books & reading

What’s On MY Nightstand: December

It’s the 4th Tuesday in November – you know what that means! It’s TIME TO build a word show you what’s on my nightstand. First I’ll show you the books I’m currently reading and have slated to read, then I’ll show you the books that Santa can feel free to leave under the tree for me this year (the ones I wouldn’t kick out of my nightstand, so to speak). So here’s what I’m reading right now or planning to read very soon:

  • The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis: This book is either the 6th in the series or the 1st depending on how you look at it – it wasn’t written first, but it is supposed to be the story of the dawn of Narnia, how it all began, etc. I’ve decided to read this one first even though it says BOOK SIX in huge letters, the back of the book assures me I can read these books in any order. So there. I’ve read two chapters before and already I’m loving the writing style and the plot. I think I’m really going to enjoy this series.
  • Home: A Memoir Of My Early Years by Julie Andrews: I’ve been wanting to read this since before it came out, so last night when the dh let me take myself to the library I searched the racks in the basement biographies section of the library and THERE IT WAS. I was so excited and I’m looking forward to starting this soon.
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer: I bought this with a gift card my mother sent me for my birthday and I am definitely looking forward to reading it, but I keep putting it down and saying, “Not yet.” I think it’s the knowledge that it’s currently the only book she’s written that I haven’t read – so once I read it, I’m screwed until she writes something new – does that make sense? So I put it down and went to the library to get The Magician’s Nephew and Home and I’ll read this just as soon as I’m brave enough!
  • The No Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley: I am mostly including this to maybe encourage myself to pick it up and start reading it – it does sound like a great book and probably perfect, but like my son, I’m in denial about the whole potty training thing and it kind of feels like homework, which never encourages me to want to read anything. But there you have it.

Now for the books that I’d most like to find waiting for me on Christmas morning – the ones I’d bake Santa TWO batches of homemade cookies for!

What’s on your nightstand this month?

books & reading reviews

Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

Grade: A+

I’ve read a lot of rave reviews for The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, so I was pretty excited when I finally got my hands on a copy, but tried to be realistic, too – how many amazing books can a person expect to find in this world? But luckily my expectations were more than met with this exciting children’s book about a group of exceptionally smart orphans who form a secret society in the hopes of overcoming very great odds and defeating a very smart, powerful enemy. The job requires various forms of smarts, perseverance and bravery and the children are constantly tested in areas that they have no idea if they are capable of passing, but in the end they come through – possibly by the skin of their teeth, but for a cluster of small, scared children this is still quite remarkable.

I loved testing myself along with the children while reading this and was very impressed when I didn’t know the answers that they did – and proud when I did know. I loved all the characters and rooted for them with glee. All of the characters were very well written, the story impressive and addicting – I had a seriously hard time putting this book down and thus finished it very quickly. I’m already anxiously anticipating the second book in the series, The Perilous Journey.

This book combines everything which is great about the Harry Potter series and Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, but still manages to be it’s own entity – a fresh, exciting new plot that keeps  you guessing, with a new memorable set of characters that children will be able to relate to and cheer on. The writing style is very good, and like the Snicket books it’s an excellent way to sneak in some learning with your fun – lots of words are defined without it feeling forced (usually one of the main characters simply asks for a definition when they find they don’t know what a word means) and the tests the children take can show readers how you can solve a problem in many different ways, still arriving at the right answer – how being smart is not confined to one area – that you can be clever in different ways and that all those ways are important.

I don’t think I could say enough good things, in fact, I don’t think this review is sufficiently explaining how much I liked it, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, and try reading it yourself – I don’t think you will be disappointed. This book would make an excellent present for any reader in your life (it’s aimed towards kids in 9-12 years old) – I bought a copy for my cousin for Christmas and my husband is already planning to read my copy now that I’m done with it. I really think The Mysterious Benedict Society could be the Next Big Thing.

books & reading

Fall Into Reading 2008: The End

The calendar tells us that fall is over (looking out the window at snow falling onto an already ridiculously deep bed of snow, with no plans of stopping soon – that also tells me fall is over, but you know, details shmetails). That means that the Fall into Reading 2008 Challenge hosted by Kat @ Callapidder Days is also over. How’d you do with your reading lists? I’d say I did not bad – I didn’t finish all of the books on my list, but I did read OTHER books that weren’t on my list (which is silly, because I could have edited the list to include them, but I didn’t because I like to be overly difficult to myself). Anyway, here’s the list I wrote up in September:

So I read three of the books, attempted but didn’t finish two and haven’t gotten to three others yet. But like I said earlier, I did read other books during the fall – here are the non-challenege books that I read when I could have been reading challenge books:

  • The Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Pierce – Finished October 30, 2008 – SO good. Clearly, since I again devoured this book. I’m really looking forward to reading the last in this quartet and considering reading a LOT of her other works now. But you know, get in line.
  • Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult – Finished November 26, 2008 – This book was an incredible experience – Picoult is such a gifted writer, I couldn’t help but be in awe of her and loved the intricacies of this story – each piece woven into the next. Brilliant.
  • Death: A Life by George Pendle – Finished December 4, 2008 – While I didn’t love this book, I did enjoy it – it was funny and well written and gave a very interesting perspective of life and death and all that other stuff in between.
  • Boomtown by Nowen N. Particular – Finished December 13, 2008 – This story had the potential to be amazing – so many genius anecdotes and tales – but it fell flat and made it very hard to want to continue reading.

And right now I’m reading The Mysterious Benedict Society – which I might have finished had I given into my urge to stay up late last night reading until I passed out – unfortunately I’m pregnant and sleep was inevitable and probably necessary. So that’s an extra four, almost five books on top of the three that I finished for the challenge – so that’s not terrible, right?

Of the books that I read for the challenge, I think Rumors by Anna Godberson was probably my favorite – I loved the first book and the second was possibly even better, although the ending seemed horribly unfair and I kind of wanted to kick things, still I’m looking forward to the next book, Envy, which is due to come out in January I believe. My least favorite was a Jane Eyre, obviously as I didn’t finish it – I know some people love this book, I’m still not sure why. I thought it was awful and depressing and ridiculous to boot.

I think it’s interesting that I read more non-challenge books than the challenge ones – I think my brain doesn’t like reading lists – like it almost feels like homework, because these were books I CHOSE and I still seemed to abandon them in favor of spontaneous reading. I’m not sure what this says – I still like the idea of keeping a running tab of books to read, I have several methods of doing that already, especially with, but I guess for me, this was one step too far in the planning route?

I am still thinking of joining the Spring Reading Challenge, if only to see if lightning strikes twice, you know? I’ll certainly still be reading – that’s for sure! Perhaps if the goal were simply to read x number of books I’d have done better – I did read 7 books this fall which is fairly impressive, don’t you think?

So that’s all folks – hello Winter, good bye Fall Into Reading 2008.

books & reading memes & carnivals motherhood reviews

Kids' Picks: Goodnight Gorilla

Last month I picked up one of my favorite children’s books for my son – the one I used to love reading for story time when I worked in a local bookstore – Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann which tells the story of a Zookeeper and his wife and a sneaky gorilla who helps all the animals escape their cages at night as the zookeeper is locking up. I can still remember reading this before my son was born, and thinking how I couldn’t wait to read it to my own children. So I was thrilled when we not only bought it (finally) but he LOVED it. For weeks it became The Book for our bedtime story and it’s still in regular rotation even now that the novelty has worn off a bit (which is always good because you don’t want to get sick of a favorite book!).

Grade: A+

I’d recommend this book to any parent of a young child – my son loves naming all of the animals in the book and laughing at all of the antics of the story. I am still very much in love with this book which I think is every bit as good as the more commonly known “Goodnight” book, Goodnight Moon.

What are your kids reading this month? For more kids book recommendations, head over to 5 Minutes For Books.

books & reading reviews

Review: Boomtown by Nowen N. Particular

Grade: D

I’m a details person. When I buy a product that has clever packaging, little gems in every nook and cranny, it makes me love the product more – putting in that extra effort, to me, says you care about your product. So when a copy of Boomtown: Chang’s Famous Fireworks Factory by Nowen N. Particular was sent to me from the Thomas Nelson book review bloggers program, I was immediately impressed by the little details. The author’s pseudonym reminded me of Lemony Snicket. The concept of a warm and caring Utopian society who just happen to be obsessed with blowing things up – it all sounded terrific. I couldn’t wait to devour it.

Boomtown is the story of reverend Arthur Button, who moves his family to Boomtown after accepting a job with Boomtown Church. His wife and three children are all funny and clever – the kids are always getting into trouble but escaping unscathed. These four do very well in Boomtown and hearing the story from any of their perspectives might have been a treat. But this story is told from the point of view of Arthur, who is the most boring stick in the mud you will ever meet.

I think most people would love to live in Boomtown. But Arthur Button does not. And since we are reading from his perspective, the whole thing feels boring and stuffy. Button almost dies 6 times in this story and I don’t think I cared once.

What disappoints me the most was the sheer amount of potential this book had – if it hadn’t been narrated by Arthur, it might have been great. Why was this a children’s book? I can’t imagine any kid who would want to read a story told from the perspective of their father. Most kids would rather read a story from another kid’s perspective.

Supposedly there will be a second book – I won’t be reading it. But hopefully my negative review (and others I’ve seen on the review page for Boomtown) will yield a positive result for Nowen N. Particular – you had a good idea, you just mucked it up royally. Next time, try writing from the perspective of someone we can care about.

books & reading memes & carnivals

Teaser Tuesday – Death: A Life

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
  • My teaser this week is from Death: A Life by George Pendle:

    “So to set the scene for my downfall: the Romans were up, the Greeks were down, the Jews were in and out of captivity, the Chinese were building walls, and the Arabs were eating so many colored mushrooms it was doubtful they were even on this planet at all. It was a warm day in the Middle East and I was touring Earth picking up my usual quota of beggars, lepers, princes, merchants, leeks, kestrels, and kumquats when I found myself drawn to the site of a crucifixion…”

    – from page 129 of Death: A Life by George Pendle

    What are you reading right now? If you decide to play along on your own blog, be sure to link up over @ Should Be Reading.

    books & reading memes & carnivals

    What's On My Nightstand

    It’s time for the November addition of What’s On Your Nightstand, a fun book meme @ 5 Minutes For Books. All you have to do is write about what you are reading, what you plan to read, or what you just finished reading. You can take a picture of your actual nightstand or not – the details are up to you!

    This month I’ll write about what I’m currently reading and what I’m claiming to be reading and the next book I’m planning to read (for my book club which we are finally starting back up again!). So here’s what’s on my “night stand” or you know scattered around my apartment willy nilly-like:

    1. Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult – I am about 2/3rds through this book about a girl whose mother abandoned the family when she was 5 years old and is now struggling to identify herself as a mother and doubting her own abilities, worried that history will inevitably repeat itself. I’m liking it a lot, but due to the heavy material of the book it’s taking me awhile to get through. I’m hoping to finish it by the 29th when the book is due back at the library.
    2. Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick – I’ve had this book for years and as much as it’s enjoyable and I want to read it, I don’t seem to be very good at sticking to non-fiction. This book is like a history book in that it’s chock full of facts and details but it’s written almost like a narrative, making it more interesting. Not interesting enough apparently as I’m still on page 24 out of 358. I never was good at actually reading multiple books at the same time though.
    3. The No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley – I’m “reading” this in preparation for training my son, which could happen any day now or not for months at the rate we’re going. He’s not quite ready yet but could be soon, you know?
    4. Death: A Life by George Pendle – this is the book we’re reading for my book club. We’re planning to meet sometime  in December so I’ll be reading it as soon as I finish Harvesting the Heart. It’s a fictional humorous memoir of Death, which should be very interesting and for sure different from my normal reading selection.

    Here are some books I’d love to read soon-ish but have no idea when I’ll actually get to:

    So what’s on YOUR nightstand?

    books & reading memes & carnivals reviews

    Movie Madness: Twilight (the Cliff Note’s version?)

    Has anyone seen the Veggie Tales dvd, Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry? In the beginning of the movie Larry goes to his book club where they are talking about Huckleberry Finn. It is discovered that the whole group has been reading the “Norm’s Notes” version of the books for their club and to be honest are more interested in the desserts they’ve brought for the meeting. A pretty typical description of a lot of book clubs, I think, not discluding my own. Except that I’d never read the Cliff’s Notes version of a book, unless of course it was for a college course. That’s different. But a book that was meant to be read for pleasure? Nobody wants the condensed version, as we all know it will not be able to contain all of the genuine emotions and delicate plot details that we know and love in the full version. It won’t have the true essence of the story.

    This is the problem with movies based off books. It’s no surprise – we’ve seen a million of them, going in anxious and optimistic, leaving with a grumble of complaint about the butchering of an amazing work of fiction, and how could they leave this out and really what were they thinking and will they ever learn?

    It would appear not. Now I understand that movies can only be so long – that the book Twilight for instance is not a short book, even if many of us devoured it in one sitting – it’s an experience – things take time in this book, as Meyer’s carefully constructs each detail working hard to not make Bella’s love story seem trite or typical and prone to the fleeting feelings of most high school girls. This story is different and it’s complex and heavy – and it’s a story about so much more than Edward and Bella – it’s a legendary vampire history, with amazing new twists on an old favorite genre – it’s about the inner workings of the mind of Bella, who was never an ordinary teenager in the clichéd sense. It’s about what a person becomes when they can live forever. It’s about family dynamics, small town dynamics, small town high school dynamics and on and on and on with rich characters that we grow to care about – each and every one – even Jessica and Mike Newton.

    But this movie? I don’t want to insult the good work of many actors and actresses, but could this script have been any more fast paced? In one second Bella has just arrived and she’s easing into her new school and questioning her body odor (I’ll admit that scene was funny and brilliant) – and in practically the next scene she’s confessing love to Edward. And while their love story was not necessarily a long one per say, it was not that quick and we all know it (we who read the books). We know what an agonizingly long process this was for Bella and the movie seems to make light of that which irked me. All of the so true feelings of Edward and Bella seem almost mocked as if to say, “Don’t worry, no one is taking this serious.”

    And while I don’t mind laughing at some of it, this movie seemed to be laughing at all of it – and rushing through the story in a very cliff notes fashion. You get the basic plot with very little of the essence. It felt very forced to me and I don’t think anyone was given a chance to do their characters and stories justice. Which is unfortunate, because every now and then when they slowed down a bit, I saw some beauty in this story come to life – the baseball scene was so absolutely stunning and well done that it literally blew me away. The Cullen’s house was more beautiful than even I had imagined it – so beautiful that my husband practically drooled on my shoulder and now we both want to live in Forks if only for that house, those mountains… That scene with Edward catching the apple was so brilliant and well done that I’m still visualizing it as I type this. The vampiric actions were deliciously fun to watch, even the bad guys, maybe especially the bad guys.

    So I’m not saying I hated it – it would be hard to hate anything related to Twilight – and some small parts I really really loved. But a lot of it… felt… like how people see Twilight from the outside looking in, which I found very sad. I hope Stephenie Meyers likes this movie as it’s her baby really at the end of the day – her vision come to life. I’m just a fan who saw many things differently and was disappointed with how rushed and chopped a lot of (most of) the book was. I thought Bella and Edward were played well, but really neither were exactly how I picture them – the only person who was perfect, like spot on brilliantly perfect was Alice, who had maybe five lines in the movie sadly.

    I feel like I might regret saying this, but I do hope they make movies for the other books, because as disappointed as I was, I enjoyed parts of it and it got me craving the rest of the story, wanting to see more – the amazing stuff to come in the next books that I had to use so much restraint to keep from blabbering to my husband about. And really this series got better with age, maybe the movies would, too? Or maybe each movie would leave me saying, “When will enough be enough? When will I learn?”

    Grade: C

    So did you see the movie? Did you like it?

    books & reading

    Romance Reading Challenge 2009

    I’ve decided to take the Romance Reading Challenge @ The Bookworm in 2009 – I’ve been seeing a lot of fun challenged in the blogosphere and would love to join all of them, but I don’t like committing to things and then abandoning them, at least, not constnantly. But this one looks fun and easy enough for me to say yes to:

    1. Now, “Romance” isn’t limited to steamy Harlequin novels. There is a huge selection of books in this category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance to name a few. As long as the story has romantic love between the two main characters your selection will fit this challenge. The novels do not need to have a happy ending either, there can also be unrequited love.

    2. Choose at least 5 novels read them between Jan 1st though Dec 31st 2009. You can change your choices at any time. Crossovers between other challenges are fine.

    3. Read them at your own pace in 2009 then come here and post the link to your review(s).

    4. Link your “RRC” choices here with any of these graphics:

    So here are the five books I’m choosing for this challenge:

    1. Envy: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen – the third in the series, it comes out in January and I will be impatiently waiting to read it, so it is only fitting that it be in this list.
    2. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time and I think it looks perfect for this challenge, a “sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback.”
    3. Persuasion by Jane Austen – I really loved Pride and Prejudice and want to read another of Austen’s novels, but preferably one whose movie I haven’t already seen – this one looks perfect. A novel which “examines how a woman can at once remain faithful to her past and still move forward into the future.”
    4. The Host by Stephenie Meyer – I am a huge fan of the Twilight series and although I’m a bit skeptical of this new novel, I know I won’t be able to keep my hands off of it for long. “Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies” – now how can you not be intrigued by that?
    5. Phantom by Susan Kay – Another book I’ve been meaning to read, the full version of the Phantom of the Opera, with a detailed back story of the Phantom – my bestie @ Red Knows How loved this book and I would definitely love to read it soon.

    So, are you going to take the Romance Reading Challenge in 2009? It’s just 5 books – I say go for it! And make sure you link up over @ The Bookworm.