Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

From the author's website: A move from the city to the suburbs, sixth grade in a different school, a new group of friends. But Margaret handles it...in her own funny, endearing way.

I have finally finished my first book for the Shelf Discovery Reading Challenge - hooray! I remember this one from my childhood but as I saw another participant wrote - in rereading it, I realised there was a lot more to the story than just a girl who wishes she would develop faster. The bust exercises were definitely something me and my friends all tried - I guess that kinesthetic activity cemented that part of the story into my memory. But the other storylines were even more interesting. There was Margaret's search for a religious home with the pressure form the grandparents on either side contrasted with her parents' reluctance to even engage in a discussion about religion with Margaret. Then there is the idea of Margaret becoming aware that all the other children are not necessarily what they seem to be at first; the "bad girl" might be nice and the "good girl" might have some flaws. Middle school is such a hard age and Blume captures it perfectly!

I also enjoyed perusing Judy Blume's website. Reading her stories about this book and others being censored was very interesting. She's a leader in the movement to keep books from being censored and she has a story about her mother "banning a book" for her that was very similar to my own experience!

This was a fun read for the Shelf Discovery Challenge hosted by Booking Mama. I am glad to have a notch on my Shelf Discovery belt and am looking forward to the others on my list. Click on the logo if you'd like to see the rest of my list.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2010 hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days. Click on the logo if you'd like to see the rest of my list.

This book is my "A" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larrson

From the author's website: Lisbeth Salander is wanted for a triple murder. All three victims are connected to a trafficking exposé about to be published in Mikael Blomqvist’s magazine Millenium, and Lisbeth’s fingerprints are on the weapon.

Lisbeth vanishes to avoid capture by the justice. Mikael, not believing the police, is despairingly trying to clear her name, using all his resources and the staff of his magazine. During this process, Mikael discovers Lisbeth’s past, a terrible story of abuse and traumatizing experiences growing up in the Swedish care system.

When he eventually finds her, it’s only to discover that she is far more entangled in his initial investigation of the sex industry than he could ever imagine.

Larrson has done it again. He crafted a mystery that kept me on the hook until nearly the end. Like the last book this one started a little slow because the author needs to lay out such a large cast of characters. Sometimes it was difficult for me to figure out who was who and I wondered if that was, in part, because their Swedish names were so unfamiliar to me perhaps if they had been Smith and Brown and Jones I might have had an easier time. But it's more likely just an indication of how complicated the plot was. I like the heroine, Lisbeth. She's in some ways a female James Bond - she just handles anything that gets thrown at her. I again found the Berger sexual triangle an unnecessary distraction but I was able to just ignore it. Lisbeth's sexual history was more integral to the story and while a little edgy at times not anything that went so far as to make me uncomfortable. I have promised the book to my 75 year old mother next and wonder what she will think of it all! (On a side note it makes me remember one year when I was a teenager and we were book sharing at the beach. Mom finished up her turn with Scruples one afternoon, closed the book, looked at me and said, "Well, you're done reading this one." How fast do you think I was out searching for my own copy?)

So, The Girl Who Played with Fire lived up to my hopes - such a treat for a "second" in a trilogy. No, it was not as good as the first one but it was still very good. Not nearly as bad as it could have been (think Twilight then New Moon). The final book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest comes out in May in hardcover - no telling how long I will have to wait to buy the paperback but I am looking forward to it. I'm musing about the title already. The Girl Who Played with Fire makes perfect sense now that I have read the book and I am wondering how Hornet's fits in with Lisbeth's "business" Wasp Enterprises?

Guess what? This wasn't for any challenges - it was just for fun!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

From the Amazon product description: The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives.

When this book came out, I entered every blog contest I could find because it sounded just like something I would like. The format of disparate characters brought together and then having their personal lives revealed is one of my favorites, Maeve Binchy does it all the time and I enjoy those immensely. But this book didn't charm me. The time spent developing the characters was my favorite part but it was not enough to give me a connection with any single one that would carry me through the rest of the book. The "rest of the book" is the cooking classes at the restaurant. There I was left cold. Although using the author's style I couldn't just say cold, every description seemed to require a simile and then description was piled on top of description to really overwhelm me. The five-star reviewers describe the writing as lush and sensuous; the one star reviewers share my feeling that it was all just too much!

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking over at Beth Fish Reads. Click on the logo to see the other posts this week.

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand? March 2010

This monthly feature is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the last Tuesday of every month. Click on the logo to go and check out all the participants.

I have made very little progress on my nightstand from last month. But I am pushing all of those books aside because I just got home from the book store and I have this......

....hooray! I loved the first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and can't wait to dive into this one!

The Book List Meme - 3 Books That You Loved as a Child

Rebecca at Lost in Books has started a new weekly meme - The Book List. This is perfect for me because I love making lists of books. I am more likely to make a list for a challenge than to actually complete a challenge! So here it is - all lists, no pressure - just right for me.

Here's this week's list..(and if you click on the link, you can check out everyone else's lists!)

3 Books That You Loved as a Child

Go Dog Go was my all time favorite! I loved the end when they had the party in the tree. That is the most joyful image. To this day, I want my life to be the dog party. I could not find an image of the tree party but I did find the dogs driving to the tree in all their enthusiasm. Do you like my hat?

When I was older, maybe around 4th grade. I read Mandy and fell in love. It's a book by Julie Andrews (Yes, the one who played Mary Poppins, who knew she could write?!). A little girl living in an orphanage discovers an abandoned cottage and claims it as her own. She sneaks items out to decorate it and tends the neglected garden and it becomes her own little haven.

Continuing my orphan theme, everyone is probably familiar with The Little Princess who is left in an English boarding school while her father goes to work the diamond mines in Africa. When he is killed, she becomes a pauper and is forced to live in the attic as a drudge. But she sneaks things in and turns her little attic into a haven. Hmmm...there seems to be a theme here that perhaps should be explored in therapy! I do know that I spent an inordinate amount of time as a young girl poring over the JCPenney and Sears catalogs - not looking at toys - but looking at home goods.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Reading Thing 2010

I am so eager to start Callapidder Days' Spring Reading Thing challenge that I actually initially pecked out this post on my Blackberry from my hotel room in Orlando where I am camped out for a week doing some training for work! Now I am in the hotel computer center to add the links and logo but the most important part is, of course, the list! I did pretty well sticking to my list with the Fall Into Reading challenge so I am hoping to do as well this time.

First off is a biography of Thomas Jefferson by R. B. Bernstein that I am reading for the U.S. Presidents Reading Project.

For the Facebook Historical Fiction book club I have the March selection Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran . And,time for the April selection, The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall will be here before we know it!

Everyone I know has already read Life of Pi by Yann Martel so I feel the need to get that one read so I can have an opinion. (What I have heard is that it is worth slogging through the whole book just to enjoy the ending.)

I've got a book or two on my reading list for work - Making Connections; Teaching and the Human Brain by Caine and Caine and The Out of Sync Child by Kranowitz and Miller.

And, lastly is all my books for the Shelf Discovery Challenge. I thought I was dead in the water with one but then was happily made aware that the challenge runs until April 30th. (Apparently there were some overachievers - you know who you are - who finished the challenge early and did their wrap ups! Me, I'm more of a last minute kind of girl!) So for that challenge I have these six books....

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Harriet the Spy

Are you There, God? It's Me, Margaret

A Little Princess


Flowers in the Attic

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cancer update #3

For those who may be wondering how my dad is doing. He has been handling the chemotherapy very well. In fact, there is this piece of me (and one of my brothers voiced this as well) that wonders, if it is not affecting him like we expected - he's not nauseous, he's kept most of his hair, he has a good appetite, etc, is it working? Well, we still don't know that for sure. But because he is doing so well, because he is as his doctor describes "robust", he gets to do more. They are adding at least one more, maybe up to three more, doses of chemo. He has a scan scheduled after the next one so we will get an idea if it is working.

My mother was very specific with me that the doctor said this is not a cure. The stage four cancer will not be cured; this is giving him some extra time. Now the ball is in my court to make good use of that time. I must find time to go visit. It's difficult with work and three kids active in sports and such but I am going to make it happen. Dad isn't going through chemo so he can do more yard work or watch more TV. He is going through chemo to give his family the gift of more time and I need to take advantage of that gift.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Memorial Day by Vince Flynn

From the author's website: CIA intelligence has pointed to a major terrorist attack on the United States, just as the nation’s capital prepares for a grand Memorial Day tribute to the veterans of World War II. Racing to Afghanistan, Mitch Rapp leads a commando raid on an al Qaeda stronghold in a remote border village.

This was your basic suspense/thriller of the macho variety. It took me two tries to get started but since I have said that exact same thing so frequently lately (like here and here), I'm beginning to wonder if it is just me! The main character Mitch Rapp is arrogant, impatient, sexist, intolerant; I really did not like him. I enjoyed the plot for the suspense - will they save the day?!- but I did not click with any of the characters. I did not realize until after the fact how timely the subject matter was - the debate about whether suspected terrorists should be read their rights and tried in the courts was on the news very shortly after I finished this one.

Vince Flynn's leading man character, Mitch Rapp, may not be my cup of tea but, boy, does Flynn have a great website! He softened me up by having a page devoted to charities, a page answering questions from readers, another featuring photos of readers with his books. He is either a marketing wizard or he has hired one because that site is impressive and sucks you in with so many varied links.

This book is my "M" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs

From the author's website: This book is approved for consumption by those seeking pleasure, escape, amusement, enlightenment, or general distraction. This book is not approved to treat disorders such as Ebay addiction or incessant blind dating.

In studies, some people reported inappropriate, convulsive laughter, a tingling sensation in the limbs, and sudden gasping. Fewer than 1% reported narcolepsy.

Doll collectors may experience special sensitivity, as may discourteous drivers, candy company brand managers and Nicorette users.

This book has been shown to be especially helpful to those with parents, grandparents, life partners and incontinent dogs. People with dry, cracked skin have responded well to this book, as have people with certain heart conditions.

Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this book, until you know what effects it may have on you.

This text is contraindicated in those suffering from certain psychiatric disorders, including-but not limited to-readers afflicted with Anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure.

Ask your doctor about Possible Side Effects.

That's a little bit longer blurb than I usually post but it gives you a sense of his writing style. This was a fun read. If you've read his memoirs Running With Scissors or Dry, this is lighter than both of those. Yes, he still tackles his addictions and there are some references to his childhood but they are sidenotes to the essays not the major focus like they were in the memoirs. This book seemd a little like I was reading a David Sedaris, in fact when I googled their names together with "compared", I got almost 3,000 results - I guess I am not the first one to notice. This one is rated NC-17 - he's foul-mouthed and he has no qualms discussing sex. Reading this book following so closely on the heels of the foul-mouthed Cleaving should fulfill my cussing/deviant sex quota for the winter.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The French Mistress by Susan Holloway Scott

From the author's website: 1668: The daughter of a poor nobleman, Louise leaves the French countryside for the glittering court of the legendary King Louis XIV. As a baby-faced maid of honor, the innocent Louise attracts little notice––until she catches the eye of the visiting English king, Charles II. Before long, she is sent by the scheming Louis to London as a royal “gift” for Charles. There she is expected not only to please the tastes of the jaded English king, but to serve as a spy for France.

Meh. It was alright. Take my opinion with a grain of salt because I do believe I am suffering from Historical Fiction exhaustion. I would say "Tudor exhaustion" but I am not sure of that is the correct term for this time period - I'm still fairly HF illiterate. This one was set in the court of Charles II and told the story of one of the important women in his life - you know, the important women in addition to the wife. There are two other "important women" and I saw in the back of the book that Susan Holloway Scott has written their stories as well. So she essentially tells the same tale from three different angles; I find that intriguing. Unfortunately, this viewpoint didn't enthrall me. Neither the romance nor the history were very memorable. I'll probably recollect the more sordid imagery from the first few chapters when she was still in the French court longer than I'd like and the rest not as long!

This book counts toward the Year of the Historical 2010 Reading Challenge hosted by lurv a la mode. Click on the button to see my progress.

This was the Facebook Historical Fiction book club selection for February. Next month we are reading Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran.

This book is my "F" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monthly Update February 2010

Here's my progress on all things challenges for the month of February. If one catches your fancy and you want to know more, click on the button to see the post.

I have six of twenty completed for this challenge. I love audiobooks!

I'm at 9 of 26 on this one - well on my way to completion!

Another month has gone by and I did NOTHING, nada, zero, zilch....hanging head in shame. I think my stumbling block has been assuming that my daughter Bookworm would own the books and then when she didn't, I didn't want to buy them but I am library impaired so I just haven't gotten them in my hands yet. I saw a wrap-up post and thought I was out of time but I was wrong! There are still two months left - hooray!

I'm stuck at two for this one except that maybe Cleaving would qualify. She certainly liberates herself from the conventions of marriage. I'll have to poke around the Women Unbound site and see.

I got myself signed up for this one and have read three books that qualify, two I have already posted and then The French Mistress which I still need to write up.

I still have challenges I am hoping to sign up for...the People of Color challenge, the Memoir one, the Rainbow one, and before you know it, it will be time for the Spring Reading Thing.

I managed to post to a few memes this month. I got up a post for "Weekend Cooking" and for "What's On Your Nightstand", one for "Mailbox Monday" and another for the "Book List" meme. In a perfect world those would be links but I am typing fast since I am already a day late!!!

Finally, the giveaway, I hosted a giveaway for the Catholic edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It worked out quite nicely as I had just a few copies to giveaway and just a few folks who wanted one - so Mary, Beth, and Wanda, you all get one!