  But there does seem to be a larger plan at work here and I saw it come together while reading Mary Doria Russell's CHILDREN OF GOD (CoG) for this month's read-a-long ...
  • In CoG there is a character named Joseba who is from the Basque region of Spain.  His background is in terrorism and his family had a history of being involved in ETA.  Also, he is fluent in Euskara.  All this would have meant very little to me had I not recently listened to THE BASQUE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.  I didn't particularly enjoy that book but I did learn a great deal from it.  That knowledge definitely came in useful here and it helped me to appreciate this character and his unique perspective.
  • Another character in CoG is Danny Iron Horse, descendant of the Lakota Sioux tribe and also of Swedish immigrants.  Having just finished listening to the amazingness that is BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE and also the highly educational INDIAN CHIEFTAINS AND GREAT HEROES, I understood a great deal about Danny's background and the perspective and prejudices that he brought to the book. The decisions he made near the end of CoG made a stronger impact on me than they had during my previous reading of this book because I now understand more of where he's coming from.  
  • This last point isn't meaningful as the previous ones, but ... At one point a characters describes someone else's viewpoint as definitely not Panglossian and having recently read Candide I understood that reference.  Pangloss was a character to looked on the world with unfailing optimism, always believing that things will work out "for the best, in this best of all possible worlds."
I love how things like this come together unexpectedly and allow me to take more from a book than I originally expected to.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the power of one book

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring : The American ExperienceI just watched a rerun of an old episode of The American Experience that focused on Rachel Carson's book, SILENT SPRING and I had to share a few thoughts.

Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the ArcticPrior to beginning my blog I read SILENT SNOW by Marla Cone, a book about the poisoning of the Arctic due to pollution.  I found it both horrifying and amazing and highly recommend it.  It was, of course, titled and themed after Carson's book, but I had not read that one (and still have not).  In fact, the only thing I knew about SILENT SPRING was that it had something to do with the way chemicals affect birds.

Silent SpringAfter watching this program on SILENT SPRING I am horrified at what we didn't know about pesticides and the way they affect living things.  From what I understand, Carson was a brilliant natural scientist and a gifted and eloquent writer - a rare combination.   Her writing brought enormous attention to a very serious problem.  Within 10 years of SILENT SPRING's publication sweeping changes were made in environmental laws, and in the the way the US government and the American people thought about pesticides.

SILENT SPRING is now on my must-read-soon list. I can't wait to pick it up, though I'm sure I'll be horrified and sickened by what I find inside. 

I was particularly struck by this quote near the end of the program:
A few thousand words from Rachel Carson and the world took a new direction.
And that, my friends, demonstrates the tremendous power that one book can have.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown
audiobook: 14.3 hours
narrated by Grover Gardner

*** About the Book ***

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (Arena Books)First published in1972, this book provides an extraordinary look at the collapse of the Indian Nations of the American West due to the encroachment of white settlers.  Separate chapters are dedicated to each Indian tribe and the particulars of its downfall.  Each chapter begins with a timeline that lists the major events going on around the world and in the United States.  This is followed by direct quotes from Indians regarding their experiences.  The rest of the chapter then details the events that led to either the extinction of the tribe or its forced move onto a reservation.

*** Why I Read It ***

A while back I watched the movie Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee and became interested in the Native American writer Charles Eastman.  After listening to some of his histories I wanted to learn more so I sought out this book, knowing that it had received high praise from a blogger I trust.

*** My Thoughts ***

This book is a must read for absolutely everyone. It should be part of the public school curriculum throughout the United States.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

If you think you know anything about the history of the American West, you probably only know a fraction of what you think you know.  I always thought that my education was pretty balanced, or at least that I'd educated myself in areas that were lacking, but I can't believe how much of the "doctrine" I learned in elementary school continues to affect my thinking without me being conscious of it.  This book truly opened my eyes to the realities of American history, to things that I really thought I already knew but apparently did not.

I fully intend to listen to this book again.  And maybe even again after that.  I also intend to get a copy of the illustrated edition and to share it with Kiddo when he's a little bit older.  It is one of the best, most educational, books I've ever read/listened to.

*** Your Thoughts ***

It was Alyce's review (from At Home With Books) that made me put this book on my TBR list last year; I encourage you to check out her review as she says exactly what I am trying to say only better, AND she uses lots of pictures from the illustrated edition.

Have any of the rest of you read this book?  If you've reviewed it please leave a link in the comments.  For those who haven't read it, have I convinced you to pick it up? I hope so, because this is truly a phenomenal book.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Kiddo's Been Reading

I am SO THRILLED with Kiddo's reading progress this summer.  During the past school year (2nd grade) he was a very reluctant and struggling reader. Over the summer I expected him to do the backsliding thing that happens to most kids when they're off school so long but exactly the opposite happened - his reading improved enormously!

I think it all started with the books I brought him from BEA just before school let out.  Kiddo is still sporadically reading the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea graphic novel but he finished Planet Earth and actually started reading it again.  He also read all of Big Nate, even though he has refused to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  He always told me that the Wimpy Kid books look stupid, but after loving Big Nate I think he's willing to give them a shot (both books are by the same author).  These books captured his interest and made him WANT to read, which in turn helped his reading improve.  He is much more confident in his abilities and I think he's actually beginning to enjoy reading. *gasp* *cheer*

Big Nate: In a Class by HimselfBasher Planet Earth: What planet are you on?

Kiddo has also been reading books that have been on our shelves for a longs time, like the Magic Treehouse books. Plus he's still getting Star Wars graphic novels from the library whenever we drop in there.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - In Service of the Republic (Star Wars: Clone Wars (Dark Horse)) Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-4: Dinosaurs Before Dark, The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning, and Pirates Past Noon

The newest book to capture his attention is Real Street Kidz: Chasing Action.  I asked for a review copy of this book after checking out the press release.  I was pretty sure Kiddo would enjoy it and his initial reaction (Mom, this looks COOL!) makes me think I was right.

Every night Kiddo takes a book with him to bed and reads at least one chapter of something.  It used to be that he would bring Lego magazines to bed and look at the pictures but now he is actually reading every night.  I couldn't be happier!

Kiddo wants to do video review of most of these books but our summer schedule has been crazy so we haven't gotten to it.  I'm hoping that when school starts on Monday (?!?!) we'll get back into a set routine and we'll be able to get the videos made. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

This post is part of Kids' Picks, hosted on the 3rd Tuesday of every month by 5 Minutes for Books.  Come see what other kids are reading and share yours kids' favorite books.
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