Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yeah! A "Big Girl" Book!

I've been reading and reading, books that were published in the US during 2008 for the last forever! I've organized a Mock Newbery Award Committee and we've been reading pretty hard - it's vacation and I'm actually reading a "big girl" book! The Shack by William Young - a tough and not so cheery Christmas story.

The Shack is Mack (Mackenzie) Philips' story about how he has dealt with life during the time since his daughter was abducted during a family vacation. Her body was never found, however, the police did find evidence in an abandoned shack that indicated she had been brutally murdered by a serial killer who preyed on young girls. As the story opens, Mack mysteriously receives a strange note that is apparently from God and is invited to return to this shack where his daughter was murdered. He visits the scene of the crime and there has experiences a encounter with God.

The Shack
does exhibit good and bad and is a very touching story. With all the rave reviews, I expected so much more. It is a story needing to be told, but to compare it to some of the greatest works in literature, Pilgrim's Progress, mmmm... no, no way. Also, I find issues with the theological basis regarding the Trinity and other scriptural references, especially for someone that is new to Christianity.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Salon in Florence, Italy

I'm sitting on the deck, drinking hot Chai tea and recapping my reading today. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant has kept me captivated all afternoon. I did suspect that it would be a bit more detailed and harder to follow but I'm enjoying this one immensely. The book starts out with the most incredible, unbelievable... a nun with a Renaissance style tattoo. Mmmm... I'm thinking that's what's going but not real sure - we've left that scene totally and I'm just not sure where this is going.

Review from Reading Group Guides:
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family's Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter's abilities.

But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra's parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola's reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra's married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

The Birth of Venus is a tour de force, the first historical novel from one of Britain's most innovative writers of literary suspense. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a heroine with the same vibrancy of spirit as her beloved city.

Going back in now to read some more! See you next Sunday.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby


Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest person he knows. By age 12, he was in high school, and by 15 he was attending a top-ranking university. And now, at the tender age of 18, he's on the verge of proving the Riemann Hypothesis, a mathematical equation that has mystified academics for almost 150 years. But only days before graduation, Mead suddenly packs his bags and flees home to rural Illinois. What has caused him to flee remains a mystery to all but Mead and a classmate whose quest for success has turned into a dangerous obession.At home, Mead finds little solace. His past ghosts haunt him; his parents don't understand the agony his genius has caused him, nor his desire to be a normal kid, and his dreams seem crushed forever. He embarks on a new life's journey -- learning the family business of selling furniture and embalming the dead--that disappoints and surprises all who knew him as "the young Fegley genius."Equal parts academic thriller and poignant coming-of-age story, LIFE AFTER GENIUS follows the remarkable journey of a young man who must discover that the heart may know what the head hasn't yet learned.

This is a remarkable book and a must read for our book club. As a teacher, we often see this same child and wonder what will become of them - thus, reassured by the ending in this novel. Praises to M. Ann Jacoby on her first novel.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ghost Stories? You Bet!!

October, my favorite season! I love the cool, crisp air, the colorful leaves, the excitement among the wildlife, and Halloween. I just enjoy the spooky fun that I remember as a child and fortunately, it wasn't such an issue back then. It was costumes, carnivals, candy apples, fishing for toys, hayrides, pumpkin carving, lots and lots of candy, and ghostly, spooky stories. Children are naturally drawn to "scary stories" as I was. As a school library media specialist that is the hottest request right now - they can't wait to check out those "scary" stories.

But what about adults? What is it about scary stories that keeps us coming back? What is that makes our hair stand up? What makes us shiver? Why the screams? Although, I'm not a big "haunted house" kinda person, I do enjoy reading ghost stories that are not so bloody and evil. Here is my list for this coming week. What are you reading for Halloween this year??

by Steve Berman
The Man In Pictures by Susan Hill

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Thirteeth Tale

Our next selection for Book Club, meeting on October 15 is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld. This is one of the most intriguing novels that I have read lately. The Thirteenth Tale is the story of Ms. Vida Winter, a renown British author as she is just discovering that she is terminally ill. The other notable character, Margaret Lea, daughter of a local antique book dealer and biographer, one day finds an unexpected letter from Ms. Winter requesting that Margaret write her biography. As Margaret tries to collect the vivid details of Ms. Winter's childhood, she finds herself digging into her own past.

Margaret visits the enormous Gothic home of Ms. Winters in order to interview her for the biography. Unfortunately, Ms. Winter has more experience at weaving tales and she finds it difficult to stick to the facts. The Thirteenth Tale is, of course, Ms. Winter's life story. As she shares her history with Margaret, we discover a most unusual family, riddled with tragedies, lies, ghosts, evil, incest and many secrets. This novel is reminiscent of the Gothic mysteries and novels by Agatha Christie, Charlotte Bronte, Barbara Michaels and Victoria Holt. So if you find their writing captivating, you will not want to miss this debut novel by Diane Setterfield.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bookworm's Carnival Post

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is one of the most intriquing novels that I have read lately. This would be a great selection for a book club discussion. In this book, Margaret Lea lives in a flat above her father's book store in which they sell, or house, mostly antique books. Margaret writes biographies, though not famous, she has had several published. Her subjects are usually not very familiar to most, but of personalities of great interest to her. One day she receives a very unusual letter. The handwriting was most curious, childlike, but not. As it turns out, the letter was from Vida Winters, one of England's most famous authors. It seems Miss Winters would like for Margaret to write her biography. Not familiar with Miss Winter's work since Margaret doesn't normally read contemporary fiction, she begins to read one of her novels that has been stored behind glass in her father's store. The book, The Thirteenth Tale, begins a series of unusual and mysterious events which leads Margaret to accept the offer of writing her biography. Margaret visits Miss Winters and during her stay and documentation of Miss Winter's story, Margaret becomes entranced with her own story and history.

The Thirteenth Tale
has it all, there are ghosts, haunted houses, strange happenings and lots of deep, dark secrets. It is very much a modern day, gothic mystery. Although, this is not usually my pick in a genre, I especially enjoyed the many comments and references to Margaret's passion for books and stories. It was a great read and I'd recommend it any day to anyone that enjoys mysteries, antique books, and an intriguing story. Here is an interview with the author, Diane Setterfield which enhances the story even more.

Booking Through Thursday Reply

What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?

And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?

The most unusual book I've ever read was A Suitable Boy:Novel by Vikram Seth. This was a selection for our book club and I happenned to be the host/facilitator. Now, the size of a book doesn't usually throw me, but if it did, this one would! Not being familiar with the Indian culture, I found this book very long and difficult to read - I literally used a glossary so that I could understand what was going on in the story, the foods, the clothing, the greetings, the traditions. I could have gotten through the book much easier if it had not been so long, at least 1500 pages. I did enjoy learning more about India but instead of completing the book, I got on the computer and found music, recipes and clothing to use for our book club meeting. It was terrific - the food and music!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Salon - in the air

Just landed in Dallas and I'm totally loving The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I've read a third of the book and can't wait to get settled and read some more. Being a librarian, I'm enjoying the passion and respect for books that Margaret has. Adeline is most interesting at this point in the book and I'm just meeting Hester. I really expected Adeline to click with Hester before Emmeline so that, too, is a surprise. Must read on....

Thanks to all the other Sunday Salon readers for your comments - some made me a bit hesitant and some left me very eager to begin the book. Will let you know ...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Salon on the Road

I'm doing my reading for Sunday Salon this week on the road. We spent most of today driving back home after a glorious three day weekend at Pawleys Island, SC. I read and read and read! If you want a beach spot that is totally perfect for reading you need to go to the Sea View Inn - you can check out my first and only beach post in the previous post. Today, in the car, I read a book my daughter gave me called Where Did I Leave My Glasses by Martha Lear. It's a very humorous explanation of how our brains are wired to "forget" and the difference between male and female memory. Although, I haven't finished the book, I do feel a bit better about some of the "scatter brained" moments or should I say, blank moments, that I experience on a regular basis. It's good to know we're normal - and most likely, your friends will not remember you forgot, anyway! Gotta get back to it! Oh yeah, here's a neat podcast about the book.

Next Sunday, I'll be on a flight to Dallas, Texas and plan to read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Have any of you read this one? I'd love to hear your thoughts and I'll check in when we change plans and again, when we land in Dallas.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reader's Paradise

I lie on my bed to read, I go to the parlor to read then take a walk on the beach, I sit on the screened porch to read then take a walk on the beach, I sit on the front porch in a rocker or hammock to read and gaze, intermittingly out over the ocean. This absolutely the most perfect environment for reading and relaxation. To use my laptop, I have to come up to the room, as tv, phones, any electronic devices are not allowed in common areas here at the Sea View Inn on Pawley's Island. Their websites describes the atmosphere as "unspoiled." I am spoiled by technology so I do slip up to the room to post on my blog. But only for a short minute and a short post.

You are fed three fabulous meals, provided quiet time, ocean view and the most soothing breeze and all you have to do is bring your book or pillow and move from one area to the next. I could live here! Here is a quick laptop photo as I sit on my bed!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bookworm's Carnival

This is my first post for Bookworms Carnival so I'm not sure this is what I should be doing. This month's theme is Author's New To Me hosted by Darcie at Reading Derby. Being a school library media specialist, and being in the first month of school, the past weeks' reading has focused primarily on children's books. One of the best books, and our students love it, is The Mailbox by first time author, Audrey Shafer. Twelve-year-old Gabe Culligan finally gets a break, after years in different foster homes, when he gets to come live with his Uncle Vernon. Although, Uncle Vernon is a bit on the rough side, Gabe still feels good about this place. His Uncle Vernon has a prosthetic leg and is a bit on the rough side, but Gabe gets along really well with him. One day when Gabe comes home from school he finds his Uncle Vernon lying on the floor. Gabe is sure he’s dead! He kneels down by him and bravely, touches his leg - his artificial leg. Gabe knows he’s dead now, because the fan is off and Uncle Vernon always keeps the fan running. Gabe just isn’t ready to deal with it so he goes to school the next morning just like nothing has happened and tries hard not to think about it. When Gabe gets home from school, there’s a note in the mailbox. On one side it says, “I have a secret”. On the other side it says, “Do not be afraid”. A little confused, Gabe goes on into the house only to find his uncle’s body has disappeared. Mmmmm... This story is one that will keep you turning pages. A “can’t put it down” novel!

Another newbie for me are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid novels by Jeff Kinney. I can't keep these books in and Jeff Kinney can't write fast enough for our kids. What is the story? It's about a middle schooler, Greg Heffley, who keeps a year long journal, which is totally hilarious and so dramatic, just as the lives of all adolescents! His mother makes him keep a diary and in it he tells about each day’s events, along with his comical illustrations. Greg’s character is typical of lots of middle school kids, thus it's popularity among 5th and 6th graders. Greg isn't your best student, he's not the worse one either, but he wants more than anyting to be popular! So desperate, even at the expense of others, he seizes his opportunities. This book appeals especially to your "not so eager readers" and has them eagerly awaiting Greg’s further adventures in Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules.

Two new authors for kids - great successes and highly entertaining.

Booking Through Thursday Reply

"Today is the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I know that not all of you who read are in the U.S., but still, it’s vital that none of us who are decent people forget the scope of disaster that a few, evil people can cause–anywhere in the world. It’s not about religion, it’s not about politics, it’s about the acknowledgment that humans should try to work together, not tear each other apart, even when they disagree.

So, feeling my way to a question here … Terrorists aren’t just movie villains any more. Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read? Personally, I used to enjoy reading Tom Clancy, but haven’t been able to stomach his fight-terrorist kinds of books since.

And, does the reality of that kind of heartless, vicious attack–which happen on smaller scales ALL the time–change the way you feel about villains in the books you read? Are they scarier? Or more two-dimensional and cookie-cutter in the face of the things you see on the news?"


Since 9/11, I've become more interested in the cultural differences in other countries, especially the differences that directly affect women. There has been a surplus of books dealing with Middle Eastern women, and maybe it's a good thing. It is an eyeopener for those of us that are successful, career oriented, women. What I've found most interesting is the respect for cultural values, even at the expense of freedom for some of the women featured in these books. I think it helps us to better understand what it feels like to be on the other side, as a normal, regular citizen from another country. What it feels like to walk in someone else's shoes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Growing My Own Food!!!

Wow, I find it hard to find time to cook! In this book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, the family moves back to the Virginia farmlands and make every effort possible to grow their own produce, trade with neighbors, and buy locally. I was so impressed with this concentrated effort to save energy, use wholesome foods, and support our local farmers that I have bought copies of this book for several friends. Barbara Kingsolver shares her experiences during a year of restructuring eating habits for the entire family. As they make heavy decisions about giving up "junk food" the family recreates what I remember as the "family meal." As a child, my mom cooked everything from scratch and we ate only "in season" foods during spring, summer and fall. We canned vegetables, made jams, and ate from the freezer or cupboard during winter months. Today, I don't even have a freezer and my cupboard is bare - due to long hours at school. This was a real eye opener about how our health has been affected by our "lazy" eating habits and workaholic behaviors. Thank you Barbara! After reading this book, I've set some new, healthier goals for myself and my family. Great book!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a very unusual story of a young Pakistani man, Changez, and the impact that 9-11 has on his life. Changez was a Princeton graduate and immediately hired by a very prestigious firm in NY. While living in NY, he developed a relationship with Erica, a unstable, but very outgoing girl. Changez enjoyed the American (NY American) lifestyle until the attacks on the Twin Towers when the native New Yorkers began to treat him differently because he was Muslim. He no longer felt like he “fit in.” He quickly became disillusioned with the U.S. because of their lack of support to Pakistan against rising problems with India.

Although, this novel is reviewed more as dealing with the anti-American concerns, I was pulled more toward Changez's deep affection for Erica and her emotional disorders. Erica was suffering, emotionally and physically, from the death of her boyfriend. Changez seem to be as distraught by his not being able to help Erica through these emotional problems as he was with the political issues. He eventually comes to term with the fact that he has lost Erica and becomes so disillusioned with the US, he doesn't want to live here anymore.

The story is beautifully written, a conversation between two people at a cafe in Pakistan, where you only hear one of the characters speak. The novel does leave you hanging about what really does happen in the end. The viewer's perspective on many different details throughout the novel affect the ending. Excellent discussion novel!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mah Jongg Fix Over

327532515_52d09929e9_m Mah Jongg Fix
Photo by decafinata
Attribution-ShareAlike License

Summer is over and so are my weekly Mah Jongg games. The original group started playing about four years ago and we started right here in my house. Since then the group has tripled in members and had become a favorite “Tega Cay Women’s Club” group that meets weekly up at the club house. Our original group, most definitely the “real” serious MJ players in my opinion, are all such great friends and I have enjoyed spending more time with them this summer, as well as, meeting and getting to know other MJ fanatics. Unfortunately, our Mah Jongg Maven is getting ready to move to Singapore - it just will not be the same Barbara! She leaves about the same time my school year starts back so I know that next summer, it will be so different when I, once again, join the ladies for my summer Mah Jongg fix.

Fortunately, a couple of friends that I work with have expressed an interest in learning the game. Mmmm… am I good enough for this? Well, we will attempt to master the game. I found a few great video clips that teach the game. The rules do vary from region to region but the best clip to instruct on our method is this one Board Games With Scott.

Watch, and watch again. Just love this game!