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Showing posts from December, 2011

2011 In Review

It's hard to believe we're at the end of 2011. Back in January, I set some goals for my reading and book blogging:
Read all book club selections ~ I managed to accomplish this one!Commit to only two review books per month ~ I failed miserably at this one. Between NetGally, direct requests from authors and requests from publishers or publicists, I had 42 books that I agreed to review in 2011. That's an average of 3.5 books per month, not 2! That means 62% of the books I read were for review.Try new genres ~ I did this a little. I ended up reading a few YA books that I enjoyed. But I didn't branch out too far in 2011.Use the library more often ~ I still didn't borrow as many books as I would have liked in 2011, but I used the library a lot for the kids' books again. Complete two challenges ~ I did complete the two challenges I mentioned in my goals, but I signed up for others as well, and didn't manage to complete them all. Here's a recap of all the chal…

Book Review: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

In Russia in 1956, a secret speech delivered by Kuschev, which denounces the criminal acts of Stalin and his secret security officers, has been released to the public. Soon former officers are being killed and Leo Deminov finds himself fighting to save his family from a woman that will stop at nothing to get revenge for his past deeds. From the politics of Moscow to the Siberian gulags to uprisings on the streets of Budapest, Leo tries to overcome his past and redeem himself ~ particularly in the eyes of his adoptive daughter who still blames him for her parents' deaths.

In The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith, we revisit the characters of his first novel, Child 44. But you don't need to have read the first book to enjoy this one. There is plenty of action, lots of twists and turns, and tons of historical references to Russia. Smith definitely presents a harsh, cold image of the country. And he shows the diverse reactions to Kruschev's desire for change, from the guards at …

Book Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka is unlike just about anything I've ever read. It's written in a lyrical, collective voice that is quite unique. And I must say that while I appreciated it in terms of its literary quality, I got a bit tired of it as time went on. Here is an example from page 14:
On the boat we carried our husbands' pictures in tiny oval lockets that hung on long chains from our necks. We carried them in silk purses and old tea tins and red lacquer boxes and in the thick brown envelopes from America in which they had originally been sent. We carried them in the sleeves of our kimonos, which we touched often, just to make sure they were still there. The entire novel, with the exception of the last chapter, is written in this collective third-person voice. Rather than following an individual woman from Japan to American to meet her husband for the first time, we hear the collective story of all the women who went on this journey. We hear of their trip a…

Fall into Reading Challenge: Wrap-Up

This was my third year participating in the Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days. I can't believe how fast it went by! I didn't even manage to put up my recap post in time to be eligible for the prize. But I am very glad to have joined in again this year.

I had 15 books on my list to read throughout Fall. I managed to read 11 of the 15 books, which is pretty good but not great. I did read several other books instead of the ones on my list, though. I just decided I didn't want to read all the books on my list in the end. I read:
Before the Last All Clear by Ray Evans (review)The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen (review)Commune of Women by Suzan Still (review)What Alice Forgot by Leane Moriarty (review)Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (review)Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (for Banned Books Week) (review)Beyond the Darkness by Leonard D. Hilley II (review)The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (review)Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (rev…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning! I hope all of you who celebrate had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying Hanukkah still. I guess today is Boxing Day and Kwanzaa too. Isn't December fun? Of course, it's also been a bit stressful for me, but these last few days have been great. We all really enjoyed Christmas this year, and we all got some great gifts. The kids are very happy with all the things they got, and I'm very happy with my new mother's ring!!!!

As far as reading goes, I read The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. It was from NetGalley and I realized last week that it was about to expire! It was an interesting books. I still have to think about what I want to say in my review. Hopefully I'll have time to write it this week.

I did review Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett last week. What a great book! Click on the title to read my review.

I also shared a few of the Christmas and Hanukkah books my kids and I have been reading.

And I posted about the Book Blogger Holiday…

What My Children Are Reading

Merry Christmas Eve! I wanted to share a few more of the Christmas books we've been enjoying, as well as one Chanukah book we read last year and got out of the library once again this year.

First up is A Blue's Clues Chanukah by Jessica Lissy. This is a cute children's book featuring Blue and Joe and the other characters from Blue's Clues who celebrate Chanukah at Orange Kitten's house. It introduces kids to latkes, dreidels and other activities and traditions of the holiday. This book does not, however, tell the story of why Chanukah is celebrated or what it is. It's pretty simplistic but young kids who like Blue will enjoy it.

The next book I'll mention is Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve by Janet Morgan Stoeke. I love Minerva Louise books so was thrilled to see this one on the shelf at the library. In this story, Minerva, the silly chicken, gets quite confused by the Christmas decorations and the strange farmer falls through the well on top of the house …

Book Review: Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett

In Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge is first visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells him of the three ghosts who will be visiting him over the next few days. In the new novel Jacob T. Marley, R. William Bennett brings us deeper into the story of this man ~ who he was, how he came to be Scrooge's partner, and why he became involved in Scrooge's transformation that one Christmas Eve.

I absolutely loved this story! Bennett weaves such a wonderful background to accompany A Christmas Carol, and in my opinion, it fits perfectly with the original story. It tells of Marley's childhood and why he became so absorbed in business and making money to the detriment of his family and relationships. It tells of how Marley came to meet Scrooge and take him in as a partner, and how he molded Scrooge into the man we met in Dickens' story.

Bennett's story of Marley's life and his reasoning for visiting with Scrooge af…

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

I have been so busy, I haven't had a chance to share in my joy of receiving a great "bookie" gift last week! For the second year in a row, I participated in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. This year, my Secret Santa was Angela from The Book Bind.

She sent me a wonderful package that included Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, which was on my wish list. She also included two books she says she enjoyed and thought I might like too: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. They both sound very good.

I'm really looking forward to reading all three of these in 2012!! Thank you so much, Angela!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning. I hope you had a good week! I cannot believe that Christmas will be here in less than a week now. Yikes! I have no idea if I'll get a chance to write up my Monday post next week or the week after, but I will try to update my status at some point on here. In the meantime, here's what I've been up to this past week.

I finally finished The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith. I really enjoyed it but wish I could have read it over a shorter period of time. I'll try to write up my review at some point soon. I still have to review Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett as well. I didn't actually manage to write any reviews last week.

I did write about some of the Christmas books my kids and I have been reading.

And I put up a wonderful guest post that you have to read. It's Top Ten Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans by Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D., author of a book I'm going to read in 2012 called 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from…

What My Children Are Reading

This week, I'd like to mention some of the Christmas books we've been reading lately. We've actually read quite a few, partly because we enjoy them, and partly because I joined the Christmas Spirit reading challenge, and along with the one adult Christmas book I signed up to read, I also pledge to read lots of Christmas books with my kids! So here are a few of the books we've read so far. I mentioned How the Grinch Stole Christmas last week, so here are some of the others we've been reading. I'll share more over the next couple weeks.

First up is an I Spy sort of book called Can You See What I See? Night Before Christmas by Walter Wick. Now I'll admit we didn't go through all the pages of this book before we had to return it to the library, but the kids loved trying to find all the Christmas-related treasures in the busy pages. If your kids like I Spy books, I highly recommend this one for Christmastime. I actually am considering purchasing it since my…

Guest Post: Top 10 Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans

In 2012, I am hosting the Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Reading Challenge, and one of the books I'll be reading is 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans by Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D. I'm looking forward to reading the book. In the meantime, I wanted to share a guest post by the author. I love this advice!
Top 10 Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans
By Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D.,
adapted from 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans
In contemporary society, we don’t often ask our elders for advice. We’re much more likely to talk to professionals, read books by pop psychologists or motivational speakers, or troll the internet for solutions to our problems. In general (and for the first time in human history), we no longer look to our society’s oldest members as a key source of wisdom for how to live happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.

As a gerontologist, I have come to believe that this attitude is a serio…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Another week gone. Wow! Work has been a bit crazy for me, as I think I mentioned last week. But I managed to squeeze in a little reading in the evenings, and even got around to writing a review yesterday, despite the fact that I should have been working!

I finally got around to reviewing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. And I shared some of the books my kids have been reading.

I read Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett this past week. I had to finish it quickly since the galley was about to expire! I loved it. I'll write my review this week ~ I hope!

Currently Reading
I'm still reading The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith. It's a good book, but I just haven't had time to read it, especially with having to fit in Jacob T. Marley last week. I will finish it this week!

Up Next
I'm not sure what I'll pick up next. One of the books I'm considering is Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, so that may be the one I choose. We'll see how I feel when I finish The Secret Sp…

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death is pretty busy in Germany during World War II. But one child he encounters, as he takes her little brother's soul away, has a bigger effect on him than all the others. In The Book Thief, Markus Zusak tells the story of this girl, Liesel Meminger, from the perspective of Death himself. From her brother's death, to her childhood living with a foster family in Germany during the war, Death narrates the story of this girl who just cannot resist her desire for books.

Liesel becomes very close to her foster father, Papa, a painter who plays the accordion and is one of the few in the neighborhood who is not part of the Nazi party. Despite his own meager skills, he teaches her to read, thus fueling her need for more books. Her foster mother is much more gruff but it's clear that she cares for Liesel, despite her frequent swearing at the girl. Then there is Liesel's best friend, who becomes her partner in crime, and the Jew who hides in their basement for some time. I j…

What My Children Are Reading

Picture Book Month is over, so I'm finally back to share what other books the kids have been reading. We had a great time reading all the picture books, but both kids have been busy reading other things. I've continued to pick up lots of early readers at the library for M. I realized recently that she's reading at about the same level C was reading at when he was in kindergarten, which is pretty amazing.

Aside from the early readers, I picked up a couple very popular books that I've never gotten around to reading to M: Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems. We absolutely love his Elephant and Piggie books so we were excited to read a couple other books written by him. The first book is about a little toddler who loses her stuffed bunny at the laundromat and has a major tantrum on her dad since she can't tell him what the problem is. In the second book, she's older and her bunny gets switched with that of another little girl, causing some big issue…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm starting to think I need to do all my blogging during the week because lately I never seem to get online on the weekends. This weekend was crazy! We just had so many things going on, I hardly knew which way I was going at any given time. The whole family is dragging this morning.

I had lots of fun at my book club's annual holiday dinner last night. During dinner we did our book swap and I got a copy of The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. I'm looking forward to reading it in the new year.

I did get some blogging done last week. I put up my last two Picture Book Month posts, talking about the books we read during Week Four and Week Five. It was so much fun to read a picture book for every day! And we managed to hit every theme using just the books on our bookshelves.

I read and reviewed 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla. I also got pretty far in The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith, but haven't finished it yet.

I posted my November Month in …

Picture Book Month: Week Five

Well, this is the end of Picture Book Month. It actually ended on Wednesday. I hope you've enjoyed my weekly recaps of the picture books we read throughout the month of November. As I've said before, the Picture Book Month website featured a calendar that offered themes for each day of the month. So each day, we read a picture book from our shelves that went along with the theme.

Amazingly enough, we managed to get through all 30 days with just reading books from our shelves. Sometimes the books didn't relate exactly to the theme, but they all had some aspect that made sense. So here are the last four...

November 27: Princesses
M was all for this theme, and we had tons of books to choose from. She chose Princess Tiana and the Royal Ball. This is the story of Tiana being invited to her first ball. It takes place after the movie, so she is already a princess and owns her restaurant. Her best friend, Charlotte, tries to get Tiana to follow all of the rules in The Princess Han…

Narnia Reading Project 2012

It's December so I think I'll finally start signing up for 2012 reading challenges. First up is the Narnia Reading Project 2012 hosted by Rikki's Teleidoscope. C is currently reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I was planning on buying the rest of the set for him to read. I figure I should probably read them myself so I am more aware of what he's reading (hopefully the content is okay for a 7 year old!).

I am going to join in this reading project and read through all seven books of the series in 2012. I haven't decided completely, but I think I'm going to end up reading the series in publication order, because I'd really like to start with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Here's the publication order:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The Silver Chair The Horse and His Boy The Magician’s Nephew The Last Battle The other option is to read them in chronological order:

Month in Review: November

Well, that was a quick month! I cannot believe it's December! I hope this month goes a bit slower so we can enjoy all the holiday celebrations.

I didn't get much reading done in November. I hope to do a bit more in December. November was the first month that I stopped doing official reviews, and started reading some of the books on my TBR pile. So it was fulfilling to get to read books I've been wanting to read for a long time, but a bit disappointing that I didn't read as much as I had hope to.

Books Read in November: 5
I read five books in November. Three were fiction novels:
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

And two were nonfiction:
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla

Reviews Written: 5
This month, I wrote five reviews. The first is for a book I read in October: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. The others are for fo…