Tag Archives: fiction

Review: The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campbell

gaimanThe Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds
Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Eddie Campbell
74 pages
Published in 2014 by William Morrow

In Neil Gaiman’s, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, two men journey to a cave located on a mysterious island in the Scotland. The cave is said to grant gold to anyone who can find its location. But in return, visitors have to give something up. . .

I hesitate to call this work a book. It’s more like an illustrated short story in graphic format. Gaiman collaborated with artist, Eddie Campbell, and the result is a dark tale. In reviews that I’ve read about The Truth is a Cave, some readers have found themselves a little thrown back by the style of this book. There’s art on every page, and sometimes the art is used to illustrate while other times it’s part of the story itself. At times, the art felt like a perfect match for the story, though it can seem like a distraction. I think it had to do with the different styles used by Campbell.

img054

Overall, this was an engaging read. After I read it once, I had to reread it again. For those looking for a short and creepy read for the R.I.P. Challenge, I would recommend this tale. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

The first lines:

You ask me if I can forgive myself?

I can forgive myself for many things. For where I left him. For what I did. But I will not forgive myself for the year that I hated my daughter, when I believed her to have run away, perhaps to the city. During that year I forbade her name to be mentioned, and if her name entered my prayers when I prayed, it was to ask that she would one day learn the meaning of what she had done, of the dishonor that she had brought to my family, of the red that ringed her mother’s eyes.

I hate myself for that, and nothing will ease that, not even what happened that night, on the side of the mountain. . .

Sunday Salon: Have I Got a Book for you! #diversiverse

sunday salon

Happy Sunday! Instead of telling you what I’m up to, I decided to do something different. A Diverse Universe event is coming up and I thought I’ll write a list post for anyone who’s thinking about joining the event and don’t know what to read.

Bloggers like Aarti and Nymeth have eloquently written about why more people should read diversely. I’m not going to do it. I’ve realized that exploring works of art based on an author’s race means being open to something different. And either you are open to that or you’re not. Readers love the adventures that books can take them on, like new worlds light-years away or a dystopian version of the world they live in. Looking at race can be a different and harder thing to do. But it doesn’t have to be.

It’s an ongoing process, one that means making a decision book by book. It doesn’t mean suddenly changing the way you read overall. I, myself, have been guilty of not reading many books by people of color over the years. Or, I’ll read them but don’t review them. This year has been fantastic with books by people of color dominating my reviews, but I still have work to do.

Some critics have stated that by purposely choosing to read a book written by a person of color, you’re excluding whites. Well, that’s true. When you’re in the mood to read science fiction or fantasy that means excluding all writers who don’t write in that genre. Race isn’t any different. Nor is it any different when choosing to read books that won certain awards or set in different countries or translated from other languages. I hope everyone who reads this post makes a decision to pick up a book by a person of color. Like I stated earlier, that choice is up to you.

The books on my list were all published this year. I decided to give newly released books more bookish love than those that were published in previous years. By buying, borrowing, or reviewing new releases shows the gatekeepers that books by people of color are desired by readers.

Note: Most of the links to the titles below will take you to Goodreads. Several will take you to my reviews or the reviews of other bloggers.

Looking for a short read?

diverse collage 7

I don’t read short stories often enough though I love them. The great thing about them is that you can often find amazing ones online via Tor and other online publications.

Novels

Diverse Collage 1

diverse Collage 2

 

Diverse Collage 3

 

diverse Collage 4

 

Diverse Collage 5

Nonfiction

Diverse Collage 6

 

Have you read any of these books? What newly released books would you recommend?

2014 Summer Reading List

The school year officially ended last Friday and since then, my days have been filled with watching the kids spend time being outside, playing Uno with the kids, and vegging out on the couch. According to a family friend, my family is glowing. It wasn’t until I heard the words, that I realized she’s right. There’s no notes to take, reading logs to type up, or textbooks to check. It feels good.

While the kids are making plans on how to spend their summer (building huge Lego sets, swimming, and starting their own blogs), I’m making plans too. I’ve posted my bucket list so now I get to share my summer reading list. Sometimes I think one of the best parts of reading books is making lists about the books we want to read.

  • Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
  • Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Trokia by Adam Pelzman
  • The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (may read this one with my daughter)

 

  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (essays)
  • Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (essays)
  • Among Others by Jo Walton
  • Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking by Sarah Elton (future cooking classes with the kids)
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones

 

  • Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Ariana Huffington
  • Love by Toni Morrison (reread)
  • The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My list will probably change from week to week as I add and subtract things so you can always see the most updated list on Pinterest. It seems like a lot of books but I have plenty of time on my hands. I’ve already started reading The Iliad. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying it.

What are you reading this summer?

Review: Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

17879710Mr. Loverman

Bernadine Evaristo

320 pages

Published in April 2014 by Akashic Books

Source: Publisher

“If I had more courage, I would hold Morris’s hand for, say, one second. All-a my life I’ve watched couples holding hands, walking arm in arm, ruffling each other’s hair, sitting on each other’s laps, dancing closely, romantically, jazzily, funkily, badly, bawdily.

And never, not once, have I felt able even to link arms with the man I love.”

 Guys, I love it when a book surprises you. You know that book that you had no expectations of, picked up for whatever reasons, and then it takes you and shakes you silly, leaving you stunned? For me, that book is Bernadine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman.

Barrington “Barry” Walker is a transplant from the West Indies. He’s lived in West London for decades with his wife Carmel and daughters. At seventy-four years old, Barry is ready to leave his loveless marriage to Carmel and live with the love of his life. Problem is, the love of his life is his best friend of sixty-plus years, Morris. Barry wants to break the news to his wife and daughters but he doesn’t know how to take that first step. Mr. Loverman is a hilarious, thought-provoking read on a lot of the big themes of life.

Of the many books I’ve read so far this year, Mr. Loverman is one of the best ones. It’s a tie with Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State. Shannon, you know that’s saying a lot.

You would think from the description I gave you that this book would be depressing but it’s not. Because of Evaristo’s talent, readers are able to understand Barry’s reasons for deceiving Carmel all of those years. Growing up in Antigua, Barry knew that if people even thought you were gay, you could end up in jail on trumped-up charges, beaten, or even thrown in a mental institution. Even as young boys, Barry and Morris loved each other but decided to marry women to disguise their love. It wasn’t right and for decades, Carmel believes that Barry has been cheating with women.

When Carmel goes home to Antigua to bury her father, both she and Barry are forced to look back at their years together and figure out what should happen next.

While readers spend a majority of the book through Barry’s eyes, they also come to see this marriage from Carmel’s view and learn why she stayed so long. Carmel has secrets of her own and it makes her more sympathetic.

This book isn’t just about marriage and love, identify – racial and sexual are woven in by the author’s talent. Mr. Loverman is a pleasing and smart read that left me wishing I had someone to discuss it with. How about it, Aarti? My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Ghost Stories: Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel

18167000The Frangipani Hotel: Stories

Violet Kupersmith

248 pages

Set to be released on April 1, 2014 by Spiegel & Grau

Source: Publisher

But as we watched, we realized that the thing approaching us was not a boat after all. I blinked and squinted, not wanting to believe my eyes, hoping that the rain was blurring my vision. Grandpa stopped waving and went silent, his face puzzled at first, then terrified.

Violet Kupersmith’s collection of short stories, The Frangipani Hotel, starts out with a bang. In the collection’s first story, “Boat Story”, a grandmother recalls her first day of fishing with her new husband and meets a mysterious spirit. The imagery was powerful and I found myself spellbound. I wanted to read more and I did.

The stories that followed, while attention-grabbing with simple writing and vivid descriptions, didn’t keep my interest. I found myself reading a story, feeling “meh” about it, and reading the next story only because this book is for a blog tour. After several stories, I decided not to finish the book.

The Frangipani Hotel is described as a collection of ghost stories set in Vietnam. “Boat Story” sets the tone for the book. The past affects the future whether we want it to or not. As the grandmother explains to her grandchild, Vietnam “gives you what you ask for, but never exactly what you want”. The characters in this collection learn that lesson, often the hard way.

While this collection didn’t keep my interest, many of the bloggers on this tour would disagree with me. This just might be a case of a book coming into my life at the wrong time.

Our muddy patch of the world was already shadowy and blood-soaked and spirit-friendly long before the Americans got here. There’s ancient and ugly things waiting to harm you in that darkness. Yes, of course they’re there in daylight, too—they’re just harder to spot. I’m not by any means a small man. I’m not the man you’d pick a fight with if you could help it. But I do get jittery sometimes.

What was the last book you read and didn’t love but everyone else did?

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

18079683Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi

320 pages

Being published by Riverhead Books on March 6, 2014

Source: From a blogger friend

“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. . . ”

It’s the winter of 1953 and Boy Novak has finally ran away from her abusive father, winding up in a small town far from home. Later on, she marries Arturo Whitman, a widower, and becomes stepmother to his young daughter, Snow. But it’s the birth of Arturo and Boy’s own daughter, Bird, which changes Boy’s happy ending. Their daughter is born with brown skin and exposes Arturo and his immediate family as African Americans passing as white. Bird’s birth changes Boy’s view of Snow, as the girl turning from an innocent child to a more sinister figure. Is Snow really who everyone thinks she is? Are any of us the images we reflect to others? With Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi gives new life to the tale of Snow White; expanding and exploring it through the webs of race, beauty, vanity, and above all, love.

Let’s get the first thing out of the way: Helen Oyeyemi comes up with some kick-ass names for her characters.

As someone who has never read anything by the author before, I went into this book with no expectations. I didn’t know this story had elements of the Snow White fable. A note about that: There are fairy tale retellings and modern-day versions of fairy tales, but I like to think of Oyeyemi’s story as a fairy tale expansion because she takes the Snow White story and turns it into a complex, sometimes heartbreaking, enlightening story.

“It was standard-issue stuff. I wanted a family. But it was just as Arturo said-I didn’t know how to start anything from scratch, and I didn’t want to know. Getting pushed around as a kid had made me realistic about my capabilities. I know some people learn how to take more knocks and keep going. Not me. I’m the other kind. . .See, I’m looking for a role with lines I can say convincingly, something practical. ”

Boy arrives at the small town of Flax Hill, Massachusetts with just the money stolen from her father and no idea on what her next move should be. It’s by luck that she finds her way, making friends and through them, meeting her future husband. While things are okay, Boy isn’t always able to shake the feeling of being an imposter. She’s an outsider with no skills who lives in a town surrounded by people who “make beautiful things.” She always comes from such a dysfunctional life, one that she keeps a secret for the most part.

Pretty much everyone in this story is an imposter of some sort: black passing for white, compassionate masquerading as unkind. Everyone is wearing a mask of some sort but the reflection in the mirror doesn’t lie. (Yes, there’s a mirror in this story.) And that’s one of the themes, the strands from the fable that Oyeyemi tugs on. There’s the image that we hope others see of us, the image they really see, and the image that we see of ourselves.

“Bird adored Snow; everybody adored Snow and her daintiness. Snow’s beauty is all the more precious to Olivia and Agnes because it’s a trick. When whites look at her, they don’t get whatever fleeting, ugly impressions so many of us get when we see a colored girl—we don’t see a colored girl standing there. The joke’s on us. . . From this I can only . . .begin to measure the difference between being seen as colored and being seen as Snow. What can I do for my daughter? One day soon a wall will come up between us, and I won’t be able to follow her behind it.”

That insight leads Boy to make a decision that changes her new family and probably not for the best either. It’s a decision that I didn’t see coming but later understood the logic of it.

From what I’ve read about Oyeyemi, she’s known for writing fantasy and this book is no exception. I want to say it’s magic realism but this magic is hidden. Readers will question if Bird and Snow don’t have reflections in the mirror while Boy’s reflection can make faces back in a Peter Pan-ish kind of way.

I can go on and on about this book. There’s so much that I want to discuss and could. Boy, Snow, Bird is a daring and wonderful story.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Go buy it.

Review: The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

dubosarskyThe Golden Day

Ursula Dubosarsky

150 pages

Published in August 2013 by Candlewick Press

Source: Public Library

These things were too deep and difficult for the little girls. After all, they knew nothing of wives or armies or desert tribes. At night on the television news they heard gunfire and the sound of helicopter blades and bombs falling. Soldiers were dying in flames far away in a black-and-white land where people wore triangular hats and worked in rice fields and everyone, everyone, was always running away in terror. That was all they knew, all they could know. The little girls hung on to the brink of a hugeness that they knew was there but had no way of discovering.

It’s 1967 and the Vietnam War is raging overseas. But at home in Australia, life is changing in ways that eleven little girls have not yet grasp. The girls make up Miss Renshaw’s class at a small all-girls school. It’s a normal day when the teacher leads her class to the local park for lessons. But something happens and the girls return to school without Miss Renshaw. Their teacher mysteriously disappears, leaving the girls and their small city wondering, what happened to Miss Renshaw?

I picked up The Golden Day after it made a few best of 2013 lists. Before then, I never heard of her and none of my libraries have copies of her books, except this one. That should change.

Dubosarsky performs the hard task of giving each girl a personality of their own, but the one that soars and readers hear the most from is Cubby. Cubby has the perceptiveness of an adult; she knows almost instantly that Miss Renshaw won’t be coming back. That knowledge doesn’t stop her from wishing and hoping for her teacher’s return. Readers are also left wondering about Miss Renshaw and whether she’s still alive or dead as the adults in the story believes. That feeling of uncertainty and loose ends had me turning pages.

With her best friend and fellow classmate, Icara, the pair along with their class, grow up and go their separate ways but never forget their lost teacher. They also gain more insight into Miss Renshaw but it’s still not enough.

The Golden Day is a beautiful meditation on childhood lost after a sudden event. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

But with Cubby, Icara was not far-flung. She was nearby-close-at-hand-a-stone’s-throw-away. They were friends without either of them knowing why. It was as though after that first day, when Icara had taken hold of Cubby’s frightened hand, she had never let it go. Cubby and Icara could sit together in the playground or on the bus or in the library not saying much for hours, just a lovely rhythmic silence, like the sound of breathing when you’re asleep.

bestof2013i.jpg

Favorite books of 2013

It’s that time where I get to share with everyone my favorite books of the year! So looking back at all the books I’ve read for 2013, it was a “meh” sort of year. There were some good books, some great ones, and a lot of “meh” reads, which is why overall my year wasn’t that great. As I write this (Sunday morning), I’ve read 249 books in all. By the time January hits, I’ll probably add two more books to that number.

Before I get to my favorite books of the year, here’s a few things about the list that surprised me.

1. Most of the books that made the list were published in 2013. That’s never happened before.

2. None of the books that made the list were books I owned. This is one more reason why I’m tackling my tbr mountain in 2014.

3. The oldest book on my list is Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It was originally published in 1973.

4. The newest book on my list is The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart. It’s publication date is January 14, 2014. I found it such a good read that I had to add it to my list of favorites.

5. Every book that made my list is a book that I’m willing to buy. Pure and simple. If I’m not willing to buy it, I won’t give it five stars or add it to my list.

So enough of that, here’s my favorite books of 2013:

Bestof2013.jpg

bestof2013b.jpg

bestof2013c

bestof2013d.jpg

bestof2013e.jpg

bestof2013f.jpg

bestof2013g.jpg

bestof2013hbestof2013i.jpgThe last book is Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson.

Have you read any of these books? Which books made your “favorites” list of 2013?

The Goldfinch Read-along

tarttThings would have turned out better if she had lived. As it was, she died when I was a kid; and though everything that’s happened to me since then is thoroughly my own fault, still when I lost her I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.

Theo’s right; his life probably would have been much better if his mother had lived. So much wouldn’t have happened but yet much of it wasn’t his fault.

I usually don’t read books in which a child has lost their parent and life is drastically changed. As a single mother, it’s one of my worst fears and the story is usually heartbreaking. I forgot that detail (as big as it is), when I agreed to read The Goldfinch.

This post is a few days late and I’m still only halfway through Theo’s absorbing story. For those of you who are reading the book or have finished, what is your opinion of the book? What stands out? What do you love (or hate) about it? 

Book Review: Going in Circles by Pamela Ribon

ribonGoing in Circles

Pamela Ribon

336 pages

Published in 2010 by Downtown Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Source: Public Library but you can bet your sweet ass that I’m buying a copy

Two weeks ago, I was trolling around Oprah’s website (I have no idea why) when I came across Pamela Ribon’s essay, “How Roller Derby Can Save Your Life”.

I didn’t join a roller derby league in order to survive my divorce. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever thought one had nothing to do with the other.

After reading those first lines, I had to keep reading. In the essay, Ribons talks about roller derby and how the contact sport got her focusing on other things besides the problems she was going through. When she described her latest novel, Going in Circles as “Eat, Pray, Shove”, I knew I needed to read it since I’ve always wanted to grab a pair of skates and learn how to play roller derby.

In Going in Circles, Charlotte Goodman has just left her husband of several months. Hurt and still in disbelief, she tries to distance herself from the pain but it isn’t working. Everyone around Charlotte is asking her to make a decision. Is her going to stay with Matthew or divorce him? As time goes by, Charlotte still hasn’t made a decision and the people in her life are getting tired of her self-pity. When her coworker Francesca introduces Charlotte to roller derby, there’s finally an outlet for her to get out of her own head. Will she ever make the decision to stay in her marriage or finally become single again?

Going in Circles lived up to my expectations and surpassed them. Charlotte’s reaction to everything that’s going on around her is realistic and often hilarious. She’s scared, confused, and forced to wear a mouth guard because she’s been grinding her teeth so badly because of all the stress. She has to see a psychologist and is trying to be distraught enough for her health insurance to pay for therapy but not so much where she ends up institutionalized.

When Charlotte is introduced to roller derby, I started turning the pages even faster. The author explains the sport in detail but it’s never boring or drags down the story.  I love how Charlotte eventually finds herself through the sport.

This book is chick lit at its best. I found Going in Circles to be a perfect weekend read. I can’t wait to read Ribon’s previous books. My rating: 5 out of 5.

Favorite Reads of 2011: Fiction

Instead of a “best of 2011” list, I‘m posting my favorites of 2011 because many of the books I’ve read this year were published before 2011. My favorite books are the best books I’ve read this year- books that I have or plan on buying and re-reading. I’ve found it pretty hard to narrow my favorites down to just ten books so I’m sharing my favorite books of various genres. Every day this week there’ll be a favorite list posted and by the end of the week, I’ll share my favorite book of 2011.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. What is there not to love about this story of an American girl sent to a French boarding school? Anna is one of those fabulous female teen characters that readers need more of. She’s smart, funny, and a little unsure of herself. I’m so tired of young girl characters who are so smart but constantly make stupid decisions. Thankfully, Anna isn’t one of those girls.

Please Look after Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. Translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim. This is one of the most unexpected and pleasing reads of the year. The story of five selfish adult children and the search for their missing mother broke my heart. I can’t wait for more work by the author to be translated into English.


The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka. I loved this book so much that I couldn’t write a review. The Buddha in the Attic follows the lives of several Japanese “mail brides” as they leave Japan to meet their husbands for the first time in Northern California. Otsuka’s writing is precise and beautiful. It’s a book that I plan on re-reading in 2012.

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. The story of Davidia “Davie” Jones, who runs away from her small Southern town as a teenager to make it big in Los Angeles, was such an engaging read. Davie is a ugly duckling who doesn’t take some of the pitfalls of life lying down. After reading this, I couldn’t help but want to be more like Davie.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this classic about mothers and daughters! Told from the point of view of all four mothers and their daughters, there’s a great gulf between the two generations, not only because of age but also because of origin. The mothers are all Chinese-born while the daughters are first generation Americans. There is much miscommunication between the two groups but their love for each other comes across nicely.

Honorary Mentions: 

Love by Toni Morrison. An amazing tale about love, revenge, and greed.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. One of the few books I read in both audio and print at the same time.

Short stories:

I had to include short stories to this list because I read several that stood out. The majority of the stories can be read online in their entirety on Tor.com, just clicked on the titles.

Ponies by Kij Johnson. Johnson takes the imagery of unicorns and turns it on its head.

Fare Thee Wellby Cathy Clamp. For lovers of Greek mythology.

“The Courtship of the Queen” by Bruce McAllister. It’s the sweet and sad story of a boy’s childhood.

“Foster” by Claire Keegan. Thanks to Claire at Paperback Reader for bringing this story to my attention. “Foster” is the story of a young girl’s year-long stay at the home of distant relatives. I’ve read this story many times over the past year and I’ve yet to find the right words for it.

Glitches by Marissa Meyer. “Glitches” is a prequel to the highly anticipated Cinder by Marissa Meyers.

Thankfully Reading Weekend starts

Today is the official start of the Thankfully Reading Weekend. I started my reading yesterday with a collection of short stories, Love Stories in This Town by Amanda Eyre Ward. Between cooking yesterday and spending time with the family, I also started The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks by Robin Romm. Romm chronicles the three weeks leading up to her mother’s death from cancer. It’s a sad but engaging read. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is another book that was started a few days ago. It was Dewey’s favorite books of all time. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors so I’m reading it to honor her memory.

I have a ton of books on my shelves that I would love to read this weekend like Liar by Justin Larbalestier and Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. I’m hoping to finish at least three or four books this weekend.

What are you reading this weekend? Are you participating in Thankfully Reading Weekend?

What My Children Are Reading

This week my children had some hits and misses with a lot of the books we checked out from the library. Or should I say books that I checked out from the library? As any mother knows, some days it’s just easier to go to the library without the kids. I had a ton of books on hold for them and picked up a few. This week the kids read:

madison

Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly (2007)
Written by Alan Madison.
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
40 pages

Don’t you just love the cover? Velma is the youngest Gratch. While her sisters, Frieda and Fiona, are remembered by their former teachers and the school principal, no one remembers Velma. She just doesn’t stand out. But when her first grade teacher introduces Velma’s class to the world of science and particularly butterflies, Velma finds her place and shines.

Sleeping Ugly (1975)
Written by Jane Yolen
67 pages

Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors! In the story, Plain Jane is Sleeping Ugly, a girl who is patient and kind. Sleeping Beauty is the spoiled princess, Princess Miserella, who gets lost in the woods, kicks a fairy godmother, and demands that Plain Jane takes her home to the castle. What Princess Miserella doesn’t count on is the fairy godmother having a temper. The result is a funny tale about how kindness is so important.

Beware of Boys (1991)
Tony Blundell
32 pages

When the big bad wolf catches a little boy in the woods, the wolf just knows that he’s about to have dinner. But when the little boy helps the wolf by giving his the recipe for boy soup, the wolf travels everywhere to get the ingredients. Will the wolf ever get a chance to make boy soup?

I Need my Monster (2009)
Written by Amanda Noll
Illustrated by Howard McWilliam

When Ethan decides to go to bed one night, he finds the monster that lives under his bed, Gabe, has gone fishing for a week. Substitute monsters come and try to fill Gabe’s spot but none of them are like Gabe. Ethan wonders if he’ll ever get to sleep without his monster.This book was a great twist to the typical “monster under the bed” story.

So that’s just a few of the books we’ve read this week. What are your children reading this week?

Sunday Salon: A Day Full of Challenges

sunday salon

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since the last time I posted. During the mini-readathon I didn’t get as much read as I wanted to. I ended up reading the graphic novel Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry. I need to reread it before I write a review but it was an excellent read about a detective nicknamed the “Heartbreaker” and the suicide case he’s working on.

0
I also read Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It’s a Cybils nominee and I can definitely see why. The book chronicles the lives of two girls from very different classes and the month they spend with each other. I also learned a lot about mining and life in the Appalachian mountains.

Love that Dog was also a reading knockout. Love that Dog is about a young boy who has to write poetry in his notebook for a class. It’s a smart, really funny book that includes classic poems from William Carlos Williams, Walter Dean Myers, and Robert Frost. After I finished it, I started reading it to one of my nine year-old sisters and she’s enjoying it.

Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory is the last book I read. It’s a memoir in graphic novel format about Gregory’s life after his wife became paralyzed from the waist down in a subway accident. Gregory started drawing after that and the book is his story. It was nice and had a few pages I loved, but close to the end of the book I didn’t feel like reading it any longer and stopped. I just stopped caring. It’s a short book at 110 pages long.

On Twitter today one of the many discussions were upcoming reading challenges for next year. I’m a big fan of challenges though I rarely ever finish them. I love learning about new books, making a reading list, and also reading everyone else’s lists too! Already 2010 seems to be the year of the book challenges. There are so many challenges that start in 2010 or end that year. Here are a few of the challenges I’m looking forward to:

Eva, Aarti, and Wordlily’s Women Unbound Challenge. This challenge has already started but I’m glad I’m participating. Dedicated to women’s studies, this is definitely one of the most talked about challenges in the blogisphere.

Shelf Discovery. Hosted by Bookingmama. This challenge is definitely taking me back to my childhood.

Upcoming Challenges

Thankfully Reading Weekend. This challenge runs from Friday, November 27, 2009 to Sunday, November 29, 2009. There’s no prizes or rules. There’s just the joy of reading.

The lovely Michelle over at Galleysmith is hosting a “SeriesPalooza“. Starting December 14, 2009 until December 20, 2009. The goal is to only read books in a series. Michelle is also planning on having prizes. I plan on reading books by Scott Westerfeld, Jim Butcher, and Patrick Ness.

During Christmas break there will be a Book a Day reading challenge. Hosted by Haley at The Infinite Life. The goal is one book each day of Christmas break from December 14 to December 28, 2009. I did a personal challenge like this last year and can’t wait to do it again this year.

Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge. Hosted by Marg at Reading Adventures and runs throughout 2010. I plan on reading three books and already have them picked out. Pratchett is a writer I’m read great things but whose books I’ve never picked up. I plan on reading Equal Rites; Wyrd Sisters; and Witches Abroad.

Becky’s Young Readers Challenge. This is one of my favorite challenges and I’m glad it’s coming back again. The goal is to read 12 children’s books.

Bibliofreak is hosting the World Religion Challenge. The challenge runs throughout 2010. I plan on reading as much of any religion as I like.

Last but not least in this post is the South Asian Author Challenge hosted by S. Krishna. Running throughout the year, the goal is to read a certain number of books by South Asian authors. Books also need to be about South Asia. The authors I picked for this list: Chitra Divakaruni, Monica Ali, Kamila Shamsi, Jhumpa Lahiri, Shaila Abdullah, and Mohsin Hamid.

I’m also looking forward to the Flashback Challenge (re-reading), GLBT, and Essay Reading Challenges but I’ll talk about them next time. What challenges are you looking forward to next year?

What My Children Are Reading, October 22, 2009

For the past couple of days my oldest son has been home sick because of multiple asthma attacks and a fever that won’t completely go away. Thankfully his attacks have been mild. One of the ways I’ve been entertaining him has been by reading to him. Luckily for me that before my son became sick, I went to our library and picked up some of this year’s Cybils nominees.

yaccarino

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Couseteau (2009) – Dan Yaccarino. This book reminded me of another Cybils-nominated biography from last year, A River of Words by Jen Bryant. I really enjoyed reading about Cousteau’s life and all the obstacles he overcame because the sea and its inhabitants were his passion.

jules

Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation (2009) Written by Jacqueline Jules. Illustrated by Jef Czekaj. Unite or Die is so unique. The book shows kids how the Constitution came into being. Everything from the illustrations to the text kept the kids interested in the story.

alter

Abigail Spells (2009) by Anna Alter. Out of all three books this one was my son’s favorite. Abigail is a bird who loves to spell. So when she finds out her school is hosting a spelling bee, she signs up expecting to win. But when she doesn’t her best friend George tries to show her winning is not everything.

What great books did you read to your kids this week?

Read-a-thon Pile

dreamstime_readathong

Okay so we all know that I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to books. Whether it’s my library loot, buying binges, or signing up for reading challenges, it always seems to be all or nothing. My current reading pool for the read-a-thon encompasses almost every genre and ranges from a mere 32 pages for many of my picture books to almost 500 pages for Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels. Maybe instead of thinking of this stack as just my read-a-thon picks, we should also think of it as my October/November even possibly December reads.

Plays I started reading plays during last year’s read-a-thon. I found so many wonderful playwrights that I’ve started slowly reading as many as I can especially Pulitzer prize-winning plays. Plays are usually no more than a hundred pages long and contain memorable characters and great settings. For the upcoming read-a-thon, here are a few plays I plan on reading that won the Pulitzer for Drama.

play row

I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright. 2004 Pulitzer.
Wit by Margaret Edson. 1999 Pulitzer.
Angels in America by Tony Kushner. 1993 Pulitzer

not shown: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts.

Short Stories The great thing about reading short stories during the read-a-thon is that you can dip in and out of collections and still feel as though you’re accomplishing something.

row 2 short stories

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie.
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros. I read this collection years ago and I think it’s really time for a re-read.
Dedicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff.


Graphic Novels

row 3 graphic novels

Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry.
Amulet 2: The Stonkeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kabuishi.
Maus by Art Spiegelman

Not shown: The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

Fantasy

row 4

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Tigerheart by Peter David
The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Other Notables

row 6row 5

Peter and Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot

Books not shown:

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
B.P.R.D. series by Mike Mignola
Sprout by Dale Peck
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Little Brother by Cory Doctrow

You see how crazy I went? This is why I’m calling this pile my October-November-and-possibly-December pile. I have a ton of books on hold at the library that will be coming in sometime next week. I can’t wait for the read-a-thon to start but I’m not going to wait to start reading some of these great books.

Have you read any of these graet books? Which ones do you think I should save for the read-a-thon? Are there any that you think I should move to the top of the pile? Have you thought about what books you’re going to read for the big event?

Book Review: Crazy Beautiful

Crazy Beautiful (2009)
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
193 pages
Young Adult
Rating: Re-read

Instead of just giving you the regular book review format, I’m giving you five reasons why Crazy Beautiful is a great book and why I think you should give it a try.

Reasons why I love Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted:

1. Great characterization. The main characters, Lucius and Aurora, are a blast to read about. After losing his arms in an explosion of his own doing, Lucius and his family moves to a new town for a fresh start. Aurora Belle is also getting a new start in the same town with her father after losing her mother to cancer. The instant they see each other it feels as if they’ve always known each other. The problem: Lucius is deemed crazy by everyone except Aurora and her father while Aurora becomes the new addition to the popular crowd.

2. It’s about seeing the good in people, knowing who you are and being that person instead of what’s easier for others to deal with.

3. The story is so addictive that I read this book in one sitting. It’s not often that a book makes you drop everything you need to do and read it. The reader almost instantly starts to care about the characters. You want to know as much as possible about them.

4. The book is sparse, giving the reader only the details needed for the action to keep going.

5. This book has made Lauren Baratz-Logstead one of my newest favorite authors. I will definitely be checking out her other books.

Have you read this yet? If so, please let me know so I can link to you.

Jellaby by Kean Soo

Jellaby (2008)
by Kean Soo
145 pages
Rating: Reread

Why I picked this up:

I’ve read great reviews about Kean Soo’s Jellaby on many blogs and when I happened to see it at my local library, I grabbed it to bring it home.

Summary:

Portia Bennett is a young girl who’s still reeling from the disappearance of her dad a year before. One night she hears a noise outside her bedroom windows and investigates. She finds a monster whom she later names Jellaby and brings him home. She’s sure that Jellaby is lost and the only clue she has to where he’s really from is a picture of a door in a nearby city. With the help of a new friend, Jason, the three decide to go alone to this mysterious door.

My thoughts:

What a great book! Kean Soo is such a talented artist and writer. One of the characters, Jason, is a latchkey kid whose parents are never seen or heard from throughout the story. On one page when Portia and Jellaby are going home after leaving Jason’s house and you see the loneliness he feels from being left alone so often. This isn’t just a story about a monster but also about the grief that Portia still feels after her father’s disappearance, Jason’s loneliness, and the mystery of Jellaby’s origins. This is definitely a book I will be rereading.

It’s Monday, What are you reading?

Children’s books in blue

So far this month I’ve read:

Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies
Jellaby by Kean Soon
The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Snow White by Paul Heins and Trina Schart Hyman
Chicken Little retold by Steven Kellog
The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg

Right now I’m in the middle of several books:

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folkore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen
The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 by Charles Bukowski
Black Swan, White Raven edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling
The Successful Child: What parents can do to help kids turn out well by William and Martha Sears
A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade by Christopher Benfey
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams

I’m almost finished with Touch Magic and Black Swan, White Raven. Look for reviews for both books next week. What are you reading this week?

R.I.P. Challenge

rip4banner200

R.I.P. Challenge

Sept. 1, 2009- October 31, 2009

One of the things I did while on my blogging break was that I started to count down for the start of Carl’s fantastic Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) Challenge. Fall is one of my favorite seasons and for the last couple of years, I’ve marked the start of the season with Carl’s challenge, reading spooky stories while curling up with a cup of coffee and listening to the wind blow as the weather cools down. The R.I.P. Challenge is as much a part of autumn as falling leaves are.

You can imagine my surprise when I checked Twitter a few days ago and learned that though the fourth annual R.I.P. Challenge doesn’t officially start until the 1st of September, Carl went ahead and started it this past Monday! After I finished screaming in excitement and receiving funny looks from my family, I started scouring my bookshelves and wish lists for books I want to read.

This year I’m signing up for the Short Story Peril and also Peril the 1st, which is to read four books of any length in the subgenres: mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, and supernatural.

Monday I read Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzgerald. Hush, Hush is the story of a young girl who gets caught up with a fallen angel. She’s also being stalked by a mysterious girl, a guy in a ski mask, and has a ton of weird things happen to her. It’s becoming a fast favorite among bloggers.

My Reading Pool:

1. Angel of Forgetfulness - Steve Stern
2. Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafron
3. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
4. Something Wicked this Way Comes - Ray Bardbury
5. Sweethearts- Melanie Rae Thon
6. Forever – Peter Hamill
7. The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry
8. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – Katherine Howe
9. The Gargoyle - Andew Davidson
10.  The Late, Lamented Molly Marx – Sally Koslow
11.  Tigerheart - Peter David
12.  The Good Thief - Hannah Tinti
13.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
14.  Re-reading Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbitt
15.  Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
16.  Full Dark House - Christopher Fowler
17.  A Fine and Private Place - Peter Beagle
18.  Nights at the Circus - Angela Carter
19.  Tender Morsels - Margo Lanagan
20.  Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
21.  Inkheart - Cornelia Funke
22.  Re-reading The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
23.  Various children’s books
24.  Finishing The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
25.  Perfume - Patrick Suskind

Have you joined Carl’s R.I.P. Challenge?

I’m Back!

It’s amazing how much reading you can get done when you’re not online. My internet connection stopped working almost a month ago and I’ve only been online periodically ever since. To be honest, I suspected my connection was going to go on the fritz the week before it did. I had been online most of my waking hours with school, blogging, and twittering. I knew I needed an online vacation but I really didn’t want one. I didn’t think I could do it. So my connection decided it would give me the push that I needed.

At first it was hard being off of Twitter and my Google Reader so I decided to distract myself by reading. Isn’t that the point of being a book blogger anyway? All the great reading you can do in your spare time?

During my break I read so many great and not-so-great books. I abandoned books left and right without feeling guilty. I didn’t feel the need to take notes on the books I read though I did remember to write the titles down. Too bad I can’t find the yellow notebook that lists last month’s read.

Right after my break began, I continued the short story kick I was already on by picking up the special issue of The Atlantic. The special issue is on stands until the middle of October and is filled with great short stories by authors like Paul Theroux and Alexi Zentner. I haven’t finished reading the magazine but my favorite story so far is “PS” by Jill McCorkle, in which a woman writes to her former marriage counselor about all the things she couldn’t talk about when she was in therapy with her ex-husband. It’s funny, smart, and a definite re-read.

I also read a few more stories from The Best American Short Stories 2008 edited by Salman Rushdie. One of my favorite stories featured in the collection is “Man and Wife” by Katie Chase. It’s the story of a young girl whose family is a part of a cult and has to marry an older man. Usually when you think of a young girl marrying a grown man, you feel that it’s uncomfortable and wrong. This story doesn’t let you feel that. It’s hard to explain but the reader doesn’t feel comfortable with the marriage either.

We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle was up next. I love the first two stories in the collection, the title story and “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel” so much that I refuse to read the rest of the collection. What if they don’t live up to the brilliance of the first two stories? I even dipped into The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel, which I bought only because Eva at A Striped Armchair recommends the author to any reader who comes within a foot of her blog!

I’ve also been inspired by the recommendations of a lot of fellow bloggers. Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews and Kathy at The Brain Lair both have gushed over Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. I read it in one sitting and loved it. Marcelo is a fifteen-year-old boy who has a mysterious form of autism. His lawyer father insists that nothing is wrong with Marcelo and forces him to work at a law firm for the summer. Once there Marcelo starts to become part of the world around him and learns about the good and evil people are capable of. It’s a great coming-of-age story that deals with autism,  family, religion, love, and growing up. It’s definitely on my re-read list.

I discovered David Lozell Marin’s hilarious, brilliant, painfully truthfully, enlightening, uplifting memoir called Losing Everything. Martin chronicles his childhood growing up with a smart but painfully shy father who was prone to fits of rage and a mentally ill mother while living on  a rundown farm in the middle of nowhere. He also tells of his marriage to the love of his life, his divorce from her, and the night that he almost killed himself which reminded him of the night his father took his mother out into the woods in an attempt to kill her. It’s amazing that Martin is so aware of the terrors of his childhood and adult life and still is able to go toward the good that life offers. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a dark memoir at all. It’s too funny to be dark. Or really dark. What made me take this book home from the library is this paragraph:

This is going to piss off a lot of people. People who think I should be deeply ashamed about the gin I did drink and specifically apologetic to them for what I said while under its influence, who believe I should be just as sorry as I can possibly be for the way I behaved over the years while drinking gin. And I am. I’m sorry. Really, I am sorry. But let me plead my case for gin. (p. 73)

I refuse to give my copy back to the library until I’ve bought my own copy. I have too many post-its in the book to give it back right now.  If I could I would buy a copy of this book to every reader I ever encounter. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.

I have a ton to write about when it comes to my blogging break, but I know that the attention span of bloggers is only so long when it’s not a book they’re reading. (Just joking. Maybe.)

So instead I just want to say how happy I am to be back from my break. I have missed my readers and my friends so much. You guys have no idea how much. While on my break, I wondered about what everyone was reading, how everyone was doing, what was going on in Bookland, what was everyone writing about. . . I wondered if Wordlily had finished packing or what library loot has everyone checked out. I wondered how Beth’s Sookie Challenge and Michelle’s Harry Potter Challenge are going, and what season of Supernatural was Amy on. S.Krishna should’ve returned from Oxford by now, and I know that Kathy and Drea have discovered some great YA fiction. What has Renay ranted about lately? How’s Molly doing after her own blogging break? I also wondered about Carl and Chris, Carrie and Heather, Nymeth and Kailana. I wondered about every single one of you guys.

I haven’t seen my Google Reader yet, but I bet I have at least two or three thousand posts to read. You know what? I don’t care. I’m going to try my best to read as many of your posts as I can. I’m so glad to be back.

So tell me, what books have you read and loved lately?

Sunday Salon: Short Works Sunday

sunday salon

This week my reading has been all over the place. Since last Sunday I’ve read essays, short stories, graphic novels, and children’s books but no novels. For the last couple of years I’ve been primarily a novel reader, forgoing short stories, poetry, and essays for longer works. Though I have many novels I need to read before they have to be returned to the library, I’m happy just picking up a book, opening up to an unread story or essay, and digging in. Because of this I’ve been on a plane with Barbara Kingsolver as she tried to fit reading short stories into her busy life in “What Good is a Story?”, watched a family sing during a family member’s execution in Margo Lanagan’s “Singing My Sister Down”, and listened as silence takes over a big city in Kevin Brockmeir’s “The Year of Silence”.

I’m falling in love again with short works.

So now I’m off to read more of the stories I’ve been missing. Below is a list of the collections I’ve been reading from. Take care and have a great week.

01

Do you read short stories? Who are some of your favorite short story writers? What are some of your favorite collections?

What My Children Are Reading – July 16th

This is a meme started by Jill over at Well-Read Child. For some reason this week has been really laid back. I don’t think any of us over here has read as much as we wanted to except for my youngest Oli. Oli’s asthma has been acting up again, so he’s spent most of the week at home with me. Here are a few books the kids and I have been reading this week.

01

My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life (2009). Written by Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Diane Goode. The girls in my house love this book and I have to admit I do too. The main character, a little girl, swears her mother is trying to ruin her life by doing a number of embarrassing things like giving her a kiss in public and talking too loud. The main character then thinks of a plan to get rid of both of her parents. The ending is such a nice lesson for kids about how great our parents can be.

Gone with the Wand by Margie Palatini (2009). Written by Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Brain Ajhar. After Bernice, a fairy godmother, loses her magical powers, her best friend Edith the tooth fairy comes to the rescue. What ensues is a hilarious journey to help Bernice get her powers back. The first time I read this I laughed so hard, I had to stop reading for a second.

.

02

Dog’s ABC: A Silly Story about the Alphabet (2000) by Emma Dodd
Dog’s Colorful Day: A Messy Story about Colors and Counting (2000) by Emma Dodd
Dog’s Noisy Day: A Story to Read Aloud (2002)by Emma Dodd

The Dog series by Emma Dodd is the series right now in our family. All the kids, ages 4-9, have read and re-read these three books. In Dog’s ABC, Dog goes through his neighborhood noticing the different creatures. It’s a great ABC book and my family loved the illustrations by Dodd. Dog’s Colorful Day is a story about colors and counting that’s easy and fun for kids to learn. Dog goes through his neighborhood getting dirty by adding a new color spot with each adventure he has.  Then Dog takes a tour of a farm in Dog’s Noisy Day, listening to all the sounds that different creatures make. My youngest enjoyed making the sounds along with each creature.

03

Frogs (2008) by Nic Bishop. The title is pretty self-explanatory. This book is all about frogs, telling readers how they reproduce, live, and the different species. I just this as a read aloud for the older kids and though most aren’t into reading about animals, they really enjoyed reading the book and looking at the great photos that the author took.

Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months (1996) by Maurice Sendak. Oli has read this book several times a day this week. A little boy loves chicken soup with rice so much that every month he does something different with it. Told in rhyme, readesr will love seeing what happens with every month.

What books are you and your children reading together this week?

Sunday Salon – Book Coveting Women Writers

Good morning. Right now the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky. With very little homework left to do, I plan on spending my day reading and writing posts. With so many books checked out from the library and so many of my own books piling up on my shelves, this week’s book coveting post focuses on the books I have and those written by women.

Fiction

row1

The Physick  Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I’ve heard so many great things about this book that I’m hoping to start reading it today. A historical thriller that goes back and forth between the Salem Trails and modern time. Witchcraft, family secrets, and more makes us this thriller.

First Light by Rebecca Stead. First Light is the story of Peter, a boy who join his parents on a trip to Greenland and Thea, a girl whose people live deep inside the article ice.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. I don’t read short story collections as often as I would like to, but I couldn’t ignore the praise that Packer’s debut collection has been receiving.

Nonfiction

row2

Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr.  I read The Liar’s Club by Karr a few years ago, rushed out and bought Sinners Welcome, but haven’t read more than a few poems. This volume of poetry chronicles Karr’s exploration of her faith.

Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite books. Filled with powerful and engaging essays, Kingsolver’s essays range from topics about September 11th, surviving rape, the power of indie bookstores, why short stories are great, and more. I’m currently re-reading these essays, trying to dissect them and see how Kingsolver puts one word after another to make beautiful sentences that make up powerful essays.

Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 Complete by Alice Walker. Though best known for The Color Purple, it is this volume of poetry that I love the most. I first read this collection when I was  a teenager. Since then I’ve re-read this many times. One of my favorite poems is “Goodnight, Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning”.

Fiction

row3

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd. I recently heard of Dowd while reading The Guardian. Dowd passed away in 2007, only three months after finishing Bog Child. She started writing at the age of 47 in 2003. All four of the books that she wrote has received rave reviews. Set in 1981, Fergus is helping his uncle with chores when he finds the body of a murdered child in the bog. It’s a coming-of-age story that’s won the 2009 Carnegie Medal award.

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. After a kiss with a man who is not her partner, Irina McGovern, must make a decision to either give in to passion or stay in her safe relationship.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.  Ida Mae Jones is a girl who dreams of flying. When the United States Army forms the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Ida decides to use her light skin to pass as white. Colleen at Chasing Ray called this book, “a historical drama that grabs you at the throat and holds on tight”.

Now the morning is almost over and I’m off to read. Have you read any of these books? What books are you coveting?

Weekly Geeks: Where in the world have you been?

This week’s Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you “visited” in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven’t yet?

worldmap

It took me at least an hour to think of the many countries I’ve visited in books. Of course the United States was one of the easiest countries. To my surprise so was France, Chile, and Spain.  I  realized how little I’ve visited Asia and Africa. All together though I’ve been to 34 countries through my reading. A few of my favorite books from other countries are:

1trans

A Man, a Woman, and a Man by Savyon Liebrecht. Fiction. Israel. I found this book years ago at my local library. When I tried to find it again last year, I was dismayed to find that my library no longer has it. Hamutal and Saul meet at the nursing home that their parents reside. Soon they start an adulterous affair and both fall in love. From what I remember of this book, it was the plot and the beautiful language that kept me reading.

The Killer’s Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux. Fiction, young adult. France. I don’t remember how I found this book but I’m glad I did. Angel Allegria is a killer on the run from the police. When he encounters the Poloverdos’ farmhouse, he kills both parents but spare their son Paolo. This is the start of an unlikely friendship between the two. I love the first sentence, “No one ever arrived here by chance”.

Blindness by Jose Saramago. Fiction. Portugal. I read Blindness years ago and feel in love with Saramago’s writing. Blindness is Saramgo’s exploration in what would happened if people suddenly went blind with no reason behind it. Lyrical but yet haunting, Blindness is a book I still think about.

Any suggestions for Africa?

Locomotion

woodson locomotionLocomotion (2003)
By Jacqueline Woodson
112 pages

I found out about this book from Emily over at Emily Reads. Emily writes reviews in haiku format but they always pack a punch. After reading her haiku review for Locomotion and it’s follow up, Peace, Locomotion, I had to get my hands on it.

Lonnie Collins Motion, also known as Locomotion, is seven and his little sister, Lili, is four when their parents are killed in a house fire. After being moved from place to place, Lili is given a foster mom who doesn’t want to take Lonnie too. Lonnie is put in group homes before finally being placed with someone who wants him, the older Mrs. Edna.

Four years later Lonnie lands in Ms. Marcus’s fifth-grade class. Ms. Marcus shows Lonnie how to write down his thoughts and feelings in his poetry notebook. He writes of missing his parents, living without his baby sister, playing with friends, the things that make up his life.

Written in verse,  Locomotion is a touching reflection on the heartbreak that Lonnie feels. I cried many times while reading this book but that’s not to say that it’s depressing. Lonnie’s heartbreak is one that anyone who’s lost family would feel. Another great thing about the book is the everyday moments that reminds you how precious life is.

You know honeysuckle talc powder?
Mama used to smell like that. She told me
honeysuckle’s really a flower but all I know
is the powder that smells like Mama.
Sometimes when the missing gets real bad
I go to the drugstore and before the guard starts
following me around like I’m gonna steal something
I go to I go to the cosmetics lady and ask her if she has it.
When she says yeah, I say
Can I smell it to see if it’s the right one?
Even though the cosmetics ladies roll their eyes at me
they let me smell it.
And for those few seconds, Mama’s alive
again.

Woodson has created such an authentic character. I didn’t believe for a second that this wasn’t the voice of a child who’s growing and learning, grieving and trying to make sense of all that has happened to him and his family. It’s not surprising that Locomotion was a 2003 National Book Award finalist for young adult literature. Though it’s been stated that this is a book for kids ages nine to twelve, I think this book is for ages nine and up. My fear is that by labeling this book for a certain age group, teens and adults will think this book is not for them and that’s not true. Don’t miss out by not reading this book. It’s in the top three of my favorite books of 2009 so far.

The Ghost’s Child

hartnettThe Ghost’s Child (2008)
Sonya Hartnett
176 pages
Young Adult Fiction

Matilda, an elderly woman, comes home one afternoon to find a young boy sitting in her living room waiting for her. She has no idea who he is or what he wants. As they sit down for tea, the boy asks Matilda about the picture of her as a young girl on  her boat.

Matilda tells the story of her childhood and growing up as a young girl named Maddy. She was the daughter of a materialistic mother and a father who had to divide himself into two different people: the “Iron-man”, an important and wealthy member of the community who only wants to make money and “Daddy”, a man who loves his daughter and only wants her to be happy.

Matilda describes her childhood self as

an over-lookable child, doubtful and reluctant in her dealings with others, mousey as a mouse. She was easily hurt, deceived and dispirited.

After a year-long journey with her father all over the world to experience life for the first time, Maddy comes back changed and more sure of herself.

Soon she falls in love with a mysterious boy named Feather. They fall in love and though Feather wants to make Maddy happy, one day he disappears to the horizon and a place called The Island of Stillness. Unable to let Feather go, Matty learns to sail and goes off on an adventure to ask Feather for the answer to the only question she has. . .

I really enjoyed reading this book. The Ghost’s Child is a book that has to be read slowly. The book isn’t really plot-driven but focuses more on character-building: Matilda as an old woman and as a young girl named Maddy. One of my favorite things about this book was the language. There were so many passages that I marked to read again later.

I love this passage by Matilda on love:

The world changes when something in it is loved. Words become feeble. Colors glow. Every moment vibrates with possible importance. And the heart that loves wonders how it live, in the past, without loving-and it will live now, now that it loves.

What I didn’t like were the few times that were unbelievable. Maddy as a child was a little too mature. She understood too much about life though she hadn’t experience life yet. Here’s a passage from Maddy as a child:

In the black of night, however, she was wrung with fear. She did not want to be uncaring, and uncared-for. She did not want to spend her whole life taking steps in the darkest, the coldest, the most lonely direction. Yet how, she wondered, does one craft sturdy happiness out of something as important, as complicated, as unrepeatable and as easily damaged as a life?

A beautiful passage but from a child? The Ghost’s Child has few faults and all can easily be overlooked. This is a great fable about the lessons of love and letting go, beauty, and having the courage to live life as you see fit.

Highly recommended.

Books giveaway

nerdsheartya

There are two great giveaways being hosted right now because of the Nerds Heart YA tournament that started last Monday. Kelly at YAnnabe is giving away four copies of the books she has to judge for the tournament, The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie and Leftovers by Laura Weiss. Not only is Kelly is giving away two copies of each book, she’s also giving away a copy of the ARC, Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, another book that’s being judged in the tournament.

11

The second giveaway is being hosted by Jodie at Book Gazing. Jodie is giving away two copies each of the two books she has to judge, What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson and Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon. So two lucky winners will win a copy of each book. Jodie is also giving away a Powells gift card of $20.

12

What are you waiting for? Go enter!

Sunday Salon: Reading events

sunday salonIt’s amazing that May is almost over with. It’s been a forgettable month. I can barely remember what I’ve accomplished. Book-wise I didn’t accomplish much, reading only three adult, four young adult, and fourteen children’s books.

11

I couldn’t give you just one book as my favorite this month, so I’m going to give you my top two. Sarah Stewart’s The Friend, a children’s book about unconditional love and the short story collection/graphic novel Tales of Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. Both books are amazing and highly recommended.

Shauna at Reading and Ruminations has been in a reading funk and came up with a great personal challenge. called the Summer Reading Blitz. She wants to read 30 books in 30 days for the month of June. I think it’s such a great idea that I’m joining her. I have a stack of books lined up, ready and waiting.

Also joining the challenge are fellow bloggers

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews

Brittanie at A Book Lover

Ruth at BookishRuth

Shauna and Brittanie will be hosting giveaways throughout June. Make sure you’re subscribed to their blogs so you don’t miss out.

June is also the start of

nerdsheartya

a young adult reading tournament that is the brainchild of the bold Renay. From June 1st through August 2nd, twenty bloggers will be judging sixteen young adult novels, published in 2008, that should’ve received more attention. If you click on the above icon, you can see the books that are being judged.

The judges are:

Valentina, Valentina’s Room
Jodie, Book Gazing
Natasha, Maw Books Blog
Ali, Worducopia and Lenore, Presenting Lenore
Mary Ann, Libr*fiti
Trish, Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’ and Vasilly, 1330v
Kelly, YAnnabe
Becky, Becky’s Book Reviews, and Kailana, The Written World
Heather, A High and Hidden Place
Amy, My Friend Amy
Laza, Gimme More Books!
Stephanie, Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-a-Holic
Nicole, Linus’s Blanket
Renay, YA Fabulous and Susan, She’s Too Fond Of Books And It’s Turned Her Brain
Chris, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On and Nymeth, Things Mean A Lot

Look out for reviews and updates on the tournament from the judges. Nerdsheartya is also on Twitter. I’m so excited, I’m hoping to read all the shortlisted books.

If you didn’t know already, next weekend is the start of Mother Reader‘s 48 Hour Challenge. For 48 hours bloggers all over the blogisphere will be reading as much as they can. You don’t have to read for 48 hours straight, but within a 48 hour period of time. Of course I’m in.

Posts from this week:

500 Great Books by Women
10 Fiction Books for Summer

What are you reading this week? Have you signed up for the 48 hour challenge?

10 fiction books for the summer

When summer hits the only thing about my reading that changes is the amount of books I actually read. Like most readers I read more during the summer. This summer I signed up for Molly’s Summer Vacation Reading Challenge, joined Andi for her personal challenge, Reading In Order, and also joined Shauna for her June challenge, 30 books in 30 days. Callapidder Days challenge, Spring Reading Thing, ends June 20th and I want to complete the books I signed up for. Between reading and keeping the kids busy, my summer is packed.

Here are ten books of fiction I’m looking forward to reading this summer:

1

Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun. Mun’s debut novel takes place in 1980’s New York. The main character, Joon-Mee, is twelve years old when she runs away from home and lives the life of a runaway teen. The book gives the reader six years in Joon-Mee’s life.

Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff. Andi at Estella’s Revenge recommended that I read Lucky Chow Fun, the first story in this collection of short stories. I read it and loved it.

2

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. Last year when I read Ann Hood’s memoir, Comfort, about the death of her young daughter, I feel in love with author’s voice. The Knitting Circle is a book about grief and trying to live after tragedy.

In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefield. I found out about this book while on Twitter from fellow blogger, Wendy at Caribousmom.

The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern. This book has been sitting on my shelf for much too long. A fallen angel, his half-human son, a young woman named Keni, and a long-forgotten manuscript make up this story about love and memory.

3

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Chris would probably seriously harm me if I don’t read one of his all-time favorite books soon. (Just kidding, Chris!)

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. You can never go wrong with a Pulitzer winner.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. Meghan at Medieval Bookworm told me about this debut novel. A talented 12 year old hitchhikes across America. It’s more complicated than that, but still. . .

4

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors of all time and I figured summer is the best time to Steinbeck.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.