Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

For some reason I always seem to enjoy books that have a tie in with World War II - whether the story takes place before, during or after. And I was drawn to this story because one of the characters was named Beverly and another Evelyn (my grandmother's name.) This is a true coming of age story for a love struck teenage girl. I guess compared to things that happen today, her story is rather tame. Still, it's never easy to learn that your parents are not perfect, or that your hero has feet made of clay. The story has a distinct film noir feel to it. Perhaps because of the time period in which it was set, the movie playing in my mind while I was reading, was something like an old black and white Bogie and Bacall film. If you are looking for a little something different, give this one a try.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't You Hate It When . . . ?

Potential Spoilers for Bruce Coville's Unicorn Chronicles
Don’t you just hate it when you come to the end of a good book only to discover it’s not the end? It’s one thing if you know you are reading a book that is part of a series. It’s quite another thing if you didn’t know this or if you were under the impression the book you were reading was going to wrap everything up.

This happened to me recently with a Bruce Coville book. Let me say right now, I love Bruce Coville’s books. I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve read. And I love his Full Cast Audio productions. However, if he’d been within slapping distance last week, I probably would have slapped him. When I first started working on my MLS one of the first classes I took was a class in children’s literature. That year Bruce Coville was the keynote speaker at the USM Children’s Book Festival and we are all assigned several of his books to read. I started The Unicorn Chronicles and absolutely loved them. The Unicorn Chronicles is the story of Cara Dianna Hunter who is a human child descended from the queen of the unicorns, Amelia Flickerfoot, also known as the Wander or Ivy Morris when in human form. Cara and the unicorns, along with a host of other creatures are involved with a dispute with Beloved (from who Cara is also descended), a centuries old woman who hates unicorns. Beloved established The Hunters in order to hunt unicorns into oblivion. Cara’s adventures take her from earth to Luster, the land of the unicorns.

Of course, when I started the series there were only two books. And it’s been a long wait for book three, Dark Whispers. Somewhere along the way I got it in my head that this third book would wrap up the story all nice and neat. Can’t think why I had that impression. As I’ve looked back over the notices I had read about the release of this new book, nothing indicated that it was the end of the story. I guess it was just wishful thinking on my part – not because I am tired of the story line – far from it – but maybe because I wanted the characters to reach closure. I like the characters. I want them to have a happy ending. But, I guess that’s a story for another time. I wasn’t expecting a cliff hanger, hence why I would have slapped Bruce if he’d been close. (I exaggerate; I’m not really the violent type.) At least, since I was listening to the story on audio while driving, I wasn’t able to toss the book across the room in frustration and run the risk of hitting an innocent bystander. (I’ve been known to toss a book or two – if really moved one way or the other.) I do have to admit that Coville wrote a great cliff hanger.

The good thing is that my son, Ryan, who only heard bits and pieces of the story, asked me to get him a copy of the first book. Now he’s looking forward to reading the whole series.

So, what cliffhangers really drove you over the edge?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Based on the Book

Well, I did it again. I set myself up for disappointment. I went to a movie based on a book I really .loved. There’s a reason my husband is reluctant to see a movie with me if it’s based on a book I’ve read. He says it’s too difficult to hear the movie over the grinding of my teeth.

The movie was Twilight, based on the book and series of the same name by Stephenie Meyer. Meyer has created one of the most intense, yet rather chaste love stories for young adults that I have ever read. Her story reaches right out from the pages and grabs the reader forcefully and doesn’t let go – even once you’ve reached the end. You can’t wait for the next book. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a vampire love story? Ann Rice and Bram Stroker – move aside.

Meyer has created the ultimate vampire: brooding and sensitive and a vegetarian to boot (only drinks animal blood – not human blood.) Sounds like it would make an excellent movie doesn’t it? Well, in theory it should. There’s a lot of discussion about the movie. Some have loved it. Some were not moved by it at all. Some are devastated at the way it departs from the book. I don’t want to get intoa long discussion about whether or not it was a good movie – at least not yet. I can’t trust my own judgment. I don’t know if I would have liked it if I had not read the book. (Of course, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see the movie if I had not read the book.) Maybe I would have had a different reaction if I was 25 years younger. Whatever my true reaction, I have to agree with one of the posters on one of my library listservs who summed it up pretty well when she said they did the best they could with a small budget and only two hours. I guess if they had included everything in the book and gave it all the treatment it deserved, then we’d have had to have an intermission like in Gone With the Wind –but today’s society doesn’t have time or patience to sit through a movie that long.

What I want to discuss today is whether or not bookworms should even bother watching a movie based on a book. Are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment? And why do we keep doing it? I know the movie is not likely to live up to the book, yet I find myself compelled to see the movie anyway.
I think I might have a handle on the problem. Teachers often tell their students to make mind movies when they are reading or listening to a book. One person’s mind movie is not the same as another’s. The relationship between an author, the book and the reader is an intimate one. On that is not always easy to share with others. Each reader has a different relationship with the book. When that relationship has been a satisfying one, we want it to continue. A movie is just another way for that to happen.

Sometimes, I think Hollywood should just leave books alone. They should just suck it up and come up with their own ideas. However, if they followed that rule, there are some great movies we would have missed. Sometimes the differences between the movie and the book are not bothersome (i.e. the Harry Potter Movies, Gone With The Wind, and Because of Winn Dixie to name a few). At other times, the movie is better than the book. (i.e. The Wizard of Oz and The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.)

Here are few book based movies that I really enjoyed:
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Wizard of Oz
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animated version)
Because of Winn Dixie
The Notebook
Gone With The Wind
The Fellowship of the Ring series
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Ten Little Indians (based on a book by Agatha Christie)
The DaVinci Code
The Polar Express

And here are few book based movies that made me want to throw my popcorn at the screen:

A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Bridge to Terabithia
The Other Boleyn Girl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Johnny Depp version)
Freaky Friday
Primary Colors
A Time To Kill
The Chamber
Interview with a Vampire

As much as I would like to spare myself the disappointment, I know that if I enjoy the book, I’m going to go see the movie. I guess I’m willing to take the chance that it will be one of those that either lives up to the book or is good in its own right.

Now, should you go see Twilight? Sure --- but only if you do not plan on reading any of the books. Otherwise, go get the book and create a mind movie.

So what are you reading or watching these days? Let me know.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

America's White Table

America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven and Mike Benny

The White Table is set in many mess halls as a symbol for and remembrance to service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty. It is also seen at many military banquets and balls. Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit.
As a military wife of almost seventeen years, I have seen many White Tables at many functions. They always give me a moment of pause, but their symbolism really hit home when I read Raven’s and Benny’s America’s White Table. We were all planning for our Veteran’s Day lessons. Our school district is not closed on Veteran’s Day (which took some getting used to after having worked in a Department of Defense school for many years), but each school is required to do lessons centered around Veteran’s Day.

One of the teachers mentioned she was looking for a copy of this book. She wanted to share it with her students. I had never read the book, but I am grateful she brought it to my attention. Even though the classrooms were all doing various activities for Veterans Day, I decided the library could help with those plans by setting up a White Table in the library. Raven and Benny paint a wonderful story with their words and the illustrations, but sometimes, adults and children alike, need to be able to see and touch something to get its full meaning.

America’s White Table is a beautifully written and illustrated book that explains this touching memorial to our military in words that children can understand. Adults will also be moved by this book. I, myself, can’t read it without crying. (So much for being the tough Army wife.)
This is an excellent book to use for Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It is also a great gift for military families. I’m not only adding it to my school’s collection, but my personal collection as well.

If you would like to set up your own white table here are directions that I found at

Materials Needed: Small Table with an Empty Chair
White Table Cloth, Black Napkin
Glass (turned over), White Candle
Lemon Slice and Grains of Salt on a Plate
One Place Setting: fork, spoon, and knife
A Red Rose in a vase tied with a Red Ribbon

The table honors the men and women who served in America’s Armed Forces

“We cover a small table with a white cloth to honor a soldier’s pure heart when he answers his country’s call to duty.”

“We place a lemon slice and grains of salt on a plate to show a captive soldier’s bitter fate and tears of families waiting for loved ones to return.”

“We push an empty chair to the table for the missing soldiers who are not here.”

“We lay a black napkin for the sorrow of captivity, and turn over a glass for the meal that won’t be eaten.”

“We place a white candle for peace and finally, a red rose in a vase tied with a red ribbon for the hope that all our missing will return someday.”

"You are not forgotten so long as there is one left in whom your memory remains"

So, what book or books have really moved you?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veteran's Day

If you can read, you should thank a teacher. If you enjoy the freedom to learn and develop your own ideas, not just those approved by the government - if you enjoy the freedom of going to any library (for free) and checking out a book on any topic you choose - if you are an author/journalist/news anchor/columnist/TV talk show host who enjoys the freedom of stating your own beliefs and ideas (ask Salman Rushdie what it is like to not have that freedom) - then you should thank a Veteran.

Have a great day and we'll talk later about some good Veteran's Day books.

What are you free to read?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Have you ever run across a character that just seemed to be too good to be true? In the cynical world we live it is sometimes hard to suspend disbelief when we encounter a character as good as Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. What keeps us from being total cynics is that there is a part of us that wishes there were people (especially teens) as good as Spinelli’s character.
One reviewer described Stargirl as a supernatural teen. That seems about right. She is certainly not what most of us would consider to be a typical teen. Having been home schooled most of her life, Stargirl appears one day out of the blue at Mica High School. She is so far from the norm as to seem to have come from another planet. She doesn’t care about fashion or other types of conformity. But, she does care about people. She serenades students with her ukulele on their birthday. She sends cards, places flowers on their desks, celebrates their successes and mourns their losses. She cheers for everyone.

At first her fellow students react to her with awe. They are eager to see what she will do next and some of her even begins to rub off on them. However, teens are not made to be able to accept things that are too different. They may talk about wanting to have their own identity and wanting to not be part of the crowd, but deep down they really do not want to stand out – to draw attention to themselves. This is the downfall of Stargirl’s boyfriend, Leo. Stargirl’s uniqueness goes beyond what the other students can accept when she begins to cheer for the opposing basketball teams. She doesn’t understand why everyone is upset. She’s everyone’s cheerleader. But when the school’s undefeated season comes to an end in the playoffs everyone blames Stargirl. This is when you begin to see true teenage behavior. The other student’s treatment of Stargirl is quite brutal. Leo loves Stargirl, but he wants her to be “normal.” Stargirl is being shunned by the school and as her boyfriend, so is Leo. Leo just can’t cope.
Stargirl loves Leo, so she tries to be what he wants. This attempt is doomed from the beginning. It does not matter if she follows the “norms” if the other kids won’t accept her. The reader can almost physically feel the sadness and disappointment Stargirl feels when her attempts to be normal do not change the way the others feel. She’s convinced the other kids will come around. It’s almost a physical relief when she decides to be true to herself and go back to being Stargirl.
Spinelli ends the story with what could be seen as a triumph for Stargirl and a great regret for Leo. No, I’m not going to tell you – you’ve got to read it for yourself. Those who have enjoyed Spinelli’s other works, particularly, Maniac Magee, will enjoy this book as well. He’s a master storyteller.

I listened to this book on audio (get used to it – I listen to a lot on audio). The reader was John Ritter, one of my favorite actors. In the beginning I found his voice distracting because I was getting sentimental about the loss of his great talent a few years ago. But somewhere along the way, Ritter’s ability to become the character of Leo and Spinelli’s wonderful story took over and I was able to finish the book easily.

What are you reading?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Was A Rat!

No, I wasn’t really a rat, though I’m sure there are some misguided people out there who would disagree. I Was A Rat is a quick fun read by Philip Pullman, author of The Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass, etc.) It answers the question, “What happened to Cinderella’s coachmen and pages after the clock struck midnight?” Told with tongue in cheek humor the story takes us through the adventures of Roger who was a rat and now finds himself a boy. It is suggested that he missed being turned back into a boy at midnight because he was not where he was supposed to be (just like a typical kid) – he was off playing soccer with the palace page boys. At one point, he admits that being a rat was easier, (there are so many things to know about being a good boy), but despite all the misadventures he has before the resolution of the story, he knows that if he’d gone back to being a rat, he would have missed being a boy. Roger’s lack of knowledge about what it means to be a boy gets him into some serious trouble and he finds that the townspeople are only too eager to turn him into a monster. Things get pretty scary there for a while, but in the end the fairy princess saves the day. If you like altered (some might say fractured) fairy tales, give this one a try.

I picked this book up because I’m on a committee to pick two new titles for our Battle of the Books list. This is one of the recommended titles. I told someone it had been on my list to read anyway, but like so many other titles; I had just not made it to it before now. The truth is that it was not really on my official to read list – not the one where I write it down and then mark it off when I’ve read it. It was on my peripheral to read list. That’s the one where the titles sort of float around in my head. I keep seeing them on the shelves either at the library or the book store or they are mentioned in articles or what not. I don’t consciously plan to read them. Then one day all of a sudden it’s as though they stop floating around in my head and drop down on to the top of my list. That’s one reason I am now listening to Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl and have put myself on the holds list for Love, Stargirl. (And one more argument for listening to books on audio – my sons will often request that I get them a print copy of whatever I’m listening to – because they have heard just enough of the story to want to read the whole thing. Chances are if I recommend a book, they are hesitant to read it. Who wants Mom’s recommendation? However if they just happened to hear snippets of a good book on audio, they don’t see it as reading a book Mom recommended and so are more willing to read it. Who knew audio books could serve as a reader’s advisory tool?)
So, do you have a peripheral reading list? And if you do – what’s on it. Let me know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

To Read or To Listen - That's the Question

Over the weekend I posted a blog about Tony Abbott’s The Postcard. I was surprised to receive a response. I think an author that takes the time communicate with his readers is a true treasure. Most of the time we can only guess about the person who created the stories we read. I find my students sometimes have trouble making the connection that authors are real people, because they never see or hear for them. (That’s an argument for setting up author visits at your school.)

Back on topic. Mr. Abbott made some very valid points in support of his book. After some time has passed I will try the book again – this time reading it. I often recommend Abbott’s The Secrets of Droon series to my younger readers and I really enjoyed Firegirl (look for a future blog on that book). For now I want to address a point he made. Abbott says “Listening to the book is absolutely not the same as reading it on the page, especially in the case of The Postcard.” He is absolutely right and it brings up an argument I hear from time to time. Listening to a book on audio does not count as reading a book. My dear sweet husband has actually made that statement to me. Mr. Abbott is right, my husband - not so much.
As far as I’m concerned and I know many educators who will agree, listening to a book on audio does count. Try telling a seeing impaired reader that their listening to the book does not count as reading it. What about children who struggle so much with reading comprehension because for whatever reason, reading is so difficult, but totally get it when they listen to the book? Audio books are a great way to keep them to keep them “reading.” What about the book nut who has way too many books to read and not enough time to read them? Or what about the person who considers much of what you hear on the radio these days to be drivel and would rather listen to a book on CD on long trips?

It’s important to keep in mind one thing when deciding between reading a book and listening to it on audio. Mr. Abbott is right. Listening is not the same as reading. If you miss something important while listening to a book, it is not that easy to go back and find it. With a book in hand you can simply turn back the pages. With a book on audio, you have to search back through tracks – not always easy while driving down a busy highway.
I’ve always felt two readers can read the same book and come away with something different. When you read you create a mind movie and you are in charge of casting and set design. Reading a book is an intimate experience between the writer and the reader. Each brings something to the experience. When you listen to a book on audio, you add another person to the mix and they bring something to the experience as well.

Sometimes, listening to a book on audio may be the only way to “read” a book. I’ve talked before about how sometimes when a book is moving too slowly, listening to it can help you make it to the end. But, sometimes, listening to a book on audio can ruin the experience. The reader’s voice or choices of tone and inflection can turn off a listener. For example: I love the Murder She Wrote books by Donald Bain. A few months ago, none of the local libraries had a print version of the latest book. They only had audio. I could not get past the first few tracks, because the reader’s voice grated on my nerves so much. Of course there are times when the opposite is true. The reader’s voice, tone and inflection can bring something valuable to the experience. I have yet to find an audio book done by Bruce Coville’s Full Cast Audio that I haven’t fully enjoyed. However, even a great voice can be distracting. I’m currently listening to Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. It is one of the books that have been on my list for a long time and I just hadn’t been able to sit down with it. I’m enjoying it, but I have to admit that I am sometimes distracted by the reader – John Ritter. It’s a fine job, but if I’m not careful, I drift off into nostalgia - thinking of how sad it is that he is no longer around.
As usual, I’ve run on and on. What can I say? Most of the time, I’m too hesitant to say anything, but get me started talking about books and I just can’t seem to shut up.

Here are few audio books that I found to be a good experience – that is if you can’t find the time to sit down with the actual book.

Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials Series (The Golden Compass, The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife)
Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Series (I actually read Eragon and listened to Eldest)
Philipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl
Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember series (The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood and The Diamond of Darkhold).
Tony Abbott’s Firegirl

So if you have a book you’re struggling with give the audio version a try. And vice versa – if a book just doesn’t seem right on audio – add it to your to READ list. Or . . . since life is too short, find another book.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Postcard by Tony Abbott

Have you ever read a book that you thought was a good story, but you felt the author just didn’t do his best writing? That’s how I felt about The Postcard by Tony Abbott. It was a mystery. I absolutely love mysteries and it was a young adult novel – two of my favorite genres rolled into one. It should have been a great read (or listen) for me. My dilemma is that I’m not sure how much of how I feel about the writing is due to my own thoughts on the writing or due to my having briefly scanned a review on Amazon. Here’s a portion of the review on Amazon (which originally appeared in Kirkus) “Author of the endless Secrets of Droon series, Abbott has created a silly, overlong mystery full of conclusion-jumping and nonsensical clues. The characters are annoying (even to each other) and the supposedly compelling mystery Jason finds is a florid, turgid mess. (Fiction. 11-13) (Kirkus Reviews).”

I would not have even read this review if I had not been checking Amazon for a recommended grade level for the book. (Ages 9 -12) The Postcard was an impulse buy from our recent Book Fair. Based on the brief summary on the dust jacket it seemed like a good match for our collection. I managed to get an audio copy from the public library so I could preview before putting it out on the shelves. I like to know as much as possible out the books so I don’t look totally lame to the students. What sent me to searching for the age level was the fact that we learn early on that Jason’s grandmother was never married and had a child out of wedlock. Jason’s dad does not even know who is father was/is. Pretty tame stuff compared to what appears in many books today, but keep in mind, I work in an elementary school. It’s important to not only be aware of what my students enjoy reading, but how their parents may feel about what they read.

There are no hot, torrid love scenes. Chances are the young people who do read it won’t even blink an eye at the thought of an unwed mother. The focus of the mystery centers around on just who was Jason’s grandfather and why was his great-grandfather so set against his daughter being with him. There’s a lot in this story to grab a reader’s attention: mobsters, mystery, and kids searching for clues and hunting down the real story, circus characters and war heroes. Though I did not find the characters annoying, I do have to admit the story was somewhat of a mess. I kept finding myself distracted. There is a story inside the story, which did make things confusing. Time did not seem to flow in a sensible manner. It was sometimes hard to keep track of all the characters. Not exactly the best writing. But . . . it passed the page test (or audio track test). I kept going. Maybe Abbott could have done a better job on the writing, but he did do at least succeed in one area: he created a mystery that I as the reader (listener), wanted to solve. So I finished the book. I just wish I could make up my mind if my thoughts on the writing were truly my own and not influenced by the review. Will I book talk it to my students? Probably not. Oh, I’ll put it out on the shelf, but I think it’s one better left for them to find on their own.

So what are you reading or listening to?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Life's Too Short to Read Something You Don't Have to Read

Things have been a little crazy this week, so I've not finished any of the three books I'm currently reading. And I may have talked about this topic before, but one of my students reminded me of it, when he told me he just had turn in the book he had just checked out because he just didn't like it and couldn't get past the first page.

One of my favorite laments is "So Many Books, So Little Time." With than in mind, as an adult, I now subscribe to the philosophy that there is no reason to keep reading a book that you don't have to read. Sure, sometimes you have to read a book for school or work. You are forced to slug your way through something you really don't like, but we often have to do things we'd rather not. However, when it comes to pleasure reading there is no need to torture yourself. I used to think I had to finish every book I started. Not any more. A friend and former employer of mine always gave a book the 100 page test. If he just couldn't get past the first 100 pages, then he didn't bother to finish it. I don't even give it 100 pages. Sometimes you just know that it's not a good read for you by reading the first few pages.

Here are some recent reads that I just could not finish:

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - It's as dry as the dustbowl he was writing about.
2. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter. This was an audio book. I loved the first one, but just couldn't get past the first few minutes of the second one.
3. 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School) by Larry Schwiekert (It's not that I agree or disagree that the 48 things he talks about are lies. It's just that his defense of his position is so dry and comes across as a convulted history text. I read one page 3 times, and I still can't tell you what he was talking about.)
4. Death of a Rug Lord by Tamar Myers. I've enjoyed all the funny books in this series, but this time, it just wasn't funny anymore. It was annoying.

Sometimes, you can't get into a book the first go around, but something compels you to keep trying. When this happens to me I usually try two options. First, if I can't read it, I try listening to it. This worked for a book called The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. On the written page this story about "changlings" was so tedious I could hardly stand to pick up the book. However, I had just joined an online book club that was reading it and I felt I had to read it. So I gave the audio version a try. Somehow the reader managed to breathe some life into the story and I was able to get through it.

Other times, you just have to give reading it another try. This was the case with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. There was a great deal of hype about this young adult novel. I was a teen librarian and felt I needed to read it. The first time I picked it up, I just couldn't get in to it. I guess it just wasn't the right time for me to read it. I had borrowed it from the library and couldn't renew it. The holds list was rather long for it. I figured I'd lucked out. Not being able to renew it gave me permission to not finish it. A few months later, I was out of work and I was also participating on a Mock Printz discussion group. You got it. The Book Thief was on the list. So I gave it another try. It turned out to be one of my all time favorites. (After all, it's the character's love of books that saves her life and you got to love a story narrated by death.)

So. . . while my friend Betty Bookworm says "Read Lots of Books" - I say "Read Lots of Books You Enjoy."

What are you reading?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kenny and The Dragon

Kenny and the Dragon is an all animal version of the famous battle between St. George and the dragon. Written by one of the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles, the tale tells the story of Kenny, a young bookworm rabbit who finds a new best friend in Grahame (like the cracker, except with an E) who is anything but your typical bloodthirsty dragon. Things are going great until one of the villagers sees Grahame and panics. The next thing you know Kenny's other good friend, George is tasked by the king to eleminate the dragon problem. Using his wits Kenny finds a way to give the villagers the show they are looking for, while not losing either friend.

This was a quick read, but if you are looking for something like the Spiderwick Chronicles, you should look elsewhere. This feels more like a lighter version of a Brian Jacques Redwall novel, rather than a field guide about fantastical creatures. (Grahame is the only fantasy type creature.) If you like dragons and would like a less violent ending to the story of St. George and the Dragon, give this book a try.

I'm listening to Tony Abbot's "The Postcard" and reading John Kellerman's "Bones. One is a young adult version of mystery noire and the other your typcial serial psycho killer. Might make for strange dreams if I actually slept.

What are your reading?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let's Give This One More Try

If I had a personal secretary, a chef, a housekeeper, a nanny and a driver, I might be able to read everything I want to read, blog about it and get everything else done as well.

Enough whining! We recently completed a book fair at my school. Always a hard time for me, because I can't help buying new books. And I always spend more than I should. It's a good thing for the school though, as the proceeds go to the library.

So now, of course, my to read list is even longer than before.

Here are just a few titles I've added:

The Postcard by Tony Abbott
The Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse
Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Kenny & the Dragon by Tony Diterlizzi

And I'm currently reading Alfred Krop and the Seal of Soloman, 48 Liberal Lies About America (That You Probably Learned in School) and Bones: An Alex Deleware Novel.

I'll let you know how they turn out.

What are you reading? Please post and let me know.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Is it possible to read too much?

I recently signed up for a website called A friend sent it to me. It's a way to keep track of books you have read or intend to read, see what your friends are reading and get reviews on books. There is also lots of book related trivia - for those of you who like that sort of thing.

I sent the site out to some friends and they signed up. One thing they did not realize is that everytime one of your friends posts on the site, you get an email. For someone who reads a lot, that means I post a lot and then of course there's the catching up. I'm sure there's a way to turn off the emails. I don't mind getting the emails, but apparently, my reading buddies do.

In fact, I've come to the conclusion that I must talk too much, about everythign, especially books. And I'm thinking of crawling inside my world of books and staying there. It's not like I've been very good about keeping this blog up to date anyway. And recently, when something really bad happened to me, I realized I had no one to turn to - no one that is that wouldn't find me annoying. I guess that's because my friends are the book characters who accept me for who I am and even though they never call and ask me if I want to have coffee or see or movie - at least I know that don't just like me for when I agree with them or can perform a service for them. OoooooHHHHH - someone's having a lonely pity party. Guess I'd better go check out the self esteem/self help section of the library.

TTFN - at least until I decide whether or not my book opinions or worth sharing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunrise Over Fallujah

I just finished this book. The writing is typical Myers - wonderfully well written. The man tells a compelling story. However, I was disappointed. While working on my MLS I had read Myers' Fallen Angels. Having liked that book I was looking forward to this one. Maybe it's because I'm a military spouse. Maybe it's because Fallen Angels was historical fiction for me and Sunrise Over Fallujah is current fiction. I just feel that on this one, Myers did not quite get the whole story. I do not believe war is glamorous. I was not looking for a hooah war story, but I do know that our soldiers have had positive interactions with the Iraqi people. It would have been a more balanced story if Myers had included that. When I started reading the book, I did not think that Myers was trying to make a political statement about the war, but maybe I was wrong. And, I sure wish the members outside the military community would get the terminology for Non-Commission Officers right. They are not noncoms. They are NCOs and anyone who has bothered to do a little research would know that. Ok - sorry. That's a personal pet peeve. If you can put aside your own thoughts about the war, this is a good book to read. As I said the writing is excellent. Maybe for my children, reading Sunrise Over Fallujah will be like my reading Fallen Angels

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Getting Away is Deadly

I just finished Sara Rosett's latest Mom Zone Mystery - "Getting Away Is Deadly." Though Sara's character, Ellie, is an Air Force wife, I find that she experiences many of the same military spouse challenges as me and my fellow Army wives. While in the military, you have housing rather than a home. You frequently say goodbye to good friends. The military may ask you where you want to be stationed, but it really doesn't matter what you want. And FRGs, no matter the duty station or the branch of service, can be a challenge. However, murder is not a common occurrence in my routine. But, I do love mysteries. The aforementioned similarities make it easy to connect with Rosett's books. She's an excellent story teller. I enjoy seeing if I can beat Ellie to the solution. So far, it's about even. And the organizational tips are a plus. Maybe someday I will get around to using them.

Other titles in the series: "Moving Is Murder" and "Staying Home Is Killer."

What's on your summer reading list?

Monday, June 23, 2008

100 Days and 99 Nights

The second season of Army Wives (cable network’s highest rated show – so they say) has started and I find myself reading more military related books. My husband is big into military history, but I’m ore into military fiction, especially military family fiction.

I recently read “100 Days and 99 Nights” by Alan Madison. It is about a second grade girl who has to survive 100 days and 99 nights of her father’s deployment. It was a good read and I will recommend it to my students who have military parents. However, I was surprised to learn that the author was inspired to write the book after talking with children whose parents have been deployed. As a military spouse with children, I didn’t find the story to be typical of military kids. In the book, Esme’s father is an Army Sergeant. My experience has been that most real world Army deployments last much longer than 100 days and 99 nights. My husband assures me that it is possible for an army deployment to be a short one. I was also confused by the difficulty the children had in finding ways to help the war effort. Their teacher tells them about how children during WWII helped support the war effort. For some reason the children seem bent on finding the exact same ways to show their support, even though there are more modern ways of supporting the war effort than trying to buy bonds or gather scrap metal. Over the years since the Iraqi war started, there have been so many news stories of children and young adults finding wonderful ways to support the soldiers (greeting card drives, care package drives, sock and book drives, etc). I was surprised that these were not included in the book.

However the book does hit one issue right on target: the difficulty that children go through when a parent is deployed. Even for a young girl with a “can do attitude”, deployment is rough. Madison’s story shows these challenges and how children can work through them. He doesn’t try to make out like it’s easy, nor does he try to make out like it’s impossible.

While on the military book kick, I just started Sara Rosett’s latest Air Force wife mystery – “Getting Away is Deadly”. If you like mysteries and want some insight in to the life of a military spouse, her books are good, fun read.

And, even though I prefer fiction to non-fiction – I’ve also started “Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq” by Kirsten Holmstedt. I’ve just started it, but I suspect it will put my small every day challenges into perspective.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

National Teacher Day

Today is National Teacher Day, part of Teacher Appreciation Week. If you can read, thank a teacher.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just Checking In

Ok, so I don’t exactly have the blogging thing down pat yet. It’s not that I want to go weeks without posting. It’s a matter of time. Or rather it’s lack of time. As an elementary school librarian, mother of two, and a military spouse who is active in the FRG, I feel I barely have enough time to read, much less blog about it. But, I promise to try to do better.

I’ve been listening to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I have a copy of the book, which I read about 16 years ago. However, I thought this time around I would try the audio version. Rand’s writing is superb, but this story line is driving me nuts. It’s hard to find truly likeable characters. It’s full of what some characters in the story refer to as looters. Those who feel they deserve the benefit of someone else’s work without doing any work themselves. That’s a rather simplistic description, I know. Maybe "looters" is not the proper term. I guess these characters are more like parasites, living off a host they despise and hope to ultimately destroy. The book is a much darker read than I remember.

Thank goodness I’m reading several other more enjoyable books as well. Mo Willem’s latest pigeon book is finally out: The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. This is a great book to use with children who think they are ready for the responsibility of a pet, but really have no clue what is involved.

Tomorrow (May 6th) is the release of the latest installment in the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan. If you have 3rd, 4th, 5th grade and up students in your home, I’m sure you already had this date marked on your calendar. I promise to talk more about Percy later. If you like fantasy, Olympic gods and good verses bad, then you really should check out this series.

Please post and let me know what you are currently reading.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Change of Heart

Do you ever run across a book that is so engrossing you almost want to stay home “sick” and finish the book? That’s the way I felt while reading Jodi Piccoult’s latest book Change of Heart. I’ve only read three of Piccoult’s book so far and I have yet to be disappointed. Her books are thrillers, but not in the sense of guns, car chases, and things of that nation. The stories are intense and move at an incredible pace. Your heart races right along with the characters as you find yourself pulled into their stories.

Change of Heart is about a young man, Shay Bourne, who is on death row, having been convicted of killing a six year old girl and her step father who was a policeman. The policeman’s wife was pregnant at the time of the killing. That daughter is now in need of a heart and Shay wants to be executed in such a way that will allow him to donate his heart transplant. To add to the mix: once Shay moves on to I-tier at the prison, events reminiscent of Stephen King’s Green Mile begin to happen.

It is told in first person from the points of view of all the key characters, the policeman’s widow, the inmate in the cell next to Shay, the ALCU lawyer who wants to use Shay’s case to strike a blow against the death penalty and Shay’s spiritual advisor (who just happened to have served on the jury that convicted him and gave him the death penalty.)

I always tell friends who catch me reading a Piccoult book that I enjoy her books because there’s always a twist you were not quite expecting. That is true with this book. I had a worked out a few things before the end of the book, but Piccoult still had a surprise or two in store.

If you can get a copy from your local library this is an excellent book to read. It won’t take you long because you won’t be able to put it down.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Where Does The Time Go?

Who said so many books, so little time? Whoever they were, they were right. Time is a precious commodity and not just time for reading. (I must admit, I do have that part of multi-tasking down. I always manage to find time to read.) What I can't find time for is all the other book related things. I have all these things I want to post on the blog, but the next thing I know days have passed and I haven't posted anything. I really do mean to catalog/organize my personal book collection, but the next thing I know weeks have passed and I've not even collected the boxes to start the organizing process. (And no, I'm not necessarily going to arrange my books according to Dewey. I just need to be able to find books when I want to look up something or loan one to a friend. However, I can easily locate my Caldecott and Newbery books - so maybe I'm not totally disorganized.)

I recently listened to The New Policeman by Kate Thompson on audio. (Listening to audio books while driving is a great way to work through your reading list.) J.J.'s mom just wants more time for her birthday. Time is leaking out of their world and into another. Sometimes, I think that's my life. All my time is leaking somewhere. I couldn't even finish this post in one sitting.

The New Policeman is a young adult book, but I believe adults will enjoy it, too. I did find the reader's voice rather irritating, but the snippets of Irish music made it worth while to listen to the audio version rather than reading it for myself. And it bought me a little extra time. :)

I'm currently reading Accessory to Murder by Elaine Viets (mysteries are my indulgence), A White Hourse Diary by Lady Bird Johnson and listening to Leven Thumps and The Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye. I'm rather disappointed in Leven Thumps and ordinarily, I wouldn't bother finishing it. I often say that life is too short to spend it reading a book you don't enjoy and don't have to read. However, my students are all reading this book, and even though I've not yet figured out its appeal, I feel I should finish it so that I can actually talk to them about it.

As my friend Betty Bookworm always says - "Read More Books!"

What are you reading?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Currently Reading

I just finished Deborah Wiles' Aurora County All Stars. Perhaps it is because I've met Miss Wiles a couple of times and have heard her speak, but when I read her books, I always hear a lovely southern accent in my head.

Aurora County All Stars is a wonderful book. It's about baseball, it's about finding yourself, it's about finding friends you didn't know you had, and it's about including everyone. It's a book with a message, but it doesn't hit the reader over the head with it. I believe children will enjoy it, but I'm not sure they will appreciate the Walt Whitman references. The true baseball fans will love the quotes from famous players. Another reason I enjoyed this book, is one of my favorite characters from a previous Wiles book (Ruby Lavendar) plays an important role in the story.

I am now reading Elven by Patricia Giff and 7th Heaven by James Patterson. And I'm listening to The New Policeman by Kate Thompson. I love the snippets of Irish music.

What are you reading?

What Comes After Harry?

Beverly’s Book Notes
July 2007
What Comes After Harry

As I write this, it is only about 32 hours until Harry Potter fans will finally know his fate. But then what? What do you read when there’s no more Harry Potter?

While there is truly only one Harry, fans of the young wizard need not despair. There are a number of magical fantasy books to keep you reading after all is known about Harry. This month, we discuss just a few.

The Charlie Bone Series by Jenny Nimmo

Parents who are disturbed by the dark nature and sorcery found in the Potter books may be more comfortable with this series. I fondly refer to the Charlie Bone series as Harry Potter Lite. Charlie is one of the endowed children, descendents of the Red King. Each of these children has a magical gift. Charlie can hear the people in photographs and paintings speak. Sometimes, he is even able to travel into the pictures. Some of his friends can control the weather or speak to animals. The first four books also include a mystery about Charlie’s father. Just like Harry Potter, these books have a good verses evil theme. However, thus far in the books there has been no sorcery or spell casting. This series is suitable for juvenile as well as teens and adults who enjoy lite fantasy.

Current titles in storyline order:
Midnight for Charlie Bone
Charlie Bone and the Time Twister
Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy
Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors
Charlie Bone and the Hidden King
Charlie Bone and the Beast

The Septimus Heap Series by Angie Sage

Readers looking for a darker story with more wizard lore will enjoy Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series. Septimus is the seventh son of a seventh son. Much like Harry, Septimus finds himself at odds with a dark sorcerer who has returned. And like Harry, Septimus is frequently surrounded by ghosts. In addition to Septimus’ story, the books also include his foster sister, Jenna, a young princess orphaned years ago when the dark sorcerer had her mother assassinated. Set in a different age and world than the Potter books, the Septimus Heap serious has a medieval feel. The magical characters do not try to hide their abilities from the non-magical. Magical abilities are nothing new in this land. It is easy to physically identify the wizards, as the eyes of those who practice magic turn a brilliant green. This series is suitable for teens and adults.

Current titles in storyline order:
The Enchanted Inc series by Hannah Swendson

Chick lit fans who also enjoy a little magic will be delighted by this series by Hannah Swendson. Someone said Enchanted, Inc. is Harry Potter meets Sex in the City. Not having watched Sex in the City, I can’t be certain, but I think Enchanted Inc. is somewhat more innocent. At first Katie Chandler thinks all the weird things she notices as she makes her way around the big city, it just typical New Yorker behavior. She soon discovers that what she is really witnessing is magic at work. Unlike the muggles found in Harry Potter, Katie’s inability to do magic or be influenced by it makes her invaluable to Magic, Spells, and Illusion, Inc., for whom she goes to work after quitting her thankless job as the assistant to “Evil Mimi.” Soon after joining MSI, Katie meets “the” Merlin, becomes involved in good magic vs. evil magic conflict, and develops a huge crush on her boss, a talented young wizard. Swendsons’ light and airy writing style make this series a quick read with just enough magic and romance to make things interesting. Readers will want to keep reading, if only to find out if Katie finally gets her hunky young wizard. This series is suitable for teens and adults.

Current titles in storyline order:
Enchanted Inc.
Once Upon Stilettos
Damsel Under Stress

July’s Audio Recommendations:

His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman and recorded by Full Cast Audio

This is a very dark series about a parallel world in which a person’s soul lives outside his/her body in the form of a dæmon. The story centers around Lyra and her dæmon, Pantolimon, who are swept up in a dangerous plot involving disappearing children and the controversy over a mysterious entity known as “dust.” The story is full of wonderful creatures like armor clad polar bears, witches, and “gyptians.” It is sometimes hard to tell the good guys from the bad in this struggle to control the universe. Some readers may find the religious views expressed in the later books disturbing. However, it is a beautifully written fantasy that has appeal for both juveniles and adults. Bruce Coville’s Full Cast Audio, brings Pullman’s words to life with an astounding intensity. Be careful if you listen to this book while driving. It is too easy to get caught up in Lyra’s world.
Titles in storyline order:
The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass

That’s all for this month. Be sure to visit your local library. It’s your gateway to many different worlds. Whatever you do, be sure to make time for a good book.

PS. Editor’s Note:

Even though I knew there were 3 copies of the latest Harry Potter book waiting for me in my mailbox, I could not help taking out some of our vacation time to attend Border’s Midnight Release party and pick up another copy for the long drive home. Not having attended one before, it was worth it just to experience all the hoopla. And, yes, I finished the last book way before we reached home. I won’t give anything away. I will just say J. K. Rowling is a master story teller.