Friday, May 30, 2008

WEEKLY GEEKS: Story Telling (week #5)

Guten Tag, Weekly Geeks! This week’s theme was suggested by Renay. She says, “I thought it would be cool to ask people to talk about other forms of story-telling.”

Forms of story telling, hmm. I've seen some wonderful posts already - television, plays, needlework, folklore, poetry, blogging, and scrapbooking to name but a few. I used to scrapbook much more, and it is a wonderful form of family story telling, and my kids and I love to go back and read the tales and look at the photos of my children when they were so young. (I stopped scrapbooking before I did any for my third child. I'll pay for that later, I'm such a bad mother.) I think I'll super geek out on you, and tell you about a form of story telling I do at school.

I'm a physics teacher, so I tell my students that the lab report they have to write tells the 'story of the lab'. We start with the introduction: what are you trying to do, what is the plan for the day. Then a diagram and some theory, to give a picture of what you did and how it looked, including some theory of what you are investigating. Then the data. A table is a wonderful way to present a lot of information in an easily readable form. I know what you measured, in what units, how many trials you completed. Next is the calculations - formulas and numbers to illustrate what values you were able to determine. If you are lucky, you may be able to draw a graph, and the relationships between the variables are so clear, so linear (or inverse or inverse square) that a single glance will allow you to see the connections between the data. Time for some analysis, so understand what you really did. I'll provide some questions to answer that make the students think about the lab and the theory and its connection to what they did.

Finally a conclusion. They find this the hardest, but it is the denouements, the finale, the summary of what the lab was. Go back to the purpose and answer the question. What is the relationship between length and mass? How does period vary with length of the pendulum? What did you discover? How good are your results? What possible error is there in the collection of data?

I try to make them see that the steps we use in a lab report tell the story of what was accomplished in the lab. It's not the same as an English paper, as we use a lot more math, but there can be so much symbolized in the numbers - a table or a graph, that if you can read it, are very beautiful. But there are similarities: a purpose or thesis statement, the body of information to support the thesis, and then the conclusion.

There. I totally geeked out on this one.

BOOK: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Southern Reading Challenge, Herding Cats

I've seen this book listed on every list of books where people get to nominate their favorite books, and now I know why. Set in South Carolina in 1964, against the civil rights backdrop, it is the story of a young girl trying to find someone to care about her, a mother to love her. Lily runs away from her widowed father, T Ray, with her black housekeeper, as Lily is looking for some connection to her mother. She ends up at a pink house with three black bee keeping sisters in a neighbouring community. There she learns about bees, love, forgiveness, and mothers.

I would put this one on the short list of books worth reading again. The spiritual level of looking for forgiveness and finding love within yourself, as exemplified with the Black Madonna Mary was beautiful. The writing of Kidd to set the scene of South Carolina in the summer was breath taking, and I couldn't wait to immerse myself in her world every time I picked up the book. The voice of the narrator was wise and yet oh so human, with emotions of love and jealousy and anger. But the overall strength of the women was my favorite part, and an antidote after the past few books I've read. It made me proud to be a woman and see some amazing girl power.

Having said that about girl power, T Ray and his cranky foul moods and his behavior at the end made me really wonder about him. What was he like when Lily's mom met him? How did he deal with her abandonment and then death? What were his thoughts about Lily? He is a character that I would like to read this story of from his perspective. Did he analyze his actions and their ramifications afterward? I just feel there was a lot more to T Ray, and he could star in his own novel.

If you've written a review of this book, leave me a link in the comments.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

MEME: Orbis Terrarum Challenge

The Orbis Terrarum Challenge meme:

1.) What country do you always go back to in your travels (not just while reading for OT)?
England would be my favorite country to read about. I live in Canada, and see so much America that those settings are not that unusual, but England is one of my favorite settings.

2.) If you could visit 4 5 of the countries you have read about in your life (that you haven't been to yet), which would they be and why? (you can include the book that makes you want to visit if you remember)
Thailand (Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding)
Portugal (Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali)
Iceland (Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason)
Ireland (all Maeve Binchy)

I didn't even mention England. I'd love to go to England for all the books I've read.
ex: Neverland to see the subways, Pillars of the Earth for the cathedrals, Bridget Jones for modern London, the countryside for all the novels set during WW2, Bath for Northanger Abbey, the castles and country mansions from the Victorian novels, the monastery from the Brother Cadfael mysteries, and so on.

3.) Have you ever dreamed about a country you have read about, that you have never actually traveled to- except in your dreams?
I seldom remember my dreams, so I can't really answer this one.

4.) In what ways has reading about different countries opened up your perspective about global issues?
The rights of women, or the lack of, in other countries is certainly something I notice when I read novels set in other countries. It makes me not take for granted the options available to me. Also, the rampant consumerism that I live in versus a simpler life depicted in some other countries.

5.) What countries have you felt your judgment was off about-after reading about that nation?
I wouldn't say my judgment was off; it is more a recognition of the assets and beautiful aspects of a country; and an acknowledgement that the human condition is the same everywhere. We are all more alike than different.

6.) Which is your favourite book that you would recommend for this challenge (you don't have to have read it during the challenge)?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (India)

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spain)

7.) I am thinking about hosting again, for a full year next time starting in January, do you have any constructive criticism, is one book a month about right...more? less? Give me some thoughts.
I am preferring the more random challenges, that start at some point in the year and run for several months, like this one. If it goes to a year, I would rather see less than 1 book per month, maybe 8-9 books.

8.) Anything else that you have been wanting to tell us all about? let us have it!
I am really liking this challenge, and the effort you are putting in to it to make it fun. I like that you put the restriction that the country is the country of the author, and not just the setting. Thank you to wikipedia for sources of information of author nationality.

I think it is neat the concept of 'other country' in this challenge, because for someone else, my country is one to read for the challenge, and I am picking countries that other people live in. It is weird, and egocentric, to see Canada listed as a country on the review lists. It jsut changes my perspecitve a bit.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

CHALLENGE: 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, Eh?

"Starting July 1st, 2008 and running to July 1st, 2009, I challenge you to read (and write about) 13 Canadian books (by Canadians and/or about Canadians)."

John is at it again, planning another spectacular Canadian book challenge extravaganza. We had so much fan this past year, reading our Canadian books (either by, or about.) There were puzzles for prizes (I won a book), and the coolest monthly wrap-ups on the blogosphere. Last time I read the White Stripes Way - 13 books one for each province. While I enjoyed that last time, I will try a different method this time. John has 13 different options for choosing your books. Get it, 13?

This time, I was thinking about trying:
2. The Prize Pack- Books that have won awards (Gillers, Governor General, Stephen Leacock, etc)
6. The Double Double- Pick 13 books that also fit the criteria for another book Challenge that you've signed up for.
7. The McClung- How about 13 Canadian books written by women?

I love the names john comes up with for the challenges! It makes me want to pick the double double just for the name. I think I'm planning to pick books from award nominated Canadian authors or books I've mean meaning to read. And many will be used on other challenges, so it's almost a double double, which seems appropriate because I never actually order a double double.

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
The Birth House by Ami McKay
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot
The Outlander by Gil Adamson
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
High Spirits by Robertson Davies
Too Close to Home - Linwood Barclay
Remembering the Bones - Frances Itani

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
another Giller winner, maybe Barney's Version
King Leary by Paul Quarrington
Lost Highway by David Adams Richards
View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Where do you get your books? I am a big library girl, and my library has a great online service, where I can keep lists (lists!) of books I want to read, and see if they are in the library or another provincial library and when it will become available. More recently, I've been acquiring books by haunting the second hand book sales. There were two sales this month so I have really stocked up. My other method of acquiring books is through the internet. I wish our Canada Post wasn't so expensive; when I see the postage my American friends pay to send a book I turn green with envy. Book bloggers are so generous to send their books along, and between them and receiving books for reviewing from publishers or authors or LibraryThing it seems I am getting a book in the mail fairly often. I seldom pay full price for novels.

In reading, I am in 1964 South Carolina learning all the secrets about bees. What a great book so far! I don't know what I thought it would be about, but so far I am quite absorbed with poor Lily and her sad life. Where is reading taking you today?


Sunday, May 25, 2008

CHALLENGE: Series Challenge Update

This challenge ran from December 1, 2007 until May 31, 2008. I finished three series and read 4 books to continue a series. And 4 books to start new series'. That's not helping.

Shakespeare Mysteries by Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Christmas Dec 2007
Shakespeare's Trollop Jan 13, 2008
Shakespeare's Counselor Feb 9, 2008

Gardella Vampire by Colleen Gleason
The Bleeding Dusk Mar 21/08

Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella
Shopaholic & Baby Mar 12/08

continuing series books:
Miss Julia Takes Over by Ann B Ross Mar 28/08
Terra Cotta Dog 2002 (Il cane di terracotta - 1996) by Andrea Camilleri Mar 10/08
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde Mar 19/08
The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith May 24/08

Series Started:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde Jan 25/08
Silence of the Grave (Icelandic: Grafarþögn) by Arnaldur Indridason Feb 08
Booked to Die by John Dunning Feb 3/08
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale May 10/08

I believe that Kathrin is hosting Series Challenge Season II, from June 1 - December 1, 2008. I'm not sure why a challenge helps a person like me read a particular book, but it seems to give me a focus. I've got a whole blog full of series I'm keeping track of, so there are lots more to read, plus I keep starting new ones.

CHALLENGE: Canadian Book Challenge, Eh? update

The White Stripes Way: 13 Books, 13 Provinces/Territories

How to be a Canadian - Will and Ian Ferguson - Alberta
The Call of the Wild - Jack London - Yukon
Latitudes of Melt - Joan Clark - Newfoundland & Labrador
Yellowknife - Steve Zipp - Northwest Territories
The End of East - Jen Sookfong Lee - British Columbia
All in Together Girls - Kate Sutherland - Saskatchewan
Lorelei - Lori Derby Bingley - PEI
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz -Mordecai Richler - Quebec
Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures -Vincent Lam - Ontario
Hockey Dreams - David Adams Richard - New Brunswick
a boy of good breeding - Miriam Toews - Manitoba
The Lost Salt Gift of Blood -Alistair MacLeod - Nova Scotia
The Inuk Mountie Adventure - Eric Wilson - Nunavut

Favorite Book: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Breakdown: 2 short story collections, 2 nonfiction, 2 childrens, 1 Giller winner, 2 books by bloggers

thanks to john mutford for hosting, to Zachariah Wells for donating the poetry book I won. I don't need a challenge to read Canadian books but it is lots of fun when other people are reading them too, and I am learning about authors I haven't read before.

See ya July 1st to start again, ya hosers.

BOOK: How to Be a Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson

How to Be a Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson

Canadian Book Challenge: Alberta

I had previously started reading Why I Hate Canadians by Will Ferguson but couldn't get into it at all. I thought it was supposed to be funny, but it seemed more of a real nonfiction book, with real analysis. Maybe it was jsut my mood at the time. When I went ot the library to reborrow it, I found How to Be a Canadian (Even if you Already are One ) instead. This is the sequel of sorts, but it was also much funnier. I was reading passages outloud to my husband again and giggling like mad in other parts. It felt a bit dated in parts, as it is from 2001 and the political humor lost a little something after seven years.

With chapters on language, leisure, cuisine, and a cross country tour, our combined culture is ripe for satire. Beer, hockey, Tim Hortons, the CBC; it's all there. The Ferguson brothers tapped my funny bone. There were lots of stereotypical Canadian jokes, but it was the perfect book to finish up the Canadian Book Challenge with.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

BOOK: The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith

The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith

African Reading Challenge: Botswana; series challenge

Book four starring Mma Precious Ramotswe and all is well. She is still engaged to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, and although a wedding date does not seem imminent, Mma seems happy. Not much happens in these books but a lovely philosophy of life, a respect of the old ways, and the usual human conditions of adultery, theft, and competition that are complicating life. Precious deals with the people around her in her indomitable yet quiet style. Bush tea is drunk and the standards of society are respected. I haven't read this series in quite a while and I am glad to have re found these books.

Stephanie Nolan's book, 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, explained how AIDS is not named, just called that illness. I was wondering if AIDS would be a part of the story, because with infection rates as high as they are, it would have to in order for the setting to be realistic. Sure enough, this book included that habit, as well as grandmothers raising their grand babies because the adults have died.

BOOK: The Interloper by Antoine Wilson

The Interloper by Antoine Wilson

Early Reader book from LibraryThing

Creepiest narrator since Humbert Humbert. I invoke the Lolita narrator here because this book reminded me of Lolita in some ways. Not in the pedophile topic, but in the way that there are people in our society who exist and live, seemingly normal or maybe just a little off, but who are, in fact, certifiably crazy. That they can live and exist for so long with no one apparently noticing is extremely scary. Wilson did a great job of creating a character who bumbles along but has such a tenuous hold on reality that it just takes one event to send him reeling.

Owen is married to Patty. While on their honeymoon, Patty's brother CJ is murdered. Her family is plunged into grief, and Owen, who barely knew CJ, blames Henry Joseph Raven the convicted murderer for changing Patty. He becomes fixated on exacting revenge for Patty. He decides to create a woman, Lily, to write to Raven in jail, and then break his heart. Creating Lily brings up all kinds of craziness from Owen's own childhood, basing Lily on his dead cousin Eileen with whom he had been in love. (More parallels to Lolita with HH's obsession with a love affair in his teenage years.)

The book drew me in, as it was possible to see Owen's world from the rest of the character's point of view through his own narrative, and to see his spiraling downward as events progress. The clues he drops let the reader realize how disconnected Owen was from reality while at the same time, appearing to function mostly. He became so obsessed with avenging Patty to bring her out of her grief, he doesn't even recognize that she is progressing through the natural stages of grief and getting better, and while he is mad at her for obsessing over her brother, he can't see that she is moving on. He ignores all the signs of getting better and focusing instead on one mention of her brother to confirm that he needs to continue his diabolical plan.

A tight psychological thriller, I really enjoyed. It was a lesser version of Lolita, but I liked it better because it felt much more accessible as a reader, and didn't have so much extra levels. That sounds like a criticism, but it isn't. The Interloper was the parts of Lolita I liked (looking at the mind of a whack job as he reflects and justifies his actions), without the stuff I didn't (extra levels and symbolism). Thanks LibraryThing for the copy. It wasn't an ARC because this book was released in 2007.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

CHALLENGE: It's the End of the World Challenge

Name: It's The End of The World (As We Know It) Challenge
Host: Becky (of Becky's Book Reviews)
Dates: May 2008 - September 15, 2008
Books Required: at least three

I loved the dystopian books I read last year, and there are a few more left to try. Enough to make a list and I can pick three, or even find another good one:

Children of Men - PD James
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
Pretties - Scott Westerfeld
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer (completed Oct 26/08)

There are lists and lists at wikipedia on dystopian, apocolyptic novels, if you are looking for some other ideas.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CHALLENGE: Book Award Challenge II


  1. Read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.
  2. You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.
  3. Overlaps with other challenges are permitted.
  4. You don't have to post your choices right away, and your list can change at any time.
  5. 'Award winners' is loosely defined; make the challenge fit your needs, keeping in mind Rule #2.
  6. SIGN UP using Mr. Linky here.
  7. Have fun reading!

I'm in! I did really well on this last year, and I like the idea of the 5 different awards.

Awards I'll look into include, listed with books I already own:

Man Booker
1998 Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (1% well read)
1996 Last Orders by Graham Swift (Book to Movies)

1925 So Big by Edna Ferber (decades)
1995 The Stone Diaries by Shields (2nd Canadian Challenge)

1955 The Wheel on the School by Merdert DeJong
1992 Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (books to movie)
1996 The View from Saturday by EL Konisburg (2nds challenge)

2000 Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards (2nd Canadian Challenge)

1970 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
1987 Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (also Nebula Award)

Bram Stoker
2006 Lisey's Story by Stephen King

Royal Society Prize
2000 The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene (Science Reading Challenge)

IMPAC Dublin
2007 Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson (What an Animal!)

Orange Prize
2008 The Road Home, Rose Tremain (Orange January)

Full lists to be completed later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CHALLENGE: Man Booker Challenge Update

Done another one!

The best of this group was Remains of the Day and the least likable was Life and Times of Michael K.

Thanks to Dewey for hosting this challenge to read 6 books, either winners or shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I decided to split the challenge and did 3 winners and 3 short list. I will still keep reading these, because the Booker lists appeal to me for some reason. There is a lot more action to do with Bookers over at the Booker Project - trying to read all the Booker Winners, in however long it takes you.

BOOK: In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

Man Booker challenge (shortlist 2006); African Reading challenge (Libya); Orbis Terrarum challenge; notable book challenge

I usually try not to use the same book for too many challenges, but this one took me so long to read I am going to use it where ever I can. It is a well lauded book; the cover lists all sorts of important awards it was nominated for, but it just didn't resonate with me.

Suleiman narrates his story from his nine year old point of view, which is accurate if you think that nine year olds don't really know what is going on, so neither does the reader. His father is away on business, his mother is 'ill' and requires lots of medicine from the pharmacy. Poor Suleiman can only relate from his perspective, but it left me feeling as confused as a nine year old. The writing was good in that sense. There is also a revolution going on in 1979 Libya, and people are disappearing. Is his father going to be next? Did his father betray they neighbour? There is some Oedipal stuff going on with the love for his mother, and he is trying to be a man but he is simply a kid.

I just didn't get it mostly, but I didn't dislike it. It was one of those books where I know there is more going on, but I couldn't see it. It might make a better discussion book, or if it had Spark notes to go with it so I could read about the symbolism and themes. I don't claim to be very good at seeing the levels in a book. It's so, literary. And lots of people like that in their books, so I don't want to put any one off, but it wasn't enough of a page turner for me. I liked the view of Libya and seeing what life was like in that African country.

If you have also reviewed this book, leave me a link in the comments, so others can see another point of view.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Where is reading taking you today? I am about to begin a new book, because hopefully I finished In the Country of Men last night. (I write this Monday night and take advantage of the scheduled posting from blogspot. It's a neat little feature, but what has happened to the sticky post? How do you write a post with a future date? I'm scared to make any changes to my welcome post in case it won't post with the future date.) I hope I finished my book, I am quite tired of Libya and it is not keeping my attention at all. I looked at the first page of The Interloper yesterday and I think I may end up finishing it before the book I want to get finished.

Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, May 19, 2008

CHALLENGE: Book Award Challenge, update

Since July 1, I've read the following award winning books or Nobel winning authors:
The Giller Prize
2006 Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures -Vincent Lam

Orange Prize
2005 We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
1981 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
1999 The Hours by Michael Cunningham
2007 The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Man Booker
1983 Life and Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee
1985 The Bone People - Keri Hulme
1989 The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro
1997 The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
2000 The Blind Assassin - Maragaret Atwood
2007 The Gathering by Anne Enright

Nobel Winners
2006 Other Colors by Orhan Pamuk
1983 Life and Times of Michael K - JM Coetzee

1961 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
1968 From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by EL Konisburg
1990 Number the Stars - Lois Lowry
1991 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
2004 The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
1993 A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J Gaines
2002 Atonement by Ian McEwen
Hugo, Nebula
1986 Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

1997 The Chatham School Affair - Thomas H Cook

Golden Dagger
2005 Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

IMPAC Dublin
2004 This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun

I enjoyed this challenge, and liked looking into the different awards, since there are a lot out there. My favorite books would have been The Bone People and The Tale of Depereaux, perfect since I read a majority of Booker and Newbery winners. I get to pick two because I read 23 books! I am pleased with the overall quality of the books I read, and that I managed to read from a variety of book awards. There are more books to read and more awards to discover; luckily, I believe 3m is planning another edition.

BOOK: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J Gaines

book awards challenge (NBCC 1993); herding cats challenge

I'm not sure I read this book in the right setting. A story about lessons learned before dying in the electric chair and an amusement park don't really go together, but I had lots of time while watching children ride the roller coaster and merry go round, so I took advantage of the reading time. This Oprah pick of a novel was good and kept my attention, but it's not the type of book that will make me rave.

Grant Wiggins, the teacher on a plantation school, is asked by his aunt to go and visit Jefferson in jail, in the months leading up to Jefferson's execution for a crime he did not commit. Grant is not happy with the way his life is going, and the expectations he feels on placed on him, but in talking to Jefferson, he gains a new view of what it means to live. I gained a new appreciation for life in the 1940s of Louisiana, in which the race relations don't appear to have progressed very far from the slavery days. It was rather scary to realize how desperate the times were for African Americans a relatively short time ago. It was a good read and it feels like an important book. Maggie talks about sense of place in the Southern Reading Challenge, and I really felt it in this book.

from the cover: "Enormously moving ... Gaines unerringly evokes the place and time about which he writes." - Los Angeles Times

Saturday, May 17, 2008

CHALLENGE: What's in a Name? Update

Another challenge finished! This was a really fun one to pick books for because Annie set up such great parameters. I actually hope to read two for each category, but I have completed the challenge. I liked all of these books, but I would put Black Swan Green and Eleanor Rigby as my favorites.

1. A book with a color in its title.
Black Swan Green - David Mitchell
Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell

2. A book with an animal in its title.
The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale
The Terra Cotta Dog - Andrea Camilleri

3. A book with a first name in its title.
Eleanor Rigby - Douglas Coupland
Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi

4. A book with a place in its title.
Yellowknife - Steve Zipp
Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

5. A book with a weather event in its title.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

6. A book with a plant in its title.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
The Grass Harp - Truman Capote

BOOK: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

What's in a Name Challenge: weather event; in their shoes challenge, Cardathon challenge; nonfiction five 2008

I haven't laughed out loud while reading a book in quite a while, but Bryson certainly tickled my funny bone with this book. It says memoir, but it is just as much a look at the good old days, the 1950s in America. Bryson makes the argument that the 1950s in Des Moines, Iowa were the best time ever! I loved how Bryson used the exaggerated memory of youth to describe events - there were 800 kids outside, everyday. Part of it is how we always exaggerate when remembering our youth - the scab he nurtured that was one and three quarters inches thick-, so maybe that's why the old days were the best times.

Bryson alternates between his childhood and family, amusingly exaggerated, with the detailed research I associate with Bryson to explain America during times - the economy, the world, Communism and the threat of atomic bombs, and the role of farming in Iowa. He sneaked facts and information into his narrative and left me with an understanding of how we came from the good old days, with the slower pace and easier life, to the fast paced hectic life now.

I grew up in the 1970s and life certainly had changed, but I can see the same relative amount of change today from my childhood. I felt many parallels to Bryson's life: I too led a very happy childhood, nothing traumatic ever happened, I spent the summer outdoors with 800 other neighbourhood children, and the Saturday afternoon matinee was still going on in the 1970s. This was a great read and lots of fun, but also an informative look at how America has changed since 1951.

Friday, May 16, 2008

BOOK: The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Canadian Book Challenge: Yukon entry; decades challenge: 1900s; novella challenge (172 pages)

Well, I was pleasantly surprised with this book. John Mutford recommended it to me for the Canadian challenge as I was having difficulty finding a Yukon book. It was written by an American, Jack London, but it was set in the north, including Yukon, during the gold rush of the late 1800s.

It's a simple story but written well. Buck is a dog who was essentially kidnapped from the good life in San Fransisco and taken north, where dogs were needed to work the trails. Buck begins of process of returning to the wild, gradually. There is an element of Black Beauty here, as Buck is passed from one bad situation to a worse one, but he becomes strong and a leader among dogs, as he heeds his call to the wild.

The writing was simple but readable, something I don't always expect from a classic novel. I really liked it and will try the other famous London book, White Fang.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

CHALLENGE: 342,745 Ways to Herd Cats or tl;dr

I recommended my 10 books and now it's time to pick three books to read. There are 562 books on the list as of today, and many of the books have been listed by more than one person. It's really taken off. After going through the list, I found a list of books I already own, plus a few more that I want to read as well. Here's my list of potential reads:

I don't know how I will pick just three. There are so may good books to pick from.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BOOK: 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen

28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen

Nonfiction 5 challenge, African Reading Challenge

Twenty eight stories, one for every million people living with HIV/AIDS. Nolen's book has certainly raised my awareness of the disaster in Africa and how it could have been prevented or, at the very least, lessened with quicker action, and more concern and money.

Each chapter looks at a different person, a different country, a different aspect of the crisis. From the orphans to the grandparents to the activists to the prostitutes. From the civil war, to the lack of help, to the pharmaceutical companies and the generic drugs, to the lack of research into the aspects of AIDS that affects Africans more, your heart will be broken twenty eight times. Time and again, the shame and denial that we see here in North America prevented people in Africa from getting the timely help they needed, for the few where health care and ARVs are available. Awareness and help are needed now.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now.

Nolen's passion for the continent and the people comes through, and her method of putting a human face on each issues she tackles makes this book a great read. Disturbing, and upsetting, and frustrating, but a great read.

BOOK: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Austen Mini Challenge

I'm not the hugest Jane Austen fan, but I have enjoyed my little forays into her world. I've read two books - Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey. Then I watched part of the PBS Austen marathon, including the two novels I read, plus Mansfield Park. And I love Bridget Jones' Diary, which is simply P&P retold, including Colin Firth and Mr Darcy.

Fan or not, this book was enjoyable. I would guess that for the diehards, this book would be fabulous, with all the references to the novels and the abject adoration of Jane evident within the book club. For the casual reader like myself who is a little in awe of the Austenites, and a little scared of them, there is some playful humor making fun of the Jane fans.

Each Austen book gets a meeting and a host, and a chapter. The six members each get a focus of a chapter and we get to see the interactions and events in their lives. There are five women and one man, who could be considered the perfect hero. Different stages of relationships, matchmaking, uneven matches, and lost loves. I'm sure I missed the exact parallels to the novels, but I got quite a few. I was, however, extremely confused by the first person point of view, because it wasn't any of the characters and yet it was all of them. I'm not sure why it wasn't just third person, because the narrator changed around but was present and gave her/his opinion and little comments, but it was impossible to figure out who it was.

There are also tons of quotes at the end regarding Jane, and synopsis of the novels, and questions the characters would have asked at their meeting. The end notes added to the Austen experience.

What a great book to read for the Austen Mini-Challenge, for someone who doesn't want to read another Austen book (they take me forever!) I might still look for Austenland by Shannon Hale but this challenge is completed for me now:

In 2008 I read The Jane Austen Book Club, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and watched Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

It's great to see some new people here sharing their reading. Real life is interfering with my reading, and I'm a bit cranky about it. I feel like I am still reading the same books this week that I was reading last week, although I finished a different one in the middle. I'm still in Africa, learning about AIDS and in that country of men, which is actually Libya. Certainly, Africa is a newer experience for me. I also just joined the Jane Austen Book Club, and it is a lot of fun! Other than in movies, this is how I like my Austen, - reading about other people reading it.

Where is reading taking you today?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

WEEKLY GEEKS: Favorite childhood reading memories (week #3)

Favorite Childhood Reading Memories

There are so many parts to this. There are the books that I can remember my parents read to me - particularly Winnie the Pooh. I don't remember learning to read, I just remember reading.

When I came home from grade 1, I started trying to teach my three year old sister to read.I decided if I could read, so should she. I don't think I taught her to read, but I got her to memorize the book, and the word opossum. My books here included Clifford the Big Red Dog, and a book about a Halloween Witch and how to throw a Halloween party. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the famous book my mom bought my sister and me: Free to Be, You and Me. What a great collection!

Next phase: chapter books, but we didn't call them that. I loved going to the library and picking out books and bringing a pile home. I really only remember the books I owned, as these are ones that were read over and over again.

Bobbsey Twins mysteries [I didn't do Nancy Drew or Hardy boys]
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This Can't be Happening at MacDonald Hall, and the rest of the series by Gordon Korman
The Great Brain, and the rest of the books by JD Fitzgerald
anything by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary
The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Scholastic Books from the book order like: Follow My Leader, Amy's Room, something about Terri and she started a babysitting business?

There was this book in the elementary school library, and I think it was called Why Me? It was about a girl who developed diabetes, and so did her yellow lab dog and she tries to save it. Does anybody remember this book? Or did anyone else read it? I know I borrowed it several times and read it more than once.

Another book I vaguely remember was about two young kids whose older brothers and sisters go away, probably to school. They leave a series of clues to keep the youngsters amused, with a mystery to solve. It was set in older times, because there was a carriage house with a horse buggy. At one point, the siblings have to help them find a clue, subtly, when they were home for a holiday. Anyone? anyone?

I'm sure people are wondering where Anne of Green Gables is. I don't think I read Anne until I was well into my teens. For my teenage reading I jumped right into teenager issue books like The Outsiders, anorexic girls, alcoholic boys, or Danielle Steele and Stephen King. I don't think Young Adult was a genrewhen I was young, and I wouldn't have read Newbery winner-type books. I remember having Jacob, Have I Loved but I thought it was very boring.
Best assigned novel to read in school: Cue for Treason, a Shakespearean novel

Thanks for reading my trip down reading memory lane. I had fun thinking of my favorite books, and I know I left a ton out. Like you other bookworms, I read so many books over the years it's hard to pick the best, or my favorite. Even now, I'm remembering more books and resisting writing more into this post. My mother had this old red fairy tale book that we loved to look at, and read some of the stories, but we usually ended up at the limerick section, ... and I could keep going.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BOOK: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Once Upon a Time II, Cardathon

I've had this book from the library for several weeks, and I had to renew it before I even started it. You know how there are books that people rave about and you want to read, but for some irrational reason, you avoid it. And what usually happens is the book is terrific, and you wonder why it took so long to decide to read it. This is one of those books.

It was lovely. Hale retells the fairy tale of The Goose Girl, a story I was not familiar with. Her writing is wonderful and she incorporates the mystical and magical parts of fairy tales in a way that seems perfectly natural. The characters are ordinary people with strengths and weaknesses, and love stories that make you root for the couple. There was the perfect mix of treachery and sword fights, mistaken identities and folk tales, royalty and common folk. Ani was a wonderfully strong character who grows and learns how strong she can be. She is different because she can communicate with animals and doesn't fit in, but finds out how to believe in herself. Her friend Enna was loyal and strong and the next book is called Enna Burning. I look forward to reading it.

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave a link in the comments.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

WEEKLY GEEKS: linked reviews (week #2)

The theme this week is from darla from Books and Other Thoughts . She links other reviews into her book reviews, which can be a great idea. I've done that when I've given a review to a book I didn't like, but I know other readers who liked it. I linked their review to give another point of view.

I'm not sure how committed I'll be to this, but if you want your review linked up with mine, just drop a note with the link in the comments. I've seen other bloggers who add the link to other reviews into their comments, which is another option to this. Since many people are opening up to this idea, I can see doing it the other way: if I read your review of a book I've read, I would go back and link it into my post after the fact. I'll just leave a comment to let you know. This is what guatami tripathy did for me today with our Yellowknife reviews,and I liked that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Welcome to all the new people stopping by to see where reading is taking us, but don't just stop by, drop a line, and let us know where reading is taking you. It's more fun when everyone plays. So much fun stuff going on the the book blogging world, or Bblofia as Aaron's friend has labelled it. Dewey's Weekly Geeks is pushing people out of their comfort zone of just reading books and writing reviews, and new challenges are popping up all over the place - some new ones and some old favorites. After one year, I am already calling these challenges old favorites - Southern Reading and Nonfiction Five in particular.

Reading is taking me mostly to Africa this week. I am in Libya and I'm not sure what is going on in this country of men, but it won't be good for the women I'm guessing. And there are 28 stories of AIDS in Africa which is depressing but uplifting at the same time. This African Reading Challenge is taking my attention right now.

Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, May 5, 2008

CHALLENGE: Southern Reading Challenge 2008

3 Months, 3 Southern Authors, 3 Books

possible books:
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding by Ann B Ross
Beach Music by Pat Conroy (South Carolina)
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Mississippi)
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (South Carolina)
something by Mark Twain
Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

Maggie hosts for the second year in a row. This was a very fun challenge last year, and I quite enjoyed it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

BOOK: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Heard it Through the Grapevine Challenge

This was the perfect book for this challenge, because I wanted to read it after reading reviews at tinylittlelibrarian's and kookiejar's. Both described it as cute and funny and a delightful romp. Well, maybe they didn't say exactly that, but they were right. I envisioned American Gods light, and that wasn't far from the truth.

The Greek Gods, like Apollo, Aphrodite, Eros, Ares, and the rest who I have never been able to keep straight, are living in London, in squalor since cleaning is totally beneath them. The Gods' powers have weakened since mortals don't believe in them anymore. They are trying to get by doing what they can: Aphrodite works for phone sex, Artemis walks dogs, and Apollo is trying to break into television. Although they all live together, they are not getting along the best after centuries of in family fighting. In trying to take revenge, Apollo is made to fall in love with Alice, a quiet mousy girl. Her nerdy, almost boyfriend Neil has to save Alice, and eventually the world.

I learned more about the Greek Gods reading this book than I ever have before. It was amusing and fun, and perfect for me today when I am full up with the cold. I just wanted to read an easy, fun book. For the squeamish, there were some incestuous relationships amongst the Gods described frankly. It doesn't bother me, but there was some descriptive language. I liked how the Gods operate within their own rules and guidelines, like the witches in Harry Potter. They may be powerful, but they still have rules that guide their lives. The book had a great idea and was executed well, in an amusing and fast-moving plot.

I was able to get 11/12 plus two minor Greek Gods on this quiz after reading the book.

also reviewed at: tinylittlelibrarian and katrina's

Saturday, May 3, 2008

BOOK: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

chunkster challenge 483 p; what's in a name? plant in title category; decades challenge 1940s

This is a book I've been meaning to read for quite a while, so it ended up being on several challenge lists, most notably the chunkster challenge. At 483 pages, it took a while to read. Francie Nolan grows up from 10 til 17 years old, during the early part of the 20th century. Smith provides a view of life, based on her life, of poor working class Americans living in Brooklyn. It was a time of vast changes, but with so little historically happening, it's a time I haven't read much about. It's not prohibition, it's not the first World War, it's not nation building. I enjoyed it, but I think if I had read it as a much younger person, it might have had more impact on me. There were parts that touched me a lot, but in other places I found it a bit preachy. The funniest part was when Francie's brother tried to buy sauerkraut once the Americans had joined the war, and he forgot to order it as Liberty Cabbage. Freedom Fries anyone?

It was an epic novel, following one family's journey, during a much simpler time of life. A glimpse of life when the difference between rich and poor was very noticeable, when a family's pride was all they had as they struggled to better themselves. A real American dream novel.

CHALLENGE: 1% Reading Challenge

3M is hosting a new challenge. This doesn't even feel like a challenge because I use this list in the back of my mind when I'm picking books for reading challenges. I read 27 from this list last year. I imagine most books will be cross-listed with other reading challenges. Here's the intro from 3m's blog:

The goal of this challenge is to read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. For you non-math people, 10 out of 1001 is approximately 1%, hence the title. The challenge will run from May 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009.

I'll list a few books I am hoping to get to soon:

1. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
2. Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
3. The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields
4. A Bend in the River - Naipaul
5. The Plague - Albert Camus
6. something by Vonnegut
7. Things Fall Apart - Achebe
8. Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry
9. A Pale View of Hills by Kazou Ishiguro
10. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit - Winterson
11. Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres
12. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Huston Neal
13. Isabelle Allende - House of Spirits
14. The Colour - Rose Tremain
15. Love in the Time of Cholera
16. The Reader

It's hard to make a list, from a list, and this may well change.

Friday, May 2, 2008

UPDATE: April books

I'm pleased with nine books this month, and challenges are moving along, but I expect to knock a few off next month. I'm in the middle of two books: 29 Stories of AIDS in Africa and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, both big books.

Books Read:
53. The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier
52. The Outcast - Sadie Jones
51. The Gathering - Anne Enright
50. Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
49. The Chatham School Affair - Thomas H Cook
48. This Blinding Absence of Light - Tahar Ben Jelloun
47. Stardust - Neil Gaiman
46. The Ravine - Paul Quarrington
45. Latitudes of Melt - Joan Clark

Books Bought/Received
28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen
The Outcast by Sadie Jones
The Sister by Poppy Adams
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams
Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale
Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Challenge updates:
Book Award Challenge July 1 2007 - June 30, 2008
read 22/12, but I have 1 more that I want to read before I consider this done
Canadian Book Challenge Oct '07 - July 1 '08
read 11; still Alta, Yukon to go.
Series Challenge Dec 1 - May 31, 2008
read 8 books; finished the Lily Bard mysteries and Shopaholic series and Gardella Vampire Chronicles.
this one is going to start again, on June 1st - Nov 30th

A - Zed Author and Titles Challenge all year 2008
read 33/52
decades challenge - all year 2008
only 2, haven't begun thinking of this one yet
in their shoes - all year 2008
Cardathon Challenge - all year 2008
What's in a Name? all year 2008
4/6; first name, color, animal, place

YAC books all year 2008 completed!

Man Booker Challenge all year 2008
5/6 ,
notable books 2007 - all year 2008
In the Pub - all year 2008
mini-challenges 2008
chunkster challenge 2
Novella Challenge
Soup's On!
Orbis Terrarum Challenge til December 20
once upon a time challenge II til June 21

888 challenge
2/8 categories completed

Themed Reading Challenge finished, read 8/8 First category in the 888 completed!
Hometown Challenge read 2/1 completed!
eponymous challenge read 4/4 completed!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??
And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

I'd buy a book at the airport bookstore. Or I'd read the airplane magazine, or the directions for safety procedures, or the ingredients on the cracker wrapper or.....

I'd still read, somehow.

BOOK: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

novella challenge, I Heard it Through the Grapevine Challenge

What would happen if the Queen wandered into a mobile library and discovered all the books she had never read? This book explores the eye opening that happens as the Queen become engrossed in books and ideas she never knew about. The slim little volume was full of literary references (Great Expectations again!) and had a cute little story, nothing too much, but it feels like we get a peep at the life of the royals. It is fiction of course, but I imagine there were aspects to how a person might feel after over 50 years of tiring duty and protocol.

I could identify with her quick immersion and sudden obsession with reading and books and always looking for the next fix, I mean book. I particularly liked Norman, her supplier of books who gets promoted to being her 'book guy', who had a bent to gay literature. There were lots of cute moments, finagling behind the scenes, and the Queen herself was great. It made me want to watch The Queen movie. If you want to read a short, cute, book-based novel, this will fit the bill.

I chose this book after 3m rated it her favorite book published in 2007.