Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Monday 5/30! What Are You Reading?

These Monday holidays always feel strange - doesn't really feel like a Monday, does it?  I have spent most of the holiday weekend struggling with a severe flare-up of my chronic illness.  This just came out of the blue - it's been almost a year since I had an episode this bad - and I don't know what triggered this.  All my plans for getting caught up around the house had to be set aside.  I have been reading a lot, though, and trying to rest.  Thank goodness for engrossing books!  Here's what we're reading this week:
  • I finished reading The Condition by Jennifer Haigh, one of my favorite authors.  Like her earlier novel, Baker Towers, this one is also about family.  Everyone in my book group enjoyed it very much.
  • Because of book group commitments, I've read several adult books in a row without my usual alternating between kids/teen books and grown-up ones, so next I read a teen/YA book, The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson.  Narrated by a teen boy who knows he will die in 24 hours, this was a bit crude, but its dark humor and thoughtful ending grew on me.
  • Now I'm reading The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, a local author here in Delaware.  I loved her two memoirs, Riding the Bus with My Sister and Building a Home with my Husband.  This novel about a young mentally handicapped woman locked up in an instituation in the 50's and 60's is absolutely wonderful - I was completely hooked within the first chapter (perfect for sick days!).
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Num8ers by Rachel Ward, a teen/YA thriller, based on my recommendation.
  • 16-year old Jamie is still working his way through a re-reading of the entire Redwall series by Brian Jacques, in between getting through his last weeks of school.  He says he has only 3 books left to go!
I posted a review of The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht last week at Book By Book.

What are you and your family reading this week?  Hope you're enjoying the holiday weekend!

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey).

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's Monday 5/23! What Are You Reading?

Huh?  What?  Monday already?  I was just sitting here trying to catch up on my 100 e-mails from the weekend, when I remembered it was Monday, and I was late writing my book post!  Slow start...

This time of year is just so busy, with all sorts of end-of-year school functions, last soccer games, overwhelming yard work needed, plus last-minute vacation planning before summer starts.  We spent our weekend on all of those, with more coming up this week.

Still trying to squeeze in some reading, as well!
  • I finished reading The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (though not until the day after my book group discussion!).  It was well-written but a very complicated book - we all agreed it was a good thing we had each other to talk to!  I still have some lingering questions about it.  Definitely a literary novel.
  • As soon as I finished The Tiger's Wife, I moved onto my book group book for this week (sometimes they fall one right after the other like this!), The Condition by Jennifer Haigh.  I am loving this novel so far.  Haigh is one of my favorite authors - she is especially talented at writing about family relationships.
  • I finished Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton on my iPod, a fascinating memoir about a very unusual life.
  • I started a new audio, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, a teen/YA novel about a troubled teen girl who becomes engrossed in the story of a teen girl during the French Revolution.  It's excellent so far.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Once a Spy by Keith Thomson and moved onto its sequel, Twice a Spy.  He's enjoying this author.
  • 16-year old Jamie is still working his way through a re-reading of the entire Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  We're planning a 3-week trip to California, and he's very worried about how to bring enough books.  On our usual road trips, he packs a whole duffle bag with nothing but books, but this time we're flying.  I think we'll ship a box out there to my aunt's house before we go!
I posted two reviews last week:  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese at Book By Book and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher here.  I also posted a link to an excellent radio interview with author Diane Ackerman that I really enjoyed last week.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Sapphique

Last year, the teen/YA audio novel Incarceron kept my family riveted during our spring break road trip to Louisiana and back.  Author Catherine Fisher had created a very unique world that combined modern technology with an old-fashioned veneer.  This spring break, as we drove to Oklahoma and back, its sequel, Sapphique, helped the miles fly by.  (I tried to avoid second book spoilers here, but if you haven’t read Incarceron yet, you’d be better off reading that review).

As in the first book, the action of this second novel switches back and forth between Incarceron, the grimy, industrial, living prison and the outside world, where nobility and peasants live as though it were an earlier century, despite the ignored existence of very advanced technology.  Now, really, if you haven’t read Incarceron yet, you might want to skip the next two paragraphs…

At the start of the novel, Finn is trying to adjust to life Outside with Claudia, but he finds that it has its own challenges and is not the utopia he’d thought it was.  Meanwhile, the friends he left behind in Incarceron, Attia and Keiro, continue to struggle within the prison, in search of a magical glove, said to have been the way that the legendary Sapphique escaped.  

Claudia worries about her father, who is now trapped within Incarceron, and her beloved tutor, Jared, whose health continues to worsen, and can’t help but have doubts as to whether Finn is truly the missing prince, though she wants to believe it.  When another young man shows up, also claiming to be the lost prince, Finn must somehow prove he is the true heir in order to save both his and Claudia’s lives.

I think we all favored Incarceron just a bit, perhaps for its surprising turns and new setting, but Sapphique had plenty of its own twists and surprises to keep us listening happily for hours.  Reader Kim Mai Guest did a marvelous job with both books, giving each character his or her own unique voice.  Fans of fantasy and dystopian novels (though this isn’t strictly dystopian) will thoroughly enjoy both books in Catherine Fisher’s imaginative and fast-paced set.

Listening Library

Listen to a sample of Sapphique:

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Monday 5/16! What Are You Reading?

Monday...and another dark, rainy day.  It's supposed to rain all week, with possible thunderstorms and hail today!   I am just hoping life will return to (somewhat) normal this week.

Last week, my family traveled to Washington, DC, to give testimony in front of the CFS Advisory Committee (within the Department of Health and Human Services) about how the immune disorder, ME/CFS, has affected our lives.  If you're interested, you can watch our testimony at this link.  While in town, we also met with a couple of our Congressional representatives to ask for more equitable distribution of funds for ME/CFS research.

Anyway, it was very rewarding but completely exhausting!  My oldest son is still home from school, and I was pretty useless the rest of the week, though feeling better now.  I had no time at all for blogging last week and not much time for reading, either, so please excuse me if I didn't have a chance to visit your blog or reply to your comments.  I hope to be able to make the round this week!  Here's our reading update:
  • I am reading The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht for my neighborhood book group.  It took me a while to get into it because I was only reading about 5 pages a day!  It's very good, and I'm glad to have a chance to read such a hot new novel - I often don't read new books until they've come out in paperback.  Now I need to somehow find time to finish it before Wednesday - it's not looking good!
  • My husband, Ken, is now reading Once a Spy by Keith Thomson, a book I found at the library.  He said he's enjoying it so much that he's also bringing it's sequel, Twice a Spy, with him on a business trip this week (it must be good for him to carry two hardcovers with him!).
  • Jamie, 16, read another 3 Redwall books by Brian Jacques last week, in his quest to re-read the entire series!  Since he's been home sick, this has worked out well - these are his "comfort books," old favorites.
  • Jamie is also reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne for his American Lit class...but much more reluctantly than the Redwall books, as you can imagine!
  • I am still listening to Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton on my iPod.  She has certainly led an interesting life, to say the least!  I think I am almost done with this fascinating memoir.
What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's Monday 5/9! What Are You Reading?

Please pardon the very late post today - our life has been a whirlwind of travel lately (and this week will continue in that vein).  After our boys' two soccer games Saturday, we drove up to Connecticut to spend Mother's Day with my mom and my sister and their families (this week is also my mom's birthday).  Then we turned around and drove back home less than 24 hours later!  Despite the quick turnaround, it was good to see everyone.  No one can make me laugh like my family!  I hope everyone else had a good Mother's Day. 

This morning, my son and I headed back up the NJ Turnpike to see our Lyme doctor (a 90-minute drive each way).  We didn't have much time for reading this week:
  • I have finally, just today, finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  It took me over two weeks to read this hefty novel, but it is well-worth it, a unique story of a set of twins, born conjoined at the head, and raised in Ethiopa.  I finished it today and thought, "Shoot, that wasn't for a book who will I talk to about it??"
  • My husband, Ken, finished Fear, a thriller by Jeff Abbott.
  • He has now moved onto Once a Spy by Keith Thomson.  I had pulled Twice a Spy off the New Release shelf at the library for him, but when he tried to read it, he discovered it was the sequel to another book, so I requested the first one from the library for him!
  • Jamie, 16, is still on his Redwall re-reading binge.  I asked him today if he was planning to re-read the entire series (for perhaps the third time?), and he said, "Yes!  And I'm trying to read them in chronological order this time," which is different than the order they were published in.  I have no idea how many more he read this week - I gave up trying to keep track!
  • On our way to and from Connecticut, we finished listening to Sapphique by Catherine Fisher in the car.  Though I think we all favored the first book, Incarceron, slightly, the sequel was well worth our time and provided a satisfying conclusion to the story.
Because I've been reading the same book for two weeks, I didn't post any reviews last week but did post a variety of other fun stuff:  my April reading summary, a photo of a surprise bookmark Jamie found in one of our older books and a discussion of found bookmarks, and my lists of Top Ten Books I Read Based on Recommendations both here and at Book By Book.

Tomorrow we head to Washington, DC, for a special awareness event and lobbying day on Wednesday for kids and teens with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (the immune system disorder that both of my sons and I have) - exciting but hectic!  So things may be quiet here at the book blog for much of this week.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(what are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Children's Book Choice Awards Winners Announced

At a big event Monday night, the 4th annual Children's Book Choice Awards were presented.  Why is this awards show news-worthy?  Because kids themselves choose the winners!

Here are the major category winners:

Kindergarten to second grade: Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby (Putnam)
Third to fourth grade: Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Knopf)
Fifth to sixth grade: The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles: Book 1) by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion)
Teen: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton)
In addition, David Wiesner was named Illustrator of the Year and Rick Riordan was named Author of the Year.   This is a big honor for Riordan, who just 5 years ago was a middle-school teacher stunned by the success of The Lightning Thief back in 2006 when I corresponded with him after reviewing his first book for Family Fun magazine (don't you just love stories like that in the writing world?)
Check out this article at Publisher's Weekly for all the details, plus photos from the awards ceremony.

Have you read any of the winners?  Do you agree with the kids' choices?  Who would be your choice for Author of the Year?

Found Bookmarks

Have you ever found an unusual bookmark in a library book or used book you purchased or borrowed?  It's often a quirky little bit of serendipity that makes you wonder about the book's previous readers!

This happened within our own home a couple of weeks ago.  My 16-year old son, Jamie, was home sick and reading straight through the entire series of Orson Scott Card's that begins with Ender's Game.  He was reading book 3, Xenocide, when he called me over to show me what he'd found stuck in its pages - this adorable little laminated photo of himself, at about 18 months old, sitting on Santa's lap!  That must have been the last time I read the book.

This unexpected find made us both smile and reminded me that I'd heard before about blogs that post odd bookmarks found within books.  Here are two of them:  Forgotten Bookmarks and Pre-Owned Bookmarks.

I typically use real bookmarks to mark my place - paper ones from our local indie bookstore or nice ones I received as gifts - but my husband uses whatever slip of paper he finds nearby - receipts, golf score cards, greeting cards, etc.  Jamie doesn't use bookmarks at all - he just remembers what page he was on!  I could never do that.

How about you?  What do you use as bookmarks?  And what is the oddest thing you have ever found stuck in a borrowed or second-hand book?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Top Ten Books That Came Recommended

It's Tuesday and that means it's Top Ten Day!  Today's topic, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is books that I probably wouldn't have read if not for the recommendations of other book lovers whose opinions I respect.

You can read my list of adult books that came recommended over at Book By Book.  I've limited this list to just kids/teen/YA books.  This list was a challenge because for years now, most of my kids/teen books are read for review.  So, I had to dig a bit to come up with this list.  As you'll see, many of the recommendations came from my son, Jamie, now 16, who is an avid reader:

  1. The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins – I can't even remember now who recommended this fabulous middle-grade series to me years ago, but I know I wouldn't have chosen to read a series about giant cockroaches and rats on my own (but I'm so glad I did!).
  2. Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale - my son, Jamie, urged me to read the first Pendragon book, and I ended up reading the entire 10-book series!  It's one of my all-time favorites for older middle-grade and teen readers.
  3. Nothing But the Truth by Justina Chen Headley - a favorite author recommended by talented young blogger, Miss Erin.
  4. Alabama Moon by Watt Key - my husband chose this middle-grade book, with the help of the staff at our local Indie bookstore, and it is still a family favorite!
  5. Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld - recommended by both my husband and my son.
  6. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater - this is one I never would have read without the recommendations of dozens of my favorite book bloggers.
  7. Everlost by Neal Shusterman- another one recommended by my son, Jamie.  My only regret is that I waited so long to read it - it's one of my favorite teen series.
  8. The Thief Lord by Cynthia Funke- also recommended by Jamie (seeing a trend here?) - he and my younger son, Craig, became totally enamored of Venice because of this book.
  9. The Last Treasure by Janet S. Anderson - Jamie again, back in 2006 - I believe his exact words were, "Mom, this is one of the best books Ive ever read!"
  10. House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer - Jamie bought this one for my husband for his birthday, then we both read it, too - don't you just love gifts like that?

How about you - which books did you read and enjoy because they were recommended?

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's Monday 5/2! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday - not only back to the work week for us but back to real-life after our 10-day spring break trip to Oklahoma.  Re-entry is always tough.  I so enjoy the break from every day life, having very few responsibilities or obligations, able to just go with the flow, hang out with my husband and kids, and allow my mind to rest and wander.  Now it's back to laundry and writing and very long to-do lists!!  If anyone knows the secret to bringing a bit of that vacation mindset back home, let me know.

We enjoyed some good books while we were away:
  • I am still reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  It's a looong book!  You would think I'd have MORE time to read while on vacation, but of our 10 day-trip, we spent 6 days in the car, and I can't read in the car without getting sick.  Anyway, I'm enjoying the novel very much - it's just as good as everyone has said.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks, a thriller in the humorous style of Janet Evanovich, and enjoyed it.
  • Ken is now reading Fear, a thriller by Jeff Abbott that I picked up in the 50 cent pile at the library's used book sale.  He says it's fascinating because the plot revolves around a scientific breakthrough of using beta blockers to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, an especially interesting premise for him since I started beta blockers in January.
  • 16-year old Jamie read another 3 or 4 of his old favorite Redwall books by Brian Jacques this past week.  I quit even trying to keep track of the exact titles because he was flying through them so quickly and had brought so many from the series with him on the trip!  Jamie can read in the car and does so almost non-stop (though he had homework to do on the way home).
  • Craig, 13, finished Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain for his English class.  I wanted so badly to be able to stop in Hannibal, MO, on the way home to show him Mark Twain's boyhood home and the town and cave that inspired Tom Sawyer, but with 1400 miles to cover in only 3 days, we had no extra time to spare!  We had to settle for admiring the Mississippi River as we crossed through St. Louis.
  • Craig and I have also been reading aloud from 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, a middle-grade novel about kids finding alternate worlds through cupboards in their attic.  I really appreciated having the extra leisure time to enjoy a read-aloud with him - something that has become increasingly rare in our busy lives.  We used to read with the boys every single night before bed; now we don't usually have time unless we're on vacation.
  • We've all been listening to Sapphique by Catherine Fisher in the car.  Last spring break, we listened to the first book in the series, Incarceron, on our way to Louisiana and loved it.  We are on the last CD now, and this second book has kept our rapt attention all throughout our long drive.  Now we have to find time to finish it!
No reviews last week, since I was on vacation.

I do want to take a moment for an overdue thank you to Books Kids Like, a wonderful book blog that awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award a few weeks ago.  Though I have already accepted this award previously, I very much appreciate the thought.  Please take a moment to visit Books Kids Like, a fabulous blog filled with reviews of books for kids of all ages!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you treading Monday is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.)

Back to real life.  Wishing we were still in our little camper...