Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A ~ Z Challenge 2009

I've decided to go with Option A--reading one book for each letter using the author's last name. I tried to do author and titles for 2008 and fell short. I also felt restricted with fitting books into the appropriate letters. Only doing authors will give me more freedom. I'll probably just join more challenges though!

A ~ Z Challenge List from 2008

A~Z Reading Challenge

45 / 52
Ended up a few short but that is OK! I got into a reading funk in September or I definitely would have made it.


A--The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)5.12.08
B--The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne) 3.20.08
C--The Silver Rose (Susan Carroll) 3.5.08
D--The Theives of Heaven (Richard Doetsch)7.15.08

E--Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel) 8.28.08
F--When We Were Gods (Colin Falconer) 5.28.08
G--American Gods (Neil Gaiman) 9.5.08

H--Pig Island (Mo Hayder) 7.15.08
I--A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
J--The Phantom Tollboth (Norton Juster)

K--Lost Names (Richard Kim) 2.16.08

L--The Giver (Lois Lowry) 1.27.08

M--The Reckoning (Thomas Monteleone) 2.2.08
N--The Ottoman Cage (Barbara Nadel)

O--The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien) 6.6.08
P--Bel Canto (Anne Patchett) 4.30.08

R--The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy) 4.2.08
S--Magic Study (Maria Snyder) 5.18.08
T--Sushi For One (Cami Tang)

V--The Rasputin Relic (William Valtos) 8.13.08
W--The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls) 2.3.08

Y--The Devil's Arithmetic (Jane Yolen)
Z--The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) 6.22.08


A--The Awakening (Kate Chopin) 6.10.08
B--The Burn Journals (Brent Runyon) 3.12.08
C--Cruel and Unusual (Patricia Cornwell) 3.16.08
D--Decipher (Stel Pavlou) 7.7.08
E--Ella Minnow Pea (Mark Dunn) 7.9.08

F--Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) 3.8.08

G--The Girls (Lori Lansens) 1.5.08
H--The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende) 4.26.08
I--I, Mona Lisa (Jeanne Kalogridis) 5.26.08
J--The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)8.20.08

K--Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil (Deborah Rodriquez) 4.5.08
L--Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (Christopher Moore) 2.8.08

M--Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenide) 1.26.08
N--Number the Stars (Lois Lowry) 6.19.08

P--Parasite Rex (Carl Zimmer) 6.7.08

R--Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin) 3.17.08
S--Seventh Son: Tales of the Alvin Maker (Orson Scot Card) 1.11.08
T--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith) 3.23.08
U--Uglies (Scott Westerfeld) 5.14.08

V--Veil of Roses (Laura Fitzgerald) 2.12.08

W--White Oleander (Janet Fitch) 2.24.28

Z--The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story (Diane Ackerman) 12.7.08

Friday, December 26, 2008

Books I Got for Christmas

The End of the Alphabet: CS Richardson
The Last Lecutre: Randy Pausch
Then We Came to the End: Joshua Ferris
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: David Wroblewski
Christine Falls: Benjamin Black

I also have several Barnes and Noble gift cards to use up!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back from Vacation

I'm finally back from a fantastic vacation to Boulder CO and Rocky Mt. National Park. It was awesome! Time now to catch up on my blog which has been pushed to the back burner. I start back teaching next week though so it will probably take awhile to get caught up on my reviews.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Piece of Cake is being given to...


Please email me at pandabear 102205 at gmail dot com so I can get you mailing information.

Thanks to everyone who commented.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Salon # 9

Hello everyone! I've missed some weeks so it seems like I have a lot of catching up to do. Since my last Salon I've finished the following books

  • A Piece of Cake: Cupcake Brown (Review)
  • The Shadow of the Wind: Carlos Zafon (Review)
  • Number the Stars: Lois Lowry
  • Ozma of Oz: L. Frank Baum (audio book)
  • The $64 Tomato: William Alexander (Review)
  • The Awakening: Kate Chopin
  • Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone: J. K. Rowling (Review)

I enjoyed A Piece of Cake so much I'm giving it away to one lucky person. Just visit my review and leave a comment. I'm picking the person to mail it to tomorrow or Tuesday. Shadow of the Wind was another great read as well. I was disappointed in the $64 Tomato and really did not like The Awakening at all.


Decipher: Stel Pavlou. For a book that looked very exciting so far it has been bogged down in unnecessary detail making it slow and tedious to read. Basically the city of Atlantis has been discovered and has been sending us warnings for 12,000 years about the destruction of the world. We have one week left to figure out what it is trying to tell us. Should be a nail biter. Right now I'm using it to keep my coffee table from getting water marks. I'm about 150 in and I think the idea has such potential that I'm going to keep going.


The Cinema Murder by E. Phillips Oppenheim. I literally just download this from Librivox so I just wanted to mentioned that I will be starting this soon. I am still slowing working my way through the Innocence of Father Brown. I think I have a small crush on the narrator. His voice puts me to sleep in seconds.

WHAT I BOUGHT THIS WEEK (what showed up from PaperBack Swap and can you tell I hit up Goodwill?)


I joined the New Classics Challenge, Summer Reading Thing 2008, and A Daring Book Challenge. Directly below this post is a list of all the books I need to finish before the year is over. It is pretty long but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I also have no problem substituting new books as I find them and I'm also OK with not finishing a challenge (although I do try my best to finish each one). Sometimes I just come across a really good book I want to read and it doesn't fit into any of my challenges. If that means a challenge doesn't get completed...for me that is fine.


For me it is now back to stripping the wood work in my kitchen. For my next break I'll be visiting other Salons. Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 4, 2008

What Do I Need To Read Before The Year Is Over?

This could be scary!

  1. The Accidental Tourist (A-Z)
  2. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Notable & In Their Shoes)
  3. All Creatures Great and Small (Decades)
  4. Alvin Journeyman (Cardathon & Series)
  5. American Gods (A-Z)
  6. Beneath a Marble Sky (Historical)*
  7. The Crystal City (Cardathon & Series)
  8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (A-Z)
  9. Decipher (A-Z)
  10. The Devil's Arithmetic (A - Z and Orbis Terrarum)*
  11. Ella Minnow Pea (A-Z)
  12. The Family That Couldn't Sleep (Non Fiction 5)
  13. Fieldwork (Notable)
  14. Forcing Amaryllis (A-Z)
  15. Harem (Historical)*
  16. Heartfire (Cardathon & Series)
  17. The Inheritance (19th Century Women)
  18. Jane Eyre (Classics & 19th Century Women)
  19. The Joy Luck Club (A-Z)
  20. Like Water for Chocolate (A-Z)
  21. Lucky (In Their Shoes)*
  22. A Million Little Pieces (In Their Shoes)*
  23. Murder on the Orient Express (Decades)
  24. Of Earth and Sky (A-Z)
  25. The Phantom Tollbooth (A-Z)
  26. Pig Island (What's In a Name)
  27. Queen Bees and Wannabees (A-Z)
  28. The Rasputin Relic (A-Z)
  29. The Republican War on Science (Non Fiction 5)
  30. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Classics)
  31. The Secret Garden (Classics)
  32. Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood (Non Fiction 5 & In Their Shoes)
  33. The Sixteen Pleasures (Historical)*
  34. Something Wicked This Way Comes (Classics)
  35. Soul Mountain (A-Z)
  36. Snow Falling on Cedars (Herding Cats)
  37. Stargirl (Herding Cats)
  38. The Thieves of Heaven (A-Z)
  39. The Time Traveler's Wife (A-Z)
  40. Q--? (A-Z)
  41. Whose Body? (Decades)
  42. A Widow for One Year (A-Z)
  43. Wuthering Heights (19th Century Womens)
  44. X--? (A-Z)
  45. Y--? (A-Z)
  46. The Zookeeper's Wife (A-Z)

one more books for the classics challenge

two books for suspense and thriller

* = do not NEED to finish, I have enought alternates to cover the challenge but it was on my original list

I need to find some cross overs. I'll never finish and didn't include challenges that ended in January or Febuary. Funny, this won't stop me from joining challenges though. Most of the fun is in seeing how far along I can get and seeing how many books I can get to cross over.

Happy Fourth of July

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Classics Challenge

Joann from Lost in a Good Story is hosting the New Classics Challenge. She writes...

Deb from the A Novel Challenge yahoo group posted a link to this list of Entertainment Weekly's list of new classics, what they call the best reads from 1983 to 2008. I loved the list - many of my recent favorites are on it so I'm intrigued
to see what some of the ones I haven't read yet will be like.

So the challenge rules are:

1) Copy the list (which I have pasted here, just in case that link ever disappears) and bold the titles that you have already read.

2) Choose at least 6 other books from the list , read and review them between 1 August 2008 and 31 January 2009.

2) Come back here and post links to your reviews.

3) In January 2009, cast your vote for which one of the 100 books on the list is your favorite (and write a post on why). The winning book will be sent to a lucky winner chosen by the scientific method favored here in the blogosphere, i.e. names in a hat. Other contests are very probable too, I have some ideas, but they need planning.

4) Have fun! :-)

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

  1. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
  2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
  3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
  4. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
  5. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
  6. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Review: A Piece of Cake

Author: Cupcake Brown

Pages: 470

Genre: Non-Fiction/Autobiography

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:
There are shelves of memoirs about overcoming the death of a parent, childhood abuse, rape, drug addiction, miscarriage, alcoholism, hustling, gangbanging, near-death injuries, drug dealing, prostitution, or homelessness.

Cupcake Brown survived all these things before she’d even turned twenty.

And that’s when things got interesting….

You have in your hands the strange, heart-wrenching, and exhilarating tale of a woman named Cupcake. It begins as the story of a girl orphaned twice over, once by the death of her mother and then again by a child welfare system that separated her from her stepfather and put her into the hands of an epically sadistic foster parent. But there comes a point in her preteen years—maybe it’s the night she first tries to run away and is exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex all at once—when Cupcake’s story shifts from a tear-jerking tragedy to a dark comic blues opera. As Cupcake’s troubles grow, so do her voice and spirit. Her gut-punch sense of humor and eye for the absurd, along with her outsized will, carry her through a fateful series of events that could easily have left her dead.

Young Cupcake learned to survive by turning tricks, downing hard liquor, partying like a rock star, and ingesting every drug she could find while hitchhiking up and down the California coast. She stumbled into gangbanging, drug dealing, hustling, prostitution, theft, and, eventually, the best scam of all: a series of 9-to-5 jobs. But Cupcake’s unlikely tour through the cubicle world was paralleled by a quickening descent into the nightmare of crack cocaine use, till she eventually found herself living behind a Dumpster.

Astonishingly, she turned it around. With the help of a cobbled together family of eccentric fellow addicts and “angels”—a series of friends and strangers who came to her aid at pivotal moments—she slowly transformed her life from the inside out.

A Piece of Cake is unlike any memoir you’ll ever read. Moving and almost transgressive in its frankness, it is a relentlessly gripping tale of a resilient spirit who took on the worst of contemporary urban life and survived it with a furious wit and unyielding determination. Cupcake Brown is a dynamic and utterly original storyteller who will guide you on the most satisfying, startlingly funny, and genuinely affecting tour through hell you’ll ever take.
I couldn't believe this was a true story by the time it I was finished. It was simply too horrific at times to have actually happened. This girl should be dead, she should be imprisoned...but she isn't...she is a lawyer and a functional member of society!

This is one eye opening look into our failing foster care system and how easy it for children and simply people in general to fall between the cracks. At the same time however, it is also a story about "making it" and picking yourself up and being somebody.

This book gave me perspective and what it really means to have hard times and be down. It also refocused me on what CAN be accomplished with hard work, dedication and determination.

I have never done this before but I am going to contact Cupcake Brown and just let her know what an impact her book had on me.

Sometimes I (we) think we have it bad, and sometimes we do. Usually we don't. This book really allowed me to set my priorities straight and appreciate how good I really do have it, even with the problems I do have.

I believe that this is such a good book that I would like to give it to someone. If you are interested in this book please leave me a note in the comments. I'll randomly pick someone in one week to mail it to.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer ReadingThing 2008

Summer Reading Thing 2008
Who: The Summer Reading Thing 2008 (or SRT 08) is for anyone who’s up for a reading challenge. All age groups are welcome.

What: A summer reading challenge for everyone. Set your goals and track your progress. No goal is too small; no ambition too great. Feeling overwhelmed? Make your list small or use the same list from any other reading challenge (like this one).

Make changes to your list as needed as desired. Finish early? Add more books (or
not). Change your mind on a title? Drop it. No pressure, no minimums.

Post a short review on your blog of at least one of the books you read during the challenge. If you like to do reviews, you can post one for each of the books you read. Please keep the reviews family friendly. I'll set up a Mr. Linky where you can link to your reviews. (Don't have a blog? Keep reading.)

When: Friday, June 2oth through Sunday, September 21st, 2008.

Where: The blogosphere. Join up using this Mr. Linky. Post your summer reading list on your blog and backlink here. If you don't have a blog, you can use the one I created last year for this very purpose. Simply e-mail your list and reviews to her and she'll post and link you up, making you eligible for prizes.

Why: To promote literacy around the world. Yeh, right. Because we need a reason not to feel guilty when we choose to read instead of mop the floor.

How: Make your list and post it on your blog. Then link to your post using the sign-up Mr. Linky. As you read your books, post a review on your blog and link to the review post using the review Mr. Linky. At the end of the challenge, post a wrap-up and link to the wrap-up Mr. Linky (coming in September).

Prizes: Prizes will be books (new or gently read) or book related items. (If you're an author or publisher and you want to provide a prize, send me an e-mail.) I'll give away one prize each week. To be eligible for prizes, you must have signed up on the Mr. Linky here. Beginning July 20th, you must also have posted one review using the Mr. Linky here. Due to shipping costs, you must live in the U.S. or Canada to win a prize. (Sorry.)

Spread the word: Let your blog readers know about SRT 08 so they can join the fun with you! Grab the button and use it on your blog. The larger image (top of post) is 400 px. The smaller image (below) is 220 px and will fit the standard Blogger sidebar. The image in my sidebar is 185px, for smaller sidebars, like mine. Please link your button back to this post.

Note: You can join Summer Reading Thing 2008 at any time.

My Reading List

1. Decipher: Stel Pavlou 7.7.08

2. Ella Minnow Pea: Mark Dunn 7.9.08

3. Alvin Journeyman: Orson Scott Card

4. Harry Potter II: J. K. Rowling

5. Stargirl: Jerry Spinelli

6. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier: Ishmael Beah 7.22.08

7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Mark Haddon 8.14.08

8. The Thieves of Heaven: Richard Doetsch7/08

9. The Phantom Tollbooth: Norton Juster

10. Pig Island: Mo Hayder 7.15.08

11. The Republican War on Science: Chris Mooney

12. Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie 7.12.08

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Pages: 487

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets—an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
This book was awesome! I had been wanting to read it for awhile now, and finally got around to it. It was worth the wait. Not only is it well written, but the story is engrossing. I stayed up until four one morning to finish it. I got hooked and couldn't bear to not know what happened. The main character Daniel is lovable, though he does has his faults and he is surrounded by many people all with very different personalities. They mesh together wonderfully. The action starts immediately and keeps moving until the very last page.

You can't help but to like this book. I will defintely be adding more books by Zafon to my reading list

Also Reviewed By:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book Review: The $64 Tomato

Author: William Alexander

Pages: 265

Genre: Non Fiction/Memoir

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:
Bill Alexander had no idea that his simple dream of having a vegetable garden and small orchard in his backyard would lead him into life-and-death battles with groundhogs, webworms, weeds, and weather; midnight expeditions in the dead of winter to dig up fresh thyme; and skirmishes with neighbors who feed the vermin (i.e., deer). Not to mention the vacations that had to be planned around the harvest, the near electrocution of the tree man, the limitations of his own middle-aged body, and the pity of his wife and kids.

When Alexander runs (just for fun!) a cost-benefit analysis, adding up everything from the live animal trap to the Velcro tomato wraps and then amortizing it over the life of his garden, it comes as quite a shock to learn that it cost him a staggering $64 to grow each one of his beloved Brandywine tomatoes. But as any gardener will tell you, you can't put a price on the unparalleled pleasures of providing fresh food for your family.
I waited a long time for this book. I had it on my wishlist at paperback swap. I was number 1 (finally) and then somehow accidentally moved it to my reminder list and got shifted to spot 24. So I waited some more. Perhaps that explains my disappointment with this book. Or maybe reading about someone gardening just isn't is funny as or as entertaining as I thought it would be. The book had its moments and it was decent overall, I was just expecting something far greater. I'd heard raves about this book. It came recommended from so many different people had to be good. It was fair. It was a decent book. That's it. Just OK, not bad, not great, just OK. The best part of the book to me is still the review on the front cover from the New York Times Book Review "Gardening as Extreme Sport." I will also say the the section of Superchuck the groundhog is pretty funny. This book just didn't do it for me, it may do it for you. I wouldn't say stay away from it, it just wasn't all I was hoping it would be.

Clubbing (BTT)

A combo of two suggestions by: Heidi and by litlove

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (ot, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

Yes, I've been a member of a book club. Our motto..."It's all about the food." That should probably tell you about how in depth we go into discussing our books. It didn't start out that way. I promise. No matter how good our intentions were, it always came back to the food (having a lot of it--and it being sooo good!). We all teach together so naturally this was also a time for us to socialize since we didn't have time at work. So our book club morphed into eat and socialize together. Whoever is hosting the next book club gets to pick the book and we basically talk about if we liked it or not. Nothing major or in depth. Very casual. It works for us. I like having other people pick books as it gives me a chance to read books I normally wouldn't pick up for myself. We meet every 3 months or so. This also relieves the pressure of having to finish up a certain book by a certain date. One of us might buy it and pass it around or it gives us time to get it from the library.

I've often wondered what a more "formal" book club would be like. I'm looking forward to reading some other posts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Book Review: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone

Author: J. K. Rowling

Pages: 309

Genre: Fiction/YA/Children

Personal Rating: 4/5

Awards: Winner of the National Book Award (UK), Winner of the Gold Medal Smarties Prize (UK), Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998, School Library Journal Best Book of 1998, Parenting Book of the Year Award 1998, New York Public Library Best Book of the Year 1998, An ALA Notable Book, FCBG (Federation of Children's Books Group) Children's Book Award 1997, Birmingham Cable Children's Book Award 1997, Young Telegraph Paperback of the Year, British Book Awards' Children's Book of the Year, Sheffield Children's Book Award, Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize, Sorcieres Prix 1998, Premio Cento per la Letteratura Infantile 1998, Booklist Best Book of the Year 1998, Booklist Editor's Choice 1998, Whitaker's Platinum Book Award 2001

From the back cover:

Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter.
What an absolutely fun read. I can see why kids love this series. If I was a kid I would be reading it over and over again. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I'm looking forward to picking up book II (Chamber of Secrets). Rowling has a wonderful imagination. I was constantly amazed at what she thought of and was always looking forward to what she would think of next. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series just to see how creative she gets. To have such an imagination must be amazing! I'll admit I was a little apprehensive about picking up Harry Potter. Worried it wouldn't live up to all the "hub bub". Needless worry. It was a fast, fun, delightful read.

The basics of book 1 is that Harry doesn't know he is a wizard. He is stuck living with his aunt, uncle and cousin, who are referred to as Muggles (people who can't do magic). On his 11th birthday Harry learns he is a wizard, how his parents died and he is sent of to the Hogwarts school to learn how to be a wizard. At Hogwarts Harry gets his first owl and learns to fly his broomstick. He is the seeker on the Quidditch team (a combination of soccer and basketball played with many different sized balls on broomstick) and takes classes called herbology, history of magic, charms, transfigurations and defense against the dark arts. He makes friends makes, some enemies and learns of a plan to steal the sorcerer's stone. All through the story there are these wonderful little snippets that are just wonderful. For example, in pictures, the people don't stay put, they move around. So you can look at a picture and the people might not be in it, or they may be moving around.

If you've been avoiding this series or unsure about it give it a try. I was unsure and I'm glad I gave it chance. I'm looking forward to finishing off the series over time.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What Book Am I?

You're Lolita!

by Vladimir Nabokov

Considered by most to be depraved and immoral, you are obsessed with sex. What really tantalizes you is that which deviates from societal standards in every way, though you admit that this probably isn't the best and you're not sure what causes this desire. Nonetheless, you've done some pretty nefarious things in your life, and probably gotten caught for them. The names have been changed, but the problems are real.
Please stay away from children.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Really??? How interesting.

A Daring Book Challenge

Callista is hosting a challenge which uses books found in The Daring Book for Girls.

A Daring Book Challenge

June 15 2008 - June 15 2009

  1. Read one book from each category from June 15/08 to February 15/09 (6 books in 8 months)

  2. Read any 9 books from the list from June 15/08 to June 15/09 (9 books in 12 months)

  3. Read one whole series from this list starting June 15/08. If it contains up to 10 books, by June 15/09, if 20-30 books, by June 15/11 and for the Trixie Belden series and Nancy Drew series by June 15/12.

  4. PLUS----Want to work on reading them all? It's an ongoing challenge so take all the time you need. You can do this and still do one of the above.

A few more general guidelines for the challenge:
  • Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.

  • Audiobooks are allowed.

  • For the ongoing challenge, books you've read in the past count, you don't have to re-read them.

  • For the first 3 tracts, all books read must be read AFTER June 15/08. I'm choosing option 2--any 9 books in 12 months.

I'm doing option 2--choose any 9 books to read over 1 year

My List

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

  3. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

  4. Magical Melons by Carol Ryrie Brink

  5. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

  6. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

  7. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (series of 7 books)--I just read book I, so I'm planning on reading a few more

  8. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (series of 7 books)--I just read book I, so I'm planning on reading a few more

  9. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sunday Salon # 8 Monday Morning Style

I finished teaching on Thursday. One thing I've noticed is that when you don't need to go to work your days tend to blend together. So last night as I was falling asleep I realized "ahh! It is Sunday. I need to write my Sunday Salon. But I was nearly asleep so decided it could wait until this morning. I love summer vacation. I get a lot of reading done, I relax, I spend time outside. I do all those things I don't seem to have time for when I'm teaching.

I finally finished up Parasite Rex. Overall I enjoyed it. I decided it is a book you should read in small chunks over a long period of time. (review here). I also read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Excellent! Highly recommend this book to everyone. I'm not really into "war" stories, this book is different. (review here). The last book I read was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I figured I couldn't call myself much of a reader if I didn't give this series a whirl. I hadn't been avoiding it, I just hadn't gotten around to it. It was a fun read. I'll review it soon.

I figured out why I haven't written my review for Bel Canto yet. I'm worried I won't be able to convey how good the book was. It was one of the best I've read. Maybe ever. I know I'm not a strong enough writer to convey that so I just keep putting off the review.


The Awakening: by Kate Chopin. I have to admit. I'm not very excited to be picking up this book. I'm doing it for a challenge and I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I've only read 12 pages so far, I literally just started it and so far it is well written. I'm not far enough along yet to tell if I like the plot. Any word of encouragement would be appreciated. I know there are a lot of fans so hopefully I'll end up liking it too.


Ozma of Oz, the third book in the Oz series. Ozma is a little girl who ends up being the heir to the throne of Oz. She took back the throne in book 2. Right now Dorothy, the scarecrow, tinman, lion, Ozma and a few new characters, Tiktok (a windup copperman) and Billia (a hen) are getting reading to rescue the queen of Ev and her ten children from the Nome King.

WHAT I BOUGHT THIS WEEK (what showed up from PaperBack Swap)

  • Shantaram: Gregory Roberts
  • Genesis Alpha: Rune Michaels
  • Those Who Save Us: Jenna Blum


  • A-Z Reading Challenge (28/52)
  • Series Challenge (3/6)
  • Cardathon Challenge (3/6)
  • Spring Reading Thing 2008 (8/9 but with 6 alternates completed)
  • 1% Well Read Challenge (2/10)
  • Historical Reading Challenge (1/6 but with 3 alternates completed)
  • Whats in A Name Challenge (4/6)
  • Orbis Terrarum (6/9 but with 2 alternates completed)
  • Themed Reading Challenged (3/4)
  • Non Fiction Five (1/5)
  • 342,745, Ways to Herd Cats Challenge (0/3)
  • Young Adult Challenge (11/12)
  • Decades Challenge (5/8)
  • Notable Book Challenge (1/3 but with 1 alternate completed)
  • 19th Century Women Writers Challenge (0/4)
  • In Their Shoes (1/6 but with 2 alternates completed)
  • Suspense and Thriller Challenge (3/12)
  • Orange Prize Project--Completed
  • Chunkster--Completed
  • Book Binge--Completed
  • Eponymous--Completed
  • Spring Reading Challenge--Completed
  • Banned Book Challenge--Completed
  • Book Awards Reading Challenge--Completed

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Book Review: Parasite Rex

Author: Carl Zimmer

Pages: 245

Genre: Non Fiction/Science

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites control the minds of their hosts, sending them to their destruction.

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites are masters of chemical warfare and camouflage, able to cloak themselves with their hosts' own molecules.

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites steer the course of evolution, where the majority of species are parasites.


For centuries, parasites have lived in nightmares, horror stories, and in the darkest shadows of science. Yet these creatures are among the world's most successful and sophisticated organisms. In Parasite Rex, Carl Zimmer deftly balances the scientific and the disgusting as he takes readers on a fantastic voyage. Traveling from the steamy jungles of Costa Rica to the fetid parasite haven of southern Sudan, Zimmer graphically brings to life how parasites can change DNA, rewire the brain, make men more distrustful and women more outgoing, and turn hosts into the living dead.

This thorough, gracefully written book brings parasites out into the open and uncovers what they can teach us about the most fundamental survival tactics in the universe.
I'm torn with how to write the review for this book. One one hand I really loved it, on the other hand sometimes it bored me to tears. The book was incredibly fascinating, in small doses. Zimmer has a knack for writing so that you can easily understand what he is saying. BUT, I have a background in science. I teach biology. I am naturally interested in his subject matter and have prior knowledge on a lot of what he was writing about (especially details about how the immune system works). I'm not sure how much someone without a science background would would struggle to enjoy the book having to first understand all the science in it. I think that as long as you realize that you may need to do a little work to understand this book go ahead and pick it up. Plan to read it in short segments over a long period of time. There are only so many parasitic infections you can take at one time. If you are easily grossed out, squeamish, don't like worms, or enjoy science leave this book for someone else.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments!

Book Review: When We Were Gods

Author: Colin Falconer

Pages: 494

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:
Arrestingly beautiful and fiercely intelligent, Cleopatra VII of Egypt was barely more than a teenager when she inherited the richest empire in the world--one that stretched from the scorching deserts of lower Egypt to the shining Mediterranean metropolis of Alexandria, with its famed libraries, storehouses, and treasuries. Imperiled at every turn by court conspiracies and Roman treachery, the young queen was forced to flee Alexandria and live in exile while a foreign army overran her city and her own siblings plotted her downfall. With nothing to lose, Cleopatra brazenly sought a partnership with the only man who could secure Egypt's safety: Julius Caesar, a wily politician and battle-hardened general with a weakness for women. The result was a passionate love affair that scandalized Rome and thrust Cleopatra into the glittering but deadly world of imperial intrigue and warfare-- a world that she would mesmerize and manipulate even after Caesar was gone.

At the height of her power and fame, Cleopatra fell in love with Caesar's protégé and successor, Marc Antony, a handsome general known as much for his drunken hedonism as for his victories in battle. Brash, irresistible, and fatally unreliable, Antony's once-strong hold on the Roman Empire was slipping fast, and with it slipped Cleopatra's fortunes. When the tide had finally, irrevocably turned against her, the proud queen plotted a last, spectacular maneuver that was to save her children, her empire, and her place in the pantheon of gods.

Colin Falconer's bold, sensuous prose takes the reader inside the walls of Alexandria's great palaces and into Cleopatra's very heart, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman who thrived and triumphed in a world ruled by men. This is the story of a legendary woman's most glorious time, a story that blazes through thousands of years of history to capture the imagination of readers today.
This novel was OK. It was well written and interesting. I did not know much about the history of Cleopatra so I did find it informative (realizing that the autor I'm sure took liberties to make the story more exciting). After awhile it just became very repetitive, which maybe her story was. Cleopatra gets it trouble, she gets out of it, barely...only to find herself in trouble again. Until finally she found herself in trouble she could not get out of. The end.

The book did give excellent glimspse into life of the royal court of Egypt. To have such wealth at your fingertips...unimaginable. It also portrayed Cleopatra as a very intelligent woman, she spoke 9 languages and stay up late into the night running the country often outwitting the "smartest" men in country or in the world.

Decent read, just not as good as I was expecting. Perhaps because I had just came off some awesome reads (Uglies, Blind Assassin, Bel Canto). If you enjoy historical fiction, Egypt or Cleopatra I'd say give it a whirl.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Book Review: The Things They Carried

Author: Tim O'Brien

Pages: 246

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:
They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated Bibles, each other. And, if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since it was first published, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.
I read this book in one sitting. It was that good. I started this afternoon and finished this evening. It is fiction, but it makes you wonder how much of it is actually true. I haven't researched O'Brien or read any of his other works so I don't know if he actually served in Vietnam. I was enthralled by this book, by the stories he told. For a few hours I had a small glimpse into what it may have been like at some points in time, for some men in Vietnam. The capacity for horror, love and coping that O'Brien is able to convey is amazing. I'm considering picking up some of his other books to see if they are as good as this one.

O'Brien writes about how he considered fleeing to Canada to avoid the draft. Here is a paragraph that I really liked
My hometown was a conservative little spot on the prairie, a place where tradition counted, and it was easy to imagine people sitting around a table down at the old Gobbler Cafe on Main Street, coffee cups poised, the conversation slowly zeroing in on the young O'Brien kid, how the damned sissy had taken off for Canada. At night, when I couldn't sleep, I'd sometimes carry on fierce arguments with those people. I'd be screaming at them, telling them how much I detested their blind, thoughtless, automatic acquiescence to it all, their simpleminded patriotism, their prideful ignorance, their love-it-or-leave-it platitudes, how they were sending me off to fight a war they didn't understand and didn't want to understand. I held them responsible. By God, yes, I did. All of them--I held them personally and individually responsible--the polyestered Kiwanis boys, the merchants and farmers, the pious churchgoers, the chatty housewives, the PTA, and the Lions club and the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the fine upstanding gentry out at the country club. They didn't know the Bao Dai from the man in the moon. They didn't know history. They didn't know the first thing about Diem's tyranny, or the nature of Vietnamese nationalism, or the long colonialism or the French--this was all too damned complicated, it required some reading--but no matter, it was a war to stop the Communists, plain and simple, which was how they liked things, and you were a treasonous pussy if you had second thoughts about killing or dying for plain and simple reasons.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments!

Book Binge is Over

Well, it actually was over May 31st. I'm a little late posting my wrap up.
  1. The Blind Assassin: Margaret Atwood
  2. Uglies: Scott Westerfeld
  3. Magic Study: Maria Snyder
  4. I, Mona Lisa: Jeanne Kalogridis
  5. When We Were Gods a Novel of Cleopatra: Colin Falconer (review coming soon)
  6. Parasite Rex (171/245--been slowly reading throughout May, didn't quite get it finished)

My favorite from these was Uglies. I'm happy to say I enjoyed them all and there are none that I would list as not liking.

Friday Fill In

1. Idle hands are probably earning a much needed rest.

2. I love turning on the cold water on a hot day in the shower.

3. My favorite time of the day is when you slip right under the covers and your head first touches the pillow and your body just relaxes.

4. The last tea I drank was hot?

5. I like to travel in the Summer.

6. My mother always said that if I kept making that face it was going to freeze that way.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to hiding from the humidity, tomorrow my plans include finally starting my garden and Sunday, I want to visit my friend!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sunday Salon # 7

Going back to teaching (finally) and a broken laptop meant less blogging and reading for me the past few weeks. I still managed to read a few books and post a few reviews. School is out in four days and then I'm free until August!!! I finished reading Magic Study by Maria Snyder, I Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis and When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra by Colin Falconer. I was able to review Magic Study and I, Mona Lisa.

Notice I still need to write my reviews for Bel Canto and both Oz books. I'll get to it eventually.


Parasite Rex: Carl Zimmer. On page 171/245. I still find this pretty interesting but I need to change my recommendation for everyone else. Even I am getting pretty sick of reading about parasites. There is only so much you can take. This book should probably be read in small chunks and not all in one dose. It is also more scientifically detailed than I originally thought. I think a layperson may find themselves lost after a few pages. I'm not sure though. To me everything seems very clear. I'm familiar with it. To someone who isn't one on one with biology all the time it may be a little more difficult to read. In small chunks and with some determination I think most people who pick up this book will find it fascinating. just note it won't be a walk in the park to get to the end.

The Things They Carried: Tim O'Brien. I'll be cracking this open after I finish this post.


The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton

I blogged about this in my last Sunday Salon. Still enjoying it. Is it bad that I use this guys voice to help lull me to sleep?

I also started Ozma of Oz, the third book in the Oz series.

WHAT I BOUGHT THIS WEEK (what showed up from PaperBack Swap)

  • The Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger
  • Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
  • The Ottoman Cage by Barbara Nadel

Magic Study gave me a check mark for
  • "S" author for A - Z Reading Challenge
  • Spring Reading Thing 2008
When We Were Gods gave me a check for

  • "F" author for A - Z Reading Challenge
  • Spring Reading Thing 2008
  • Book Around the World Challenge
  • Orbis Terrarum
  • Historical Reading Challenge

I, Mona Lisa gave me a check for

  • "I" Title for A - Z Reading Challenge
  • Book Around the World Challenge
  • Orbis Terrarum
  • Spring Reading Thing 2008
  • Historical Reading Challenge
Book Binge finished the end of May. Here are my completed books.

  1. The Blind Assassin: Margaret Atwood
  2. Uglies: Scott Westerfeld
  3. Magic Study: Maria Snyder
  4. I, Mona Lisa: Jeanne Kalogridis
  5. When We Were Gods a Novel of Cleopatra: Colin Falconer
  6. Parasite Rex (171/245)
I joined the Book Awards Reading Challenged II and the Classics Challenge.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Review: Magic Study

Author: Maria Snyder

Pages: 425

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating 3.5/5

From the back cover:
Yelena is a survivor. Kidnapped as a child, held prisoner as a teen, then released to act as a poison taster, she is now a student of magic. But these magic skills place her in imminent danger, and with an execution order on her head, she has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth.

But nothing in Sitia is familiar. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her powers, a rogue magician emerges--and Yelena catches his eye. Suddenly she is embroiled in a situation not of her making. And once again her magical abilities will either save her life...or be her downfall.
Magic, romance, adventure, empowered women, mystery, suspense...there is a little of everything I enjoy all wrapped up in one nice book. This is the second book out of three. The first book Poison Study I really liked as well and I will be reading the third book Fire Study Soon.

This book is a nice quick read. It is interesting enough to keep you interested and not heavy at all. I had been reading some "heavier" book lately and needed a break.

Yelena has been forced to leave the North since there is an execution order on her head. She is taken south to Sitia, her homeland where was was kidnapped as a child. Here she will meet her family and learn to control her magic. Of course it does not go easily or smoothly.

Her brother hates her, thinks she is a spy and turns her over to Cahil, a supposed remaining heir to the North who wants the support of the south in mounting an army to take back what is his. Yelena is taken to the Citadel where it is determined she is not a spy and she will be allowed to be taught how to control her magic. Yelena is stubbon, does not trust anyone and doens't follow rules. She is a difficult pupil and always seems to be getting into trouble.

As the story unfolds it is determined that there is a magician loose who is stealing souls to make himself as powerful as possible. He has developed a group of followers as well. Yelena seems to the only one capable of stopping him but it means not following rules, trusing people and risking being kicked out of the Citadel and never learning to master her magic. It also means risking her soul to this magician which would make him the most powerful magician EVER and leave both the North and South lands in great danger.

You'll enjoy this story if you're looking for a interesting, fast read and like magic and romance. Though is isn't icky flowery romance (that stuff I can't stand).

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge II


  1. Read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.
  2. You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.
  3. Overlaps with other challenges are permitted.

Here are some award winners I have sitting on my shelf now. I'll narrow it down soon. I wanted to sign up before I forgot.

  • Koko by Peter Straub
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • Plague’s Progress by Arno Karlen
  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lamb
  • Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • The Throat by Peter Straub
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Monday, May 26, 2008

Book Review: I, Mona Lisa

Author: Jeanne Kalogridis

Pages: 515

Genre: Fiction/Historical

Personal Rating 4/5

From the back cover:
"My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini, though to acquaintance, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa. My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born."

Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence's magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.

More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths. Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano's nephew and namesake. But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.

Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself.
What I enjoyed about this story is how Kalogridis is able to blend common figures from history (daVinci for example), common works of art and architecture and weave them into a story. This is probably why I enjoy historical fiction overall. Kalogridis has taken the figure the painting the Mona Lisa and has created a story around her. It was fantastic. I was able to imagine living in that time period and wearing the clothes, venturing out to the market or fearing the plague. It was a little long and wandered at times or it would have earned a higher rating.

If you enjoy historical fiction you will enjoy this story. If you enjoy "mysteries" you'll enjoy this one as well.

This review will be continued but I'm out of town and giving this book to my grandmother so I wanted to get a little something down before I handed it over.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Books Vs. Movies (BTT)

Suggested by: Superfastreader:

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

The first word that came to my mind was escape. I often find myself escaping in books. I don't find that to be true with movies. They are both entertaining but there is just something about a book that I can escape with. I guess with a book you run your own show, you can stop and start when you want, think over things, go back and reread. With a movie, it is meant to be watched in one sitting. No going back, stopping and thinking. You're forced to experience it as it was set forth by the producer/director etc. With a book you have more room to move in your mind. Your imagination can run wild.

I'm curious to hear what others have to say.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

WRAP UP: Book Awards Reading Challenge

I actually finished up with a little time to spare so hopefully I'll be able to add a few extras to the list. Unfortunately, I did not consider keeping my original list completely intact so some of my first intentions have disappeared. Others have not!

Booker Prize
1. 1997 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 4.2.08 REVIEW
2. 2000 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood 5.12.08 REVIEW

Gold Dagger Award
3. 1993 Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell 3.16.08 REVIEW

National Book Award
1990 Sophie's Choice by William Styron
4. 2003 Three Junes by Julia Glass 8.5.07
5. 2006 The Echo Maker by Richard Powers 11. 26.07 REVIEW

Pulitzer Prize
6. 2003 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 1.26.08 REVIEW

PEN/Faulkner Award
7. 2002 Bel Canto by Patchett 4.30.08 REVIEW

1988 The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

Newbery Award
8. 1994 The Giver by Lois Lowry completed REVIEW

Bram Stoker Award
9. 1992 The Blood of the Lamb by Thomas F. Monteleone 2.2.08 REVIEW

World Fantasy Award
1989 Koko by Peter Straub

British Children's Book of the Year
10. 2007 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne) 3.20.08 REVIEW

  • 3 Irish Book Awards: the Novel of the Year, the People's Choice Book of the Year, and the Children's Book of the Year. It won 2 awards
Nebula Award
11. 1966 Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) 3.8.08 REVIEW

Panorama Literario Award: Chile
12. 1983 The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende) 4.26.08 REVIEW
  • Best Novel of the Year, Chile 1983
Alternates on my Bookshelf(those that I have picked for other challanges--i colored reddish)

  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

  • Plague’s Progress by Arno Karlen

  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman

  • Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lamb

  • Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

  • Holes by Louis Sachar

  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt

  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel

  • The Throat by Peter Straub

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

  • The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  • There were three books I originally set out to read and did not. There was Sophie's Choice, which I will still be reading for The Decades Challenge. Koko is the second. I'm still interested in reading it. It is VERY long but still looks very good. I went to pick up the Book of Ruth the other night and after reading the back and some reviews I decided i would rather stick sharp objects in my eyes than read this book. It sounds so depressing and miserable. I have no idea what motivated me to add it to my list the fist time. Probably the fact the I owned it.

    My Favorite Books from this Challenge? This is tough there were some really good one. I would have to pick

    • Bel Canto
    • The Giver

    With the Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Flowers for Algernon coming in close behind.

    Those I didn't like so much from this Challenge?

    • House of the Spirits--I hated it.

    I was also disappointed in Middlesex but not nearly the way I hated House of the Spirits.


    Monday, May 19, 2008

    The Classics Challenge

    I've finally grown some balls and decided to join The 2008 Classics Challenge It is being hosted by Trish from Trish's Reading Nook. She writes...

    Welcome to the Classics Challenge 2008

    Classics: We love them, we hate them, now we are going to challenge ourselves to reading more of them. Because there are so many different types of classics, different genres are acceptable and encouraged--for example, novels, short story collections, non-fiction, poetry, essays--I'm open for other suggestions!RULES (keep reading for the bonus):
    • OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.
    • OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least THREE different countries
    • OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least THREE different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).
    • Cross-posting with other challenges is allowed (and encouraged!); Audiobooks are fine; books must be finished after July 1st to count for the challenge although re-reads are acceptable.
    • Lists don't have to be set in stone; you can change your selections at any time.
    • Have Fun. Oh ya...there will be a drawing for a prize or two. To be entered you must complete any one of the above options. You do NOT need a blog to participate.

    Am I going to define what a classic is? Nope! There are lots of definitions offered on the Internet, but essentially we all have different opinions so don't stress too much--and see the bonus below.


    As you can see, I'm requiring FIVE classics for six months. For the sixth book, I would like the participants to offer suggestions for books that may not be considered classics but that you think should be or books that you think will be a classic one day. Leave your suggestions in the comments below. I'll compile a list of the suggestions and you choose a book from the list and make that your sixth read. I realize this means you may have to wait to make your list if you choose to participate in the bonus round, but I'm hoping this is a modern twist on the old classics challenge.

    For example, I am going to suggest The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro.


    Alright, let's do it this way... At the beginning of June I will put up the official Mr. Linky. By then, hopefully there will be a decent sized "should be/will be" classics list for participants to choose their sixth book. I hope I hope I hope at the beginning of June there aren't just the suggestions of The Handmaid's Tale and Remains of the Day. Won't I feel silly? ;) If you don't want to do the bonus (shame on you!!), please check back at the beginning of June to officially join. Feel free to leave a comment below, though, if you are interested!

    Thanks to everyone for your interest! I've been an avid challenge participant for almost a year and I'm thrilled to finally have the guts to host my own. Thank you to everyone who has given me support and suggestions along the way!

    Finally: Happy Reading!
    I saw I site that divided the classics into three groups and I've decided to use the same idea to make it a little easier for me to conquer my fear of some of the classics. It seems so much easier to manage now. Of course I'll try to use cross over with other challenges when possible.

    Classic Literature For Adults
    • The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
    • Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury)
    • Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
    Classic Literature For Young Teens
    • The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Emma Orczy)
    Classic Literature For Children
    • The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

    This is just my start for now. I need to read your posts and get some recommendations. I also need to think about my recommendation for the sixth book.

    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    Sunday Salon # 6

    This has been a much more productive reading week for me. I finished The Blind Assassin and Uglies AND wrote reviews for both of them! I also finished listening to the Marvelous Land of Oz. I also started two new books and I'm decently through both of them.

    I still need to write my review for Bel Canto and both Oz books.

    Blind Assassin Review
    Uglies Review


    Magic Study: Maria Snyder. On page 236/416. This books is # 2 in the series. I loved #1 Poison Study (here is my review). The only problem is once I get finished this one I know I'm going to want to jump right into book #3 and ignore all of my beautiful lists and challenges and school work, chores and obligations! Magic, romance, adventure, empowered women, mystery, suspense...there is a little of everything I enjoy all wrapped up in one nice book.

    Parasite Rex: Carl Zimmer. On page 41/245 (but I did read the prologue and it is an additional 14 pages). I said to my hubby "you know you're married to a geek, I'm about to start a book about parasites and I'm so excited about it" his response... "uh huh" and the typical husband look when I'm being when I stopped on the Great Wall of China to crawl around taking pictures of frogs. What can I say, I'm a biology teacher and I find parasites fascinating. Zimmer is a fantastic writer, I guess a "scientific journalist." When he writes you don't even realize he is talking science. Now I am biased about this stuff but I think must people would find this fascinating in a gross, disgusting type of way.


    The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton

    The Innocence of Father Brown (1911) is the first of five collections of mystery stories by G. K. Chesterton. Each collection is then broken down into many short and I think independent stories. Even though I've been listening to it for days I'm only on story # 2. I keep falling asleep. Whoever is narrating it has such a soothing voice and I do listen to it at night. I may need to abandon this book. It is not for lack of interest. The stories are very long and I keep falling asleep. I need something broken into smaller chapters so I can keep track of where I am.

    Here is the link to my intro post if you want to check it out.

    WHAT I BOUGHT THIS WEEK (what showed up from PaperBack Swap)
    • The Exiled: Posie Graeme-Evans

    The Blind Assassin gave me a check mark for

    • "A" author for A - Z Reading Challenge
    • Book Around the World Challenge
    • Book Awards Reading Challenge
    • Orbis Terrarum
    • Spring Reading Thing 2008
    Uglies gave me a check for
    • "W" author for A - Z Reading Challenge
    • Spring Reading Thing 2008
    • Young Adult Reading challenge

    I completed the Book Awards Reading Challenge 12/12. I'll be posting a wrap up soon.

    I joined the 1% Well Read Challenge and I'm continuing the Series Challenge with Season 2!

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Book Review: Uglies

    Author: Scott Westerfeld

    Pages: 425

    Genre: Fiction/ YA

    Personal Rating 4.5/5

    From the back cover:
    "Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?"

    Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

    But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

    I was pleasantly surprised by how good this book really was. The back of the book summary only covers the first quarter of the book. The majority of the book deals with the decision that Tally makes and the consequences that follow. In many ways it reminds me of Lois Lowry. If you enjoy her books you'll like Uglies.

    Tally lives in a "future civilization" because ours has somehow messed up (of course). Our generation is referred to as "Rusties" for how much metal we used. They have advanced technology, and have learned from us . They don't make the same mistakes we do. The don't cut down trees and burn up fossil fuels. There is no war. Since everyone eventually gets to be pretty there is no more racism, jealousy, anger, hate etc. but we learn that it does come at a cost, thought very few know it.

    From reading the back cover it appears that this story is going to be superficial. An ugly girl whining that she doesn't get to be pretty. It is so much more. People choosing freedom of their minds over the apparent freedom that beauty offers. I realize that my review is somewhat lacking in details but I don't want to spoil the outcome of the story for people who want to read it.

    This is the first of three in the series. I think I just read there may be a fourth. I need to go out and buy Pretties, the second in the series right now. I really can't wait to read it. If you do not want to read the entire series I would not pick up Uglies because you will want to keep going!

    If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments

    Also Reviewed By:
    Bloggin' 'bout Books

    Friday Fill in

    1. There is absolutely NO way you can get me to to go anywhere near a needle unless I am in some type of drug induced haze!

    2. The fact that there are only 19 days until i have no students reminds me that summer is almost here!

    3. I cannot live without my my husband or chapstick (it was a tie).

    4. Learning a foreign langueage and do some type of relief work in Africa are two things I'd like to try.

    5. When life hands you lemons use them to fill a vase, or wash your hands with them or anything but that saying. I've never liked it.

    6. Winning the high school softball championship and finishing second in the state is my favorite childhood memory. (Is that too old???)

    7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to running around like an idioit (don't we all have nights like those), tomorrow my plans include a garage sale and another baby shower and Sunday, I want to watch the Pens finish the Flyers!!!!

    Click here to see more Friday Fill Ins!

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    Manual Labor Redux (BTT)

    Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….

    Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?

    Do you ever read manuals?

    How-to books?

    Self-help guides?

    Anything at all?
    I'll admit it...I read the manual. I've just seen my sister and husband break too many things or goof them up by simply not reading the directions. Its so simple. It tells you how to do it. You just start at the beginning and go step by step. That is why they are included. It just seems easier to follow them to then to guess at how to do it or do it wrong.

    Have any of you ever put together furniture from IKEA? Now THAT is an adventure!!!!! Those little funny Swedish (I think) cartoon people and no words! That is the best.

    How-to books & Self-help guides? I think we have probably all purchased a few with good intentions, myself included. I've never really seemed to get into them though and they sit on my shelf and then end up getting posted on paperbackswap. Boy do I envy the person who said her problems were simple enough that peanut M&M's could solve them. I wish my problems were so simple that M&Ms could solve them! Maybe I'm not buying the right books. lol ; )

    I'm not sure why but lately I've found it annoying when companys don't include their manuals and tell you to "go online" to download it. I know it saves paper and storage space but it really is a hassle for me. It seems more difficult than actually having it in your hand for some reason. I think I have a harder time finding the actual sections that I want. They almost seem to be organized differently than the paper manuals.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    1% Well Read Challenge

    Michelle from 1 More Chapter is hosting the 1% Well-Read Challenge

    The goal of this challenge is to read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. For you non-math people, 10 out of 1001 is approximately 1%, hence the title. The challenge will run from May 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009. You may change your list at any time and cross-posting to other challenges is permitted. The only requirement is that your ten book choices must be on the 1001 List.
    Here is my list:
    1. The Blind Assassin: Margaret Atwood (completed 5.12.08)

    2. Like Water for Chocolate: Laura Esquivel

    3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime: Mark Haddon

    4. The Things They Carried: Tim O'Brien

    5. Veronika Decides to Die: Paulo Coelho

    6. The Awakening: Kate Chopin

    7. The Wasp Factory: Iain Banks

    8. Sula:Toni Morrison

    9. ?

    10. ?

    LibraryThings “most often marked unread” books meme

    What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, I'm going to italicize the ones I have sitting around waiting to be read.
    Somehow I'm one book short! Oh well, I found this at Tammy's Book Nook and decided to play.
    1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
    2. Anna Karenina
    3. Crime and Punishment
    4. Catch-22
    5. One Hundred Years of Solitude
    6. Wuthering Heights
    7. The Silmarillion
    8. Life of Pi : a novel
    9. The Name of the Rose
    10. Don Quixote
    11. Moby Dick
    12. Ulysses
    13. Madame Bovary
    14. The Odyssey
    15. Pride and Prejudice
    16. Jane Eyre
    17. The Tale of Two Cities
    18. The Brothers Karamazov
    19. Guns, Germs, and Steel
    20. War and Peace
    21. Vanity Fair
    22. The Time Traveler’s Wife
    23. The Iliad
    24. Emma
    25. The Blind Assassin
    26. The Kite Runner
    27. Mrs. Dalloway
    28. Great Expectations
    29. American Gods
    30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
    31. Atlas Shrugged
    32. Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
    33. Memoirs of a Geisha
    34. Middlesex
    35. Quicksilver
    36. Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
    37. The Canterbury Tales
    38. The Historian : a novel
    39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    40. Love in the Time of Cholera
    41. Brave New World
    42. The Fountainhead
    43. Foucault’s Pendulum
    44. Middlemarch
    45. Frankenstein
    46. The Count of Monte Cristo
    47. Dracula
    48. A Clockwork Orange
    49. Anansi Boys
    50. The Once and Future King
    51. The Grapes of Wrath
    52. The Poisonwood Bible
    53. 1984
    54. Angels & Demons
    55. Inferno
    56. The Satanic Verses
    57. Sense and Sensibility
    58. The Picture of Dorian Gray
    59. Mansfield Park
    60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    61. To the Lighthouse
    62. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
    63. Oliver Twist
    64. Gulliver’s Travels
    65. Les Misérables
    66. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
    67. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    68. Dune
    69. The Prince
    70. The Sound and the Fury
    71. Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
    72. The God of Small Things
    73. A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
    74. Cryptonomicon
    75. Neverwhere
    76. A Confederacy of Dunces
    77. A Short History of Nearly Everything
    78. Dubliners
    79. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    80. Beloved
    81. Slaughterhouse-five
    82. The Scarlet Letter
    83. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
    84. The Mists of Avalon
    85. Oryx and Crake
    86. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
    87. Cloud Atlas
    88. The Confusion
    89. Lolita
    90. Persuasion
    91. Northanger Abbey
    92. The Catcher in the Rye
    93. On the Road
    94. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    95. Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
    96. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
    97. The Aeneid
    98. Watership Down
    99. Gravity’s Rainbow
    100. The Hobbit
    101. In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
    102. White Teeth
    103. Treasure Island
    104. David Copperfield
    105. The Three Musketeers
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