Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday 4/29! What Are You Reading?

We finally went camping this weekend! Woohoo! We hadn't had our pop-up camper out of the garage since last June, so we have all been dying to get out. My son's soccer game was cancelled for Saturday, so we went to one of our favorite local spots, Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. It was a relaxing weekend with perfect weather, and we enjoyed the beach, the warm sunshine and cool breeze, and a campfire at night. Too bad we had to come home and return to all of our obligations and must-dos!

We've had a good reading week, with plenty of book time this weekend:
  • I finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It is a very compelling story that is almost impossible to put down, but the two main characters are both pretty awful people. I'm glad I finally got to read it for myself after all the buzz last year.
  • I am now reading The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson, a middle-grade fantasy/mystery that is very good so far. Reminds me of a cross between Jumanji and the Hardy Boys!
  • I have been listening to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, a middle-grade audio book that has garnered many awards, including the Newberry Medal in 2012. It is excellent so far.
  • In spare moments, I have been reading two slim nonfiction books by Anna Quindlen. I finished A Short Guide to a Happy Life and am midway through Being Perfect. I have always enjoyed reading Quindlen's novels and essays and am enjoying her philosophical musings. I think that perhaps both books may have been based on commencement speeches she gave at her alma mater, Barnard.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, book 3 in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. At almost 1000 pages, this one will keep him busy for a while!
  • Our sons have been busy with school work, with no time for fun reading.
Not a lot of time for blogging last week, but I posted:

A review of Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird, which I loved.

A tribute to author E.L. Konigsburg, who died last week.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Children's Author E.L. Konigsburg Dies

Beloved children's author E.L. Konigsburg died on Friday, at age 83, of a stroke. Konigsburg holds the distinction of being the only author to win both the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year.

She was probably best-known for her classic children's novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (winner of the Newbery Medal in 1968). I was late to discover Konigsburg's delightful novels, though I had heard of her since I was a kid. Our family finally listened to From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler on audio just a few years ago, and we all loved the story of a brother and sister who run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

We also listened to another Konigsburg novel on audio, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World (the last book she published, in 2007), and enjoyed it as well.

Though my "kids" (now 15 and 18) don't enjoy listening to audio books anymore, I listened to another Konigsburg gem, The View from Saturday, just last year and reviewed it. Konigsburg won another well-deserved Newbery Medal in 1997 for this novel about unlikely friendship.

In all, Konigsburg wrote over 20 books for children, including both novels and picture books. Her talents will certainly be missed, but I am sure children will be enjoying her stories for many years to come.

If you are interested in more details of her life, check out this obituary from Publisher's Weekly.

What are your favorite Konigsburg books?

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday 4/22! What Are You Reading?

Happy Earth Day! We are finally getting some spring weather with lots of flowers and trees in bloom, though it still feels more like March than April here in the mid-Atlantic!

I had a very hectic week last week, with my husband out of town for eight days, and lots of things going on here. Some of it was fun - like my mom visiting and coming to one of my book groups with me - but all of it together was very tiring! I was glad to have my husband back home this weekend and am happy to be alone in a quiet house this morning.

It was a great reading week:
  • I finished The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom for one of my book groups. I loved this novel about family and race in the late 1700's, where a young orphaned Irish girl is brought up by a family of slaves. We had a lively and interesting discussion - lots to talk about!
  • I read Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix next, a teen/YA novel with a fascinating premise: a pair of scientists discover a way to reverse aging and give the drug to a group of elderly people in nursing homes. The catch? They don't know how to stop the "unaging" process. The narrative switches back and forth between the start of the project and 80 years later, when two of its participants are back to their teens and still getting younger. I enjoyed this so much that I lent it to my mom for her train ride home!
  • Now, I am - FINALLY - reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Am I the last person on earth to finally get to this wildly popular novel? It is excellent so far - gripping right from the first chapter and on my mind constantly!
  • My husband, Ken, read an e-book on his Kindle while he was traveling, a suspense novel by Robert Crais, one of his favorite authors. This was his first time borrowing an e-book from our local library.
  • Yesterday, Ken finished The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, as recommended by my son and I! He referred to it as Little House on the Prairie at Hogwarts, and he enjoyed it and liked the premise but said it didn't have quite enough action for his taste.
  • Ken just started A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, book 3 in his A Song of Ice and Fire series which our son loves, too.
  • Our sons were both busy with school work last week, with no extra time for reading.
With all the running around last week, I didn't have enough time to finish any reviews, but look for them this week! The only book blogging I managed after Monday was my Weekend Cooking post.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)   

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday 4/15! What Are You Reading?

Happy Tax Day to my U.S. readers! Yup, big excitement today.

We had another busy week here, and my streak of great books continues!
  • I finished The Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird for my neighborhood book group and absolutely loved it! It's a novel about a military family and the secret event that tore their family apart years earlier. The author has a great sense of humor - I was laughing out loud from the very first pages! - but the novel is also warm, heartfelt, and sad. All the 60's pop culture references added an extra layer of fun.
  • At the same time, I started listening to an audio of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, the selection for my other book group that meets this week (yes, I waited until the last minute again!). My library had a long wait list, so I started with the audio that was immediately available at the library and then switched to the paper book when a friend lent me her extra copy. It is excellent so far (both on audio and on paper), about a 6-year old Irish girl who is traveling to the US with her parents and brother in the 1700's. Her parents die during the voyage, so she is indentured to the man who had paid for their passage. She grows up among the slaves on his plantation.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, a new book in the Dark Tower series (Ken says it is like book 3 1/2) and enjoyed it.
  • Ken is now reading The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, based on recommendations from my son and I!
  • Jamie, 18, had a very busy week in college and no time for pleasure reading. I think he is ready for summer!
  • Craig, 15, finished reading When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka for his freshman lit class. It's about the Japanese internment, and he said it was very good (high praise from someone who doesn't like to read!). I'm next in line for this one!
 I wrote one review last week of:

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

I also wrote a Weekend Cooking post about a new slow cooker cookbook I recently bought - the recipes I have made so far have been great!

And a post about a great opportunity for teens who like to read and write.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Attention Teen Readers & Writers!

I just heard about a really fantastic opportunity for teens who are passionate about reading and like to write as well.

The website has announced that they are accepting applications from teens ages 13-18 to be on their Teen Board for 6 months (from July - December 2013). They are looking for teens who love to read and have the time and interest in contributing to their website. Teen Board members write book reviews, blog posts, and interact on the site. Read all the details here (the application is on this page, too, if you are interested).

Sounds like a great opportunity for a book-loving teen...and it will look great on a college application, too!

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's Monday 4/8! What Are You Reading?

Silence is golden!  Ahhh...the kids' two spring breaks are over, and I am once again alone in the quiet house. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed spending time with each of them (though greatly missed our usual spring break vacation when their breaks were the same week!), but it was tiring for me, and I am worn out. I am looking forward to focusing a bit on myself again and getting some work done, too. Of course, I just got a text from my son in college that he needs a hand-written note from me by 11 am today, so it looks like I am still on the clock! (and what kind of college professor requires a note from a parent when you miss class????)

Anyway, we all read plenty of books last week:
  • I worked on We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver for a few days and finally set it aside after about 100 pages or so. In part, this was because I have a book group this Wednesday and needed to start that book, but I will probably not go back to it. It is very rare for me to not finish a book. This one was depressing - which I expected since it is about a school shooting - but my big problem with it was that I didn't like the narrator and couldn't relate to her. The novel is written as a series of letters from the mom of the teen shooter to her ex-husband, looking back over their lives together and what went wrong with their son. But the mom came across as cold, selfish, and uncaring. I was just not enjoying it, and, as my husband reminded me, life is too short to read books you don't like!
  • The book I began for my neighborhood book group is much, much better: The Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird. I am loving this novel so far! It's about a military family with 6 kids assigned to Okinawa in the 1960's. It's funny and heartfelt, and I am loving all the pop culture references of the time period!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, which I gave him for Easter last week. I was wrong in describing it before as a prequel to the Dark Tower series. Ken says it is more of an in-between book, somewhere around book 3 1/2.
  • Jamie, 18, finished A Dance with Dragons, book 5 in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. He said it was excellent and ended with a big cliff-hanger, so he can't wait for book #6 now!
  • Craig, 15, was on spring break last week which for him means a break from reading for school!
I wrote two reviews last week:

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (fabulous novel!),
Ruins by Orson Scott Card, a teen/YA sci fi novel.

I also posted:
My March Reading Summary, and
Weekend Cooking 4/7.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.) 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Books Read in March

Spring has been slow to arrive here in Delaware this year, with our biggest (and only) snowfall of the year at the end of the month and a very cold Easter weekend. But no matter what the weather is outside, it's always a good time for reading! Here are the books I finished in March:
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a fabulous, magical novel (Alaska)
  • Crispin -The Cross of Lead by Avi, middle-grade novel set in the Middle Ages (England)
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher, teen/YA novel, about a kidnapped girl and her captive (Australia)

  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, another amazing novel (California)
  • Ruins by Orson Scott Card, a teen/YA sci fi novel (other worldly!)
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, an audio book novel (Tennessee)

 It was an all-fiction month! Of the 6 novels I read, two were for grown-ups, two for teens/YA, and one for middle-graders. I enjoyed all of them - it was an excellent reading month! - but I think my favorite was The Age of Miracles. Or The Snow Child. Do I have to choose? I loved both.

2013 Reading Challenges: I added only 3 new states (Alaska, California, and Tennessee) to my 2013 Where Are You Reading Challenge. It's always interesting when you read sci fi, and it is not located on this world, let alone in this country. I read mostly new books this month and just one from my TBR shelf for a total of 7 so far for the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, but I think I should get extra credit for Crispin because it was on my shelf for so many years! I finally finished my second audio book for the 2013 Audio Book Challenge - I doubt I will make it to my goal of 12; I just don't have enough alone time for listening to audios.

What were your favorite books read in March?

Teen/YA Review: Ruins

My husband, 18-year old son, and I are all big fans of Orson Scott Card. We all read his series that starts with Ender’s Game, a classic by now (my husband and I read it 25 years ago!). So, when we heard he had a new sci fi series out for teens and young adults, we were all excited. All three of us loved the first book, Pathfinder, and I was just the last one of us to read its sequel, Ruins, which was just as good. I’ll try not to include any spoilers for those who have not yet read Pathfinder and still want to start the series…so that means I can’t really say too much about the plot because both books have a lot of twists and turns and surprises.

Most of the main characters from the first book are back for Ruins, setting off on a journey with the goal of literally saving the world. Rigg, the main character from Pathfinder, is back and the de facto leader of the small group, though his best friend, Umbo, is a bit jealous and wonders why he’s not the leader. Both Rigg and Umbo have unusual skills. Rigg can see the paths of all living creatures, even those that passed by thousands of years ago. Umbo can travel back in time to the recent past, and when the two friends work together,  Rigg can travel far back into the past with great accuracy, with Umbo anchoring him to the present and able to bring him back.

These talents come in handy, but the problem is that none of their little group can travel into the future. All they know is that their world will be destroyed in a few years, but they don’t understand why or how to fix it. As they try to save their world’s future, they learn more and more about its unusual origins and past.

As in Pathfinder, much of Ruins deals with time travel and with the philosophical and ethical issues around trying to change the past. I love time travel plots for exactly this reason – the fascinating, often paradoxical, discussions that are integral to them. What happens to your own present when you change the past? Do alternate histories disappear or remain intact? Could you actually make changes in the past that would result in you no longer existing in the present?

Besides these existential issues, there is ample suspense in this story and plenty of action. The group doesn’t know whom they can trust, and it seems that everyone they meet turns out to be lying to them in one way or another. Everything they try seems to fail, as they struggle to figure out how to save the world from its pending destruction. This is a fast-paced and exciting adventure that is also thought-provoking. Card has done it again, and we can’t wait for book #3!

530 pages, Simon Pulse


Monday, April 1, 2013

It's Monday 4/1! What Are You Reading?

Happy April Fool's Day! When my kids were little, I cooked a whole April Fool's dinner one year, thanks to ideas from FamilyFun magazine. We had "donuts" that were actually shaped ground turkey with white cheese "glaze" on top, "mashed potatoes and gravy" that was actually vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, and "French fries" that were really baked apples cut in the shape of fries. It worked really well - maybe a little too well! Jamie, who was about 5, caught on and got a kick out of it, but Craig, 2, was convinced by the foolery. He actually thought the turkey was real donuts and asked for a second one! His eyes really fooled his taste buds. Family legend now, of course.

Hope you all had a nice Easter weekend. We went on a little mini vacation to Rehoboth Beach, but it didn't work out quite as planned. Craig got sick Friday night (not sure if it was a virus or the raw oysters he had for dinner) and spent most of the weekend sleeping in the hotel room. We did manage a trip to our favorite bookstore in town.

Busy week last week, with my son home from college and my husband out of town, but we all enjoyed our books:
  • I finished Ruins by Orson Scott Card, sequel to Pathfinder. It was just as good as my son and husband said it was, and I can't wait for book 3! It's a complex time travel/sci fi plot and very thought-provoking.
  • Now I am reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver for my library's book discussion next week. It's a very somber topic, about a mother's perspective after her son goes on a shooting spree at his school, but is well-written and engaging so far. The trouble is, my neighborhood book group also meets next Wednesday, and I haven't started that one yet. Ruins took a bit longer than I expected.
  • I finished listening to my audio book, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It took me a while to get into it, but I was disappointed when it ended! As is typical with Kingsolver novels, the characters felt like close friends by the end.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - this one is on my must-read list this year!
  • I gave Ken a gift from his Easter basket early since he finished his book on Saturday and had nothing to read! He started The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, a sort-of prequel to the Dark Tower series, which he loves.
  • Jamie, 18, was home on spring break last week and thoroughly enjoyed having some reading time for a change. He's reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin, Book 5 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and loving it! He said he wants to re-read the first 4 books again - only about 4000 pages or so!
  • Craig, 15, surprised us all and bought a book at the bookstore we visited this weekend! Usually, he only reads when required to for school, but his interest was piqued by a nonfiction book about a shipwreck (he loves the ocean and sailing): In the Heart of the Sea: Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathanial Philbrick.
So busy last week that I had no time at all for blog posts or reviews.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)