Thursday, October 8, 2015

Amazing Grace

Although this post is not about a book or movie, I still wanted to share it with you all. Last month, I went to New York City and while I was there, I saw a couple of Broadway shows. I really enjoyed all of the shows I saw, but I especially liked Amazing Grace. The music was powerful, the set was amazing, and the story was beautiful.

The musical is based on the life of John Newton, the man who wrote the song Amazing Grace. John Newton was an atheist slave trader who found God and eventually fought against slavery.

I'm having a hard time putting into words how I felt about this musical. Basically I just want to say, that if you make it to NYC anytime before October 25 (the show's final performance is on that day), you should go and see this show. You won't regret it. It is a sad and beautiful and amazing story of redemption and love!

And if you need another reason to see the show, Josh Young, the man that played John Newton, has a beautiful and powerful voice. :) 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A few nonfiction books

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert M. Edsel – I enjoyed this book, and now I’d like to see the movie. This is the story of the MFAA, a special force of American and British soldiers in World War II who searched for, and saved much of, the world’s greatest art from the looting and destruction of the Nazi’s. I found this to be complex and occasionally a little difficult to follow, but overall, enjoyable and informative. This is the sort of book that makes you realize how much there is out there that you didn’t know you didn’t know, if that makes any sense. It’s really cool to learn about this amazing story and these amazing people.

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Book Lover’s Adventures, by Josh Hanagarne – This is the story of a Salt Lake City librarian, lover of stories and books who is struggling with his Mormon faith and his Tourette Syndrome. This is the sort of book that I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it while I was reading it (or listening to it in this case), but by the end I was glad I read it. I’m always interested in people who love books and reading, and it’s interesting to read a mainstream book that deals with my religion. In the audio version, it was annoying when the reader kept mispronouncing “Nephites.” What I liked about this book is how Hanagarne describes what it’s like to have Tourette Syndrome, how the tics come on and the effect on his body and mind. I’ve never known anyone with this syndrome, so I had no understanding of it. I also liked how much support he received from his family, friends, and church leaders. I did wish it talked more about books, though.

American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work, by Susan Cheever – This book follows the lives five Transcendentalist writers in Concord, Massachusetts from about the 1840s to the 1880s. This book makes me want to read or reread the works of these writers as well as read biographies of their lives. The author meant this as an introduction to the lives of these authors, which she was inspired to write after researching Louisa May Alcott. This book was confusing at times, because of the nature of these intertwined lives made some repetition necessary. This sometimes made it so I needed to backtrack a little and get my bearings. I didn’t care for some of the author’s opinions and speculation, but I consider the book a success because it makes me want to learn more.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A few books for kids and young adults

Airman, by Eoin Colfer – Conor Broekhart was born in a hot air balloon and feels he was always meant to fly. After witnessing the murder of his tutor and the king, Conor is sent to prison. Can all the he learned about flying help him escape prison, save his parents and find the princess? A fun adventure from the author of the Artemis Fowl series.

Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos – In the first of the Norvelt series of semi-autobiographical novels, young Jack is grounded at the beginning of summer vacation. Even so, Jack manages to have adventures and get himself into a lot of trouble when his mom loans him out to an elderly neighbor to type obituaries that she writes as the original residents of this community, founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, begin to die out. Or are they murdered? This book was quite funny and a lot of fun. It won the 2012 Newbery Medal.

How to Be a Pirate, by Cressida Cowell – In this second book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, Hiccup, and the other boys in the Hairy Hooligan tribe have begun their pirate training course. After nearly dying during their first lesson, Hiccup and Fishlegs are saved by the floating coffin of Grimbeard the Ghastly. When the tribe opens the coffin, they find Alvin the Poor-But-Honest-Farmer inside. He sets the tribe off on a quest to find Grimbeard’s lost treasure. Can Hiccup and Toothless find the treasure and ensure Hiccup’s place as heir? Or will they end up in a watery grave or as lunch for dragons and Outcasts? I listened to the fabulous audio version read by David Tenant. Children and adults will enjoy this fun series.

Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman – I listened to the audio version of this book, read by Neil Gaiman, but I think I’d like to get the hard copy and look at the illustrations, especially if they are as much fun as the text. The narrator and his sister are ready to eat their breakfast cereal, but there is no milk, so their father goes to the corner store to buy some. He is gone for a long time, and when he returns he tells a tale of planet-redecorating aliens, time-travel, pirates, a stegosaurus professor, and how the milk saved the world.

Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith – I decided this book might be interesting when I read that it was in the new genre of cli fi, that is, climate fiction. It also was a 2015 Michael L. Printz honor book. This is the story of how the end of the world began in Ealing, Iowa when Austin, the narrator, and his friend Robby accidently facilitate the release of a plague of giant praying mantis-like insects. I haven’t finished reading this book. I hate giving up on books, but I think this one isn’t for me. I do not want to be in the head of a 16-year-old boy. I do not want to listen to him talk about, in minute detail, things I don’t care about or find extremely distasteful. We don’t even get any giant insects until halfway through the book! Maybe I should just skip to the end and see if they defeat the giant bugs or if it really is the end of the world.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Harry Potter

I was 13 when the first Harry Potter book came out. Although I heard people talking about it, I never got into it. Even after the second and third and fourth etc came out, they just never really interested me.

It has now been 18 years since the first Harry Potter book came out and I am just now reading them for the first time. Many people, throughout the years, have told me that I should read Harry Potter, but it was my 10 year old niece (who is currently reading the books too, but she's farther along) that was the one that finally convinced me that I should read them.

I have now finished the first four books and have started the fifth book and I love them! J.K. Rowling is an excellent writer. Every time I pick up one of the books to read, I feel as if I am transported to the world of Hogwarts and Privet Drive and that I am experiencing what Harry is going through with him.

I think out of the four books I've finished so far, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite, although Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a close second. Basically what I'm trying to say is that if you've never read Harry Potter, you should. They're well written and you will experience the magical world of Hogwarts with Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Summer Reading

Summer is the best!  It's been great having so much extra time to read.  Here's what I've been reading the past few months:

1) Enchanted, Inc. series, by Shanna Swendsen
This was my "guilty pleasure" series for the summer, because it was lighthearted, fun, and didn't require me to think too much.  The series follows the adventures of Katie Chandler, a girl from small-town Texas who moves to New York to pursue her dreams.  Katie believes herself to be so normal that she is hardly above notice, but when she start seeing some abnormal things, such as people with fairy wings, she learns that she has a special gift for seeing the magic around her.  Recruited by a company called MSI (Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc.), she finds herself swept up in the magical world, and swept away by a dashing wizard.  I recommend this to those who enjoy a good, lighthearted romance book with a bit of magic.

2) Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, so I knew I had to read this new book by Harper Lee.  I bought it right away, but I confess that I put off reading it till the end of the summer, because I had heard mixed reviews about the content.  I finally got around to reading it last week, and I'm glad I did.  It provides an insightful perspective on the difficulties of Southern transformation during the civil rights era.  I also appreciated the depth and complexity of Scout's feelings as she came to see her hometown and her father in a new, less-idyllic light.  This book not only provides a powerful glimpse into history, but also an important lesson about family and the experiences that shape our lives.

3) The Rent Collector, by Camron Wright
This is one of those powerful books that caused me to really pause and think about all the privileges and blessings I enjoy.  The book is set in the Stung Meanchy dump in Cambodia, where Sang Ly and her husband spend their days foraging in the dump for recyclables to sell so that they can buy food for their family.  One day, Sang Ly finds a book in the dump, which she brings home for her son. When the surly, drunken rent collector comes to harass her about the rent, Sang Ly is surprised to see the woman shaken by the sight of the book.  The moment becomes a turning point in which Sang Ly finds new hope for the future, and the rent collector finds a renewed purpose.  Based on the true story related in the documentary, River of Victory, The Rent Collector is a sad, yet beautiful story of hope, determination, and the power of reading.

4) Emma, by Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I was thrilled when I learned that he was doing a rewrite of one of my all-time favorite Austin books.  I enjoyed this modern-day retelling of the classic Emma story.  McCall-Smith stayed true to the heart of the original story while adding some new twists and his usual wit and charm.

5) Princess of the Midnight Ball (Twelve Dancing Princesses, Book 1), by Jessica Day George
Growing up, one of my favorite fairy tales was that of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  Princess of the Midnight Ball is a wonderful retelling of the classic tale.  I recommend it to anyone who loves a good fairy tale!

6) The Truth about Twinkie Pie, by Kat Yeh
Gigi has been raised by her older sister, DiDi.  Their lives are dramatically changed when DiDi wins a national cooking contest, enabling them to move from a trailer park in South Carolina to New York.  As Gigi struggles to fit into her new private school and life in New York, she uncovers family secrets which shake her understanding of who she really is.  A thoughtful middle-grade novel.

7) The Secret Hum of a Daisy, by Tracy Holczer
Grace and her mother have always been on their own, constantly moving from place to place.  But when her mother dies, Grace is forced to live with the grandmother from whom her mother had run away.  Grace believes that her mother has left her clues to guide her to where she belongs.  This is a sweet, thoughtful story about grieving, family, and finding a true home.

8) Dexter The Tough, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This middle-grade novel is about a boy who is struggling to adjust to a new school.  His first day doesn't go well, leading him to punch a boy who is already crying in the bathroom.  When his teacher asks him to write a story, Dexter writes that he is "tuff" and that he hit a boy in the bathroom.  As his teacher helps him to revise his story, Dexter is forced to think about his own feelings as well as those of the boy he hit.  He and the boy, Alan, gradually become friends, and Dexter learns a lot about himself in the process.

9) No Talking, by Andrew Clements
I really enjoyed this middle-grade novel.  Dave Packer and his fellow fifth-grade classmates are so loud and talkative that their teachers and administrators have nicknamed them, "the unshushables." One day, however, the principal arrives at cafeteria duty to find that the students are eating in almost perfect silence.  Inspired by his research on Mahatma Gandhi, Dave had instigated a "no talking" contest between the boys and girls.  This is a terrific book about the power of words.  I can't wait to share it with my own "unshushable" students this year as one of our Battle of the Book selections

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Speaking from Among the Bones

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley is the fifth book in the Flavia de Luce series. If you haven’t met Flavia yet, you are missing out. I love these books so much that I ration them, so that I always know there are one or two left for me to read (seven have been published, so far).

Flavia is an eleven-year-old amateur chemist (using her great uncle’s abandoned lab) and sleuth living in the village of Bishop’s Lacey in 1950s England. Recently, a number of dead bodies have turned up in the village, and of course Flavia must help the police solve the murders. All this is against the back drop of her life with her tormenting sisters, her father’s financial problems, and the family cook, Mrs. Mullet’s dreadful food. I particularly liked the scene with Flavia and her father in the kitchen.

In this latest installment, it’s been 500 years since the death of St. Tancred. In honor of the occasion, his tomb in the church will be opened. Not wanting to miss anything, Flavia is there to see the action. But someone has beat them to it, and when Flavia looks into the tomb, she finds a dead body. With her trusty bicycle, Gladys, Flavia sets out to solve the mystery and meets some interesting characters along the way.

Chapter 17, begins with an excellent description of writing.
“Back home at Buckshaw, I hunched over my notebook in the laboratory. I had found by experience that putting things down on paper helped to clear the mind in precisely the same way, as Mrs. Mullet had taught me, that an eggshell clarifies the consomm√© or the coffee, which, of course, is a simple matter of chemistry. The albumin contained in the eggshell has the property of collecting and binding the rubbish that floats in the dark liquid, which can be removed and discarded in a single reeking clot: a perfect description of the writing process.”

I’m seriously considering not waiting months and months before reading the next book, but I will try to resist the temptation. The very last line of the book made me really want to know what happens next.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Annette Lyon Collection, Anthology by Annette Lyon

If you enjoy genuine, touching stories of love, renewal, and hope you will enjoy the Annette Lyon Collection which is the newest release from A Timeless Romance Anthology. This collection of romance novellas will take you around the world and into the world of some touching but seemingly common love stories.

From Yellowstone to Finland, from Las Vegas to New York, from home to back home, Lyon introduces us to genuine people who long to find love and hope in different circumstances. I was impressed with how varied and believable Lyon makes her story settings as well as her characters. Each novella had unique twists and delights.

While I enjoyed all the novels, my favorite was Between the Lines. I loved how Lyon used great literature to build her plot. Lyon’s use of one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Portuguese sonnets, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” is an apt description for Lyon’s newest collection of novellas. Available in ebook format only.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Navigator Trilogy

In The Navigator (the first book of a trilogy), by Eoin Mcnamee, we meet Owen. Owen’s father died when he was a baby, possibly a suicide, and his mother is profoundly depressed and often seems not to know who Owen is. Owen must look after her while dealing with the stares and isolation he feels at school. One day, while at his “den” in the woods, the world goes suddenly dark. Owen learns that time is now flowing backward. He finds out that he is the Navigator, and that he must help his new friend Cati and the Resistors, a group who only wake when they must prevent their ancient enemies, the Harsh, from destroying the world.

I enjoyed this book. It is written for middle school kids. I enjoy stories in which ordinary people must do heroic things. It’s probably not scientifically accurate, but I’m OK with that.

The second book in the trilogy is City of Time. Owen, Cati and Dr. Diamond must travel to Hadima, the City of Time, where in the past time was bought, sold and traded, to get some time and save the world. The Harsh have returned and are stealing time, which is literally running out. The world is ending and the moon is on track to collide with the earth, causing natural disasters on the way. I think I enjoyed this book more than the first. I liked Hadima and all the new characters introduced there.

In the final book, The Frost Child, the Harsh are seeking revenge for past defeats and the death of their king. They’ve sent a fleet of ships across the seas of time to destroy Owen and his friends. Owen travels through time and meets his father and grandfather who help him understand that the mysterious Frost Child is the key to defeating the Harsh.

If you have elementary and middle school children, they will enjoy this series. It’s a fun adventure, full of heroism and worth the read.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard many years ago. I remember thinking it was difficult and that I wanted to write like her. I decided to listen to the audio version, and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than when I read it the first time. It is one of three books I’ve given away as gifts.

This book is long-form, narrative nonfiction, not a collection of essays (as people often think). It’s about a year Dillard spent exploring Tinker Creek and environs, near her home in Virginia, and thinking big thoughts. Dillard is observant, and has taught herself to be still and wait. When you do that, there is no end to the wonders nature will show you. I'd like to be better at that myself. Some of the more gruesome moments I remembered from the first time I read it, such as when a giant water bug sucked the life from a frog. There were also many beautiful moments.

I’m not sure how to sum up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It makes me want to write better, and it makes me want to explore nature more deeply, and it makes me want to read more widely. It won the Pulitzer Prize when it was originally published in the 1970s.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See

(I wrote this post back in May and am just now getting it posted on here.)

Apparently I am on a, IShouldReadSadWorldWarIIbooks, kick. I read The Book Thief a couple of months ago and I just recently finished All the Light We Cannot See.  

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish this book (and felt it the next day at work). I had to see what happened. How was it all going to end?

All the Light We Cannot See is a book based during World War II. Marie-Laure is a French girl who lives with her father in Paris. Her father works at a nearby museum where he is the master of all the keys in the building. Marie-Laure goes blind at a young age and her father builds her a small model of the city so that she can learn her way around and get about by herself. Marie-Laure and her father eventually have to evacuate Paris as the Nazis come and occupy the city. They escape to Saint Malo, a small coastal town in France, where Marie-Laure's crazy great-uncle lives.

Werner is a German boy, who lives with his sister and other orphans in an orphanage in a small German mining town. He and his sister find a broken radio one day and bring it home. Werner studies the radio for awhile and then fixes it quite easily. People in town start to come to him to get their radios fixed. When he comes of age, he is recruited by the Hitler Youth because of his age but partly because of him being mechanically minded.

Of course, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner interconnect at some point. This book is not what I expected it to be, but I really liked it!

The stories in this book tell tales of courage and guilt and love and selfishness and obsession and goodness and doubt etc etc. I thought the book was well written. I really got sucked into the book and grew to like the characters or not like the characters depending on who they were. I must say, though, that the author switches back and forth between time periods and stories and at the beginning I had a hard time keeping track, but it eventually became easier as I grew to know the stories and characters.

Having read The Book Thief in the past couple of months and now this book, I think it's time for a more lighthearted and not so realistic book. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets here I come...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A few more books

The Iron Empire by James Dashner. The 7th book in the children’s Infinity Ring series in which we find out if Dak, Sera, and Riq save the world from the Cataclysm. These are fun books that might teach your kids a little about history, friendship, and working together.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This is the classic tale of the adventures of Rat, Mole and their friends along the river and in the woods. I was hoping to enjoy this a little more than I did.

Fat Cat by Robin Brande. This is a YA book that I read because it was about a fat teenager, although she doesn’t remain fat for long. Cat is a smart student whose goal is to win the science fair and beat her former friend and rival Matt. She decides to transform herself by living like our prehistoric ancestors. I got a little annoyed at Cat, and her transformation seemed a bit too easy. I was pleased with the outcome of the science fair.

Whittington by Alan Armstrong is a Newbery honor book. It is about a fighting tomcat who asks for a place to live in a barn. He tells both the animals and children of the family who own the barn the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat. Along the way, the telling of this tale helps one of the children who is struggling with reading problems.

The Web: Gulliverzone by Stephen Baxter. This is a kid’s book that I found on my shelf. It takes place on World Peace Day in 2027. In honor of the holiday, there is free access to virtual theme parks on the Web. Sarah and George go to the most popular park based on Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and find themselves in Lilliput where danger lurks.

Hate that Cat: A Novel by Sharon Creech. I love Sharon Creech’s books, and this is a sequel to Love that Dog. The story is told entirely through Jack’s poems. Jack is learning about poetry and dealing with life by reading and writing in Miss Stretchberry’s class. Not as good as the previous book, but still worth reading.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I haven’t decided if I enjoyed this book or not, but it was worth reading. It made me sad. It’s the story of autistic Christopher who finds a dog that’s been murdered. He likes dogs, so he decides to investigate. Along the way, he learns a lot about his family even when he has trouble making sense of it. This book gives good insight into a mind that doesn’t work like yours or mine. I sort of wonder if a boy like Christopher could really write a book like this. In order to explain things to someone, you have to understand that they think differently than you and have different feelings, and he really can’t comprehend what goes on in other people’s heads.

The World’s Wife: Poems by Carol Ann Duffy. This is a collection of poems in which many important events from history or mythology are told from the women’s perspectives. It was bawdy (to say the least), bitter and angry. It’s a clever idea, but I could not get past all that anger. I did like one line from the poem Eurydice, “But already the light had saddened from purple to grey.”

Eighty Days

I listened to the audio version of Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman. It is the true story of two women journalists’ attempts to beat the fictional Phileas Fogg’s record of traveling around the world in 80 days. I won’t spoil the outcome for you.

Nellie Bly was a reporter who made a name for herself with daring, sometimes dangerous, undercover reporting, including getting herself admitted to an insane asylum. Elizabeth Bisland was a genteel southern belle who was a columnist for The Cosmopolitan magazine (I think the magazine was a little different than it is now). While these women were very different, they were both trying to be successful in the male-dominated world of journalism.

Bly had asked her bosses at the World newspaper a year earlier to let her make a solo trip around the world. Of course, if it was going to happen, a man should do it. In the face of dropping circulation, the World needed some good publicity, and what better publicity than a woman traveling around the world, by herself and creating a new world record while she was at it. So Bly set off on November 14, 1889 by ship to Europe. The editor at The Cosmopolitan thought this would be great publicity as well, and about 8 hours after Bly, he sent off his reporter in the opposite direction by train.

What follows is an exciting account of two women’s journeys around the world interspersed with information on their backgrounds, what it was like to be a woman in journalism, and several asides that put their journeys into context. We learn about both publications, about Jules Verne, who consented to meet with Bly when she got to France, and Joseph Pulitzer, among others.

The race was interesting, but what I liked about the book was the contrast in personalities of the two ladies. Bisland hadn’t wanted to go, but once she was on the journey, she made the most of it. While Bly was all about getting the job done. After the race we read about both the immediate aftermath of the race and how fame changed the lives of these women, especially the winner. The epilogue tells what happens to both women for the rest of their lives and makes the reader wonder if the winner of the race really did win after all, at least as pertained to life outcomes.

Later in life, Nellie Bly helped many people. She was often criticized by those who thought she might be helping unworthy people. I liked what she said in response, “Relieve immediately. Investigate afterwards.”

Both women are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY which has so many famous people buried there, that the graves of these ladies are not included on the website. Maybe I’ll have to go visit.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in journalism, history, travel or women’s issues. It’s well worth the read.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Defense of a Liberal Education

Whenever I’ve been questioned or criticized for studying English in college and not learning a skill or a trade, I always say that I went to college to get an education not a job. I got to read good books, and I learned to communicate. With general education requirements, I also got to study foreign languages, geology, biology, and humanities. And, I got a job anyway. So I was interested when I heard about Fareed Zakaria’s short book In Defense of a Liberal Education.

Among the arguments Zakaria uses to make his case for a liberal education is that it teaches you how to write; it teaches you how to speak, and it teaches you how to learn. If you know how to learn, then the whole world of knowledge is open to you.

Near the end of the book he writes:
“One of the enduring benefits of a liberal education is that it broadens us. When we absorb great literature, we come face to face with ideas, experiences, and emotions that we might never otherwise encounter in our lifetime. When we read history, we encounter people from a different age and learn from their triumphs and travails. When we study physics and biology, we comprehend the mysteries of the universe and human life. And when we listen to great music, we are moved in ways that reason cannot comprehend. This may not help make a living, but it will help make a life. We all play many roles, professional and personal, in one lifetime. A liberal education gives us greater capacity to be good workers but it will also give us the capacity to be good partners, friends, parents, and citizens.”

Next time someone asks you why you studied humanities or art history or archaeology instead engineering or nursing, or anything else, you can give her this book and help her gain a little better understanding of your education.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Book Thief

A couple of months ago, I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for the second time. I really like to read, but I rarely read a book more than once. If I do, I must have really liked the book.

I first read The Book Thief a couple of years ago and I loved it. The book was well written (although maybe a little hard to get into at the very beginning) but I soon became attached to the characters. The book made me cry. It made me laugh. It made me feel scared for the characters. I thought about the message of the book for a long time after finishing it. 

The movie, based on the book, came out in 2013. I saw it and I thought they did a good job with it. I realized, though, as I watched the movie, I couldn't remember the details of the book and that I wanted to read it again. I didn't pick it up again until a couple of months ago and, as I started reading it, I remembered why I liked it so much. The author does a good job with character development and keeping you interested in the story.

The narrator of the book is Death and I know some people might find that weird, but I feel like it works in this case. As odd as this may sound, Death becomes fascinated by a little girl named Leisl, who lives in Nazi Germany during World War II.

Leisl is surrounded by death and suffering at a young age, but continues strong and courageous in the face of it. Leisl and the people she is surrounded by, show Death that humans are worth it, that even with all these humans killing other humans, that humans can be beautiful and brilliant creatures and that words are powerful whether to persuade for good or for bad.

I won't go into great details about it all, but I really just wanted to say that I love the book The Book Thief. It is sad. It is funny. It is thought provoking.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Good, the bad, and the embarrassing (not necessarily in that order)

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

I listened to the audio version of this because it is read by David Tennant, who does a fabulous job. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It was well written and a lot of fun. Hiccup, and the other boys in his tribe, much each catch and train a dragon to prove their manhood and become full members of the tribe. This proves a difficult task for Hiccup, who is the son of the chief. He has a chance to prove himself when, after getting himself and all the other boys banished, two gigantic dragons appear on the beach and he, his dragon toothless, need to save the tribe. Well worth the read.

The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses by Robert Louis Stevenson

I thoroughly enjoyed Treasure Island, so I thought I’d read something else by Stevenson (or in this case, listen). I enjoyed The Black Arrow, but I didn’t love it, and it was not nearly as engaging as Treasure Island. This book takes place in 15th century England during the War of the Roses. Richard Shelton’s father was murdered when he was a child and rumors are spread that his guardian was responsible. Dick discovers that his guardian isn’t the kind of man he thought he was and bands together with a group of outlaws, the Black Arrow, to avenge his father’s death and save the woman he loves.

Death by Drowning by Abigail Keam

I really did not enjoy this book, and I’m a little annoyed with myself for reading the whole thing. I wanted to know who caused the death by drowning. This is the second book in the Josiah Reynolds mystery series, of which there appear to be several. Josiah is a bee-keeping amateur sleuth. In this first book, apparently, she gets on the wrong side of a corrupt cop who pushes her off a cliff. She manages to survive, and this book details her recovery with the help of the hot (as she tells the reader over and over again) Choctaw physical therapist and body guard, Jake. I dislike commenting on things being poorly written, because have I written a novel? No. And I know it’s a difficult task. In the case of this book, the dialogue especially did not ring true. Or perhaps it rang too true. In real life we spend a lot of time engaged in conversations that don’t really say much. In the case of a novel, the dialogue should either develop character or forward the plot all while giving the impression of being natural. That is difficult. There were too many conversations in this book like the one in which they were discussing movies for too long to no apparent purpose. The other problem I had was that the resolution to the mystery seemed like a side note to the rest of the plot. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more had I read the first book and gotten to know the characters better.

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Change Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee

I listened to the audio version of this book. I enjoyed the movie, so I figured I’d enjoy the book as well. I did like the book a lot. One of the enjoyable things was seeing how it differed from the movie. One of the first surprises is that the zoo is in England. The book details the long road to acquiring the zoo, unlike the movie in which it was more of a “we’re sad, oh look, a zoo is for sale; let’s buy it,” kind of a situation. Mee and his extended family buy the zoo and he becomes the director. The zoo has been deteriorating for decades and it takes a lot of work and money to repair it, care for the animals, and build relationships with both new and old staff. Meanwhile, Mee’s wife Katherine has a brain tumor which eventually takes her life. The zoo plays a part in helping the family heal from her loss. What I most enjoyed about this book were all the details about what it takes to run a zoo and turn it into a facility that cares for animals, educates the public, and has the potential to become a facility for conservation of wildlife. If you like animals or stories about families, this is a book you might enjoy. Don’t expect it to be much like the movie, though.

Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams by David Bach

I was a little embarrassed to be reading this book, but it was a best seller and seems to have helped a lot of people. It was easy to read, very accessible and had good information and suggestions for action. I already knew a fair amount of the information, but it was good to have a review and learn a few new things. It did spur to increase the amount of money I contribute to my 403(b) plan, so I had a positive experience. The premise of this book is that women need to take control of their financial lives. Bach has known too many women whose husbands handled the money, and when he died or they got divorced the women were financially devastated because they didn’t know what they had or all the legal rules surrounding it. He also says that you can get rich no matter what your income if you follow these steps. I found out I’m doing a lot right and a lot wrong. Bach began as a financial advisor, but now spends much of his time writing and giving seminars to help people get control of their finances.

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

I decided to listen to Main Street, because I’d never read anything by Sinclair Lewis and I feel like I have a huge gap in my knowledge of early 20th century literature. The story follows Carol Kennicott (nee Milford) from her college days in the city to her life after she marries Doc Kennicott and moves to Gopher Prairie. Carol has big ideas about what she’d like to do with her life and finds life in conservative, small town Gopher Prairie not only stifling but soul crushing. She sets about trying to make reforms, such as hosting a party where they do things other than tell the same tired stories and in which she tried to add small flourishes such as making her own mandarin costume; she created an amateur dramatics club; she improved the town’s public restroom. In these and many other things, she failed and was ridiculed by the townspeople and her husband. She eventually leaves her husband and moves to Washington, DC to work and explore her options. When she finally returns, it is with more confidence in who she is. She might not be able to broaden the horizons of the people she’s around but she can continue to ask questions, and she can be true to herself. I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t like this book. It was very slow to start and was never really a page turner. Additionally, I spent the better part of the book upset at the narrow-minded, mean-spirited people. In the end, I enjoyed it very much. I think Carol’s struggles can still resonate with readers today; I know they resonated with me.

Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers

I decided to listen to Mary Poppins because I enjoyed the movie and thought it might be fun. I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the magical adventures of Mary Poppins with Jane and Michael, including what happens at the zoo when it closes, a floating tea party, and a trip around the world. I was kind of surprised at how mean Mary Poppins could be; sometimes she seemed to go beyond stern. It was worth the time, made me think, and I look forward to enjoying future adventures with Mary Poppins.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

It occurred to me that the only thing I knew about The War of the Worlds was the famous radio show panic. I spent part of my teenage years near Grover’s Mill, NJ where they set up a giant Martian display every Halloween to commemorate the invasion. I thought I should read the real story. The story is a narration of the experiences by one survivor of the Martian invasion outside London. At first, people are curious when there are flashes of light from Mars seen through a telescope and when cylinders crash to the earth. When Martians start emerging and killing people with their heat rays, mass panic ensues. I liked the details in this book, what Martians looked like (including their anatomy-they are mostly head and brain), what they eat (blood), and descriptions of people’s reactions to the invasion. Some people were paralyzed with fear, others went insane, others panicked and tried to escape, other’s made ineffectual plans for how they would live in a world ruled by Martians. I thought it was especially fun to read this from a 21st century perspective where we know a lot more about Mars than Wells did. The Martians brought with them a fast growing red weed, presumably a lot of this grew on Mars giving the planet its red color. The only problem I had with it was that what eventually killed the Martians was a little anticlimactic. Having been raised on a steady diet of books and movies in which human ingenuity and courage defeat all invaders, the Martians demise was more of a fizzle than a bang. But, I guess, death by natural causes probably made more sense. A good book and worth the read.

The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by Daniel Pinkwater

The Neddiad is a fun children’s book filled with Hollywood adventure, magic, friendship, a phantom bellboy, a shaman and an ordinary boy who saves the world. This was a sweet, fun story that elementary school kids will enjoy.

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes

This is the follow-up to Good Calories, Bad Calories, in which Taubes reviewed decades of scientific research about nutrition. Why We Get Fat is a much easier read. If you’d like the information from the first book without slogging through all the detail, then this is the book you should read. Additionally, new scientific evidence not available for the first book is incorporated. He discusses why “calories in vs calories out” is not only incorrect but has prevented us from doing what is really necessary to lose weight and be healthy. He also addresses what it is that makes us fat, why some people get fat and others don’t, and what we need to do to be lean and healthy. This is good reading for fat and lean people alike. Even if you’re not fat, maybe this can help give you a little sympathy for those who are. Being fat is not a character flaw.

I guess I should post more often, so the posts aren’t so long!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An eclectic mix of books

I've read or listened to a variety of books recently. Many of them pretty good.

Because I Said So by Ken Jennings
In this book, by the former Jeopardy champion, we learn whether any of the advice and warnings our parents told us as kids is actually true. These include, whether walking around barefoot will give you worms (not in this country), whether walking around sucking on a lollipop is dangerous (probably not), dangers of adulterated Halloween candy (no actual documented cases), and many, many others. This was a fun book, read by Jennings. I enjoyed it, and probably learned a few things.

Inhuman by Kat Falls
This is a young adult dystopian novel. I hadn't read any for a while, and I like other books by Kat Falls, so I thought I’d give it a try. A biological disaster involving combinations of animal DNA causes many people either to die or become part animal or Feral. A giant wall is built around the one part of the country where the people are still safe. Lane finds out she has possibly been exposed to the virus because a family member has traveled to the Feral Zone. To save him, and herself, she’ll have to go there and complete a mission for a desperate government official.

This was a clever book, and well done. Violent and gross and sad, sometimes. The biggest problem I had with it was that the person who caused the biological disaster is still the most powerful person in the country. It seems like somebody would have thrown her in jail. I enjoy this sort of book because ordinary people have to find out if they can be heroic.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
This book was great. One night, in Queen Victoria’s London, a tosher (someone who wanders the sewers looking for valuables that have been washed down the drain) named Dodger saves a girl who is being beaten as she tries to escape a carriage. While trying to help this girl, and avoid an international incident, Dodger meets a lot of famous characters, both real and imaginary, including Charlie Dickens, Henry Mayhew, Benjamin Disraeli, and Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. Pratchett called this book historical fantasy, because he took some liberties with the lives of some of his historical figures to fit the plot. The book is dedicated to Mayhew who spent time interviewing the poor people of London in an effort to bring attention to their plight and show their humanity. It was well written, and enjoyable, if occasionally a little far-fetched. This was a Printz Honor Book, and I would highly recommend it.

The House at World’s End by Monica Dickens
This is a sweet book about a family and their ever-growing collection of animals written by Charles Dickens’ great granddaughter. The children of an eccentric family get sent to live with an uncle, who doesn't like them very much, after the family home burns down and their mom breaks her back trying to save one of them from the fire. After building a boat in the kitchen, their father is on a sailing trip around the world, so he can’t look after them. The uncle has an old broken down inn that someone gave him as payment for some plumbing work. The children love it, and decide to fix it up and live there. I don’t think anyone would have really let a group of children live in a house by themselves, but other than that, it was a nice story and the first in a series of four books.

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health by Gary Taubes
I recently listened to this book, and it took a long time. It was about 29 hours, at least a 500-page book. So it’s really not something you can sit and read in a day. At times it was difficult, because I don’t have a background in nutritional science or medicine, and it was not dumbed-down to make it one of the many popular food and diet books you see covering the shelves.

Taubes spent five years researching and writing this book. He reviews about a century’s worth of nutrition research to show just how we got to our current nutritional dogma that fat is bad and causes heart disease and obesity, and carbohydrates are good. Initially, I found this book a little depressing, because a lot of what we now consider nutritional truth is based on biased, bad, or misinterpreted experiments and bullying. The bullying came in when leaders in the field worked to discredit those whose findings disagreed with current theories. The book got easier the further I went as I got used to the vocabulary and gained knowledge of the subject. I liked this book so much and was so convinced by the argument it laid out, that I've actually begun to change the way I eat. I also bought his sequel, which lays out the same information in a shorter-easier format.

Cave of Wonders by Matthew J. Kirby and Behind Enemy Lines by Jennifer A. Nielsen
These are a couple of installments in the middle-grade Infinity Ring series. I listened to them. They’re fun kids’ books that incorporate history, adventure and time travel. What’s not to like about that?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What I Read in February (Laurie)

I am still reading a lot of kid literature, but I also managed a couple YA books and a grown-up read last month.  Here's what I read in February:

Middle-Grade Books

Double-Dog Dare, by Lisa Graff  (300 p.)
This was a cute book about a dare war between a boy and girl who both want to win the position of newscaster for their media club.  In the process, they learn a lot about empathy and friendship.

All The Answers, by Kate Messner (257 p.)
A girl is surprised to find that a pencil she found in the kitchen drawer has the ability to answer factual questions.  All she has to do is write the question down and a voice tells her the answer.  The pencil helps calm her anxiety and her build her confidence, but she also finds it gives her more information than she really wants.

Young Adult Book

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley(322 pages)
This is a very sweet story about a brother and sister who go to live in the country during the evacuation of London in World War II.  Nine-year-old Ada is happy to have escaped her abusive mother, who hates her because of her club foot.  She and her younger brother move in with Susan Smith, a woman who initially seems not to want them, but with whom they develop a close bond.

The Savage Fortress, by Sarwat Chadda (309 p.)
Ash is on vacation in India with his aunt and uncle and gets himself involved in a dangerous battle again evil Rakshashas (demons) who hope to reclaim their power.  This a fantasy adventure with some gory descriptions and details, but it's a great read for those who like that sort of thing.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson (353 p,)
This book has won a number of awards, and after I read it, I understood why.  Woodson has such a beautiful gift for capturing life in words.  The book is her memoir told in verse.  

Grown-up Book

Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers, by Alexander McCall Smith
This book is the latest in the 44 Scotland Street series.  It's a fun series revolving around various characters whose lives occasionally intersect based on connections from their building at 44 Scotland Street.  Bertie is a young boy whose mother is determined to raise him gender neutral, yet who is desperate to do all the boyish things his mother abhors.  He's an endearing, lovable character around whom the series seems to revolve, though there are many storylines going on.  I love this series and always look forward to the next installment.


One Small Hitch (2015)
Sometimes I just get in the mood for a good romantic comedy, so I decided to give this one a try.  It was a cute story about a guy who convinces his best friend's younger sister to act as his fiancee to make his dying father happy.  It had a very predictable ending, but the happy ending is what we want in a romantic comedy, right?

Mockingjay part 1 (2014)
I enjoyed the Hunger Games series, so I've been watching the movies as they come out.  I think they do a pretty good job sticking to the books when they make the films.  I enjoyed this one and look forward to the next.

X-Men, Days of Future Past (2014)
My son and I were both home with colds this week, so we watched this. We also watched Big Hero 6, and we liked that too.  Sometimes watching movies is good medicine.

What are you reading?  Would love to hear your recommendations!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Laurie's January Reading and Movies

I had surgery on January 4 (disk replacement), so I've been forced to stay home from work and have had lots of time to read and watch movies.  It's given me a good start on my 50/50 for 2015.  I've mostly read children's books this month, because it's library ordering season and I am trying to keep up with the latest in children's literature.  

My January Reads:

Grown-up Book:  The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
This is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but I read it for a book club I attend with my colleagues.  I have a love-hate relationship with this book.  I loved the writing.  It drew me in.  The characters came to life and the book was full of emotion and feeling.  But the characters made so many terrible choices that it was difficult to read.  Basically, a 13-year old boy named Theo survives a bombing at a NY art museum that tragically takes the life of his mother.  The book is the story of how that experience, and a beautiful Goldfinch painting from the museum, shape his future.  It's a Pulitzer prize winner.  Gritty and heartbreaking, but with a fairly satisfying ending.  Conservative readers might have a hard time with some of the more graphic content and language.

Middle-Grade/YA Literature:

Rain Reign, by Ann Martin
This book won the Charlotte Huck award for outstanding children's fiction.  It really is outstanding, and it's a much-needed contribution to children's literature.  Rose is an autistic 5th grader who is obsessed with homonyms.  I loved experiencing the world through her words and her eyes, but it was also heartbreaking and difficult.   She has a special relationship with Rain, a stray dog her father brought home for her. I lost count of how many times I cried while reading this book, and I still get teary-eyed thinking about it now.  It was one of those powerful books that will stay with me forever.  It was especially near to my heart because there are autistic people in my life who I love very much.

Absolutely Almost, by Lisa Graff
This book won a Charlotte Huck honor for outstanding children's fiction.  A young boy named Albie struggles with learning and feels that he is almost good at things, but not quite.  His new babysitter helps him to find his strengths and feel better about who he is.  This book was sweet and heartfelt.  I absolutely loved it.  (I also recommend Lisa Graff's A Tangle of Knots, which I read last year.)

Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine
I've read a number of children's books focused on segregation and the civil rights era, but this one was somewhat unique.  Marlee is a 12-year old girl starting middle school in Little Rock, Arkansas. She becomes fast friends with Liz, a new girl at school.  Liz helps Marlee overcome her fears and proves to be a remarkable friend.  When Liz suddenly leaves school, Marlee is determined not too let dangerous challenges prevent them from being friends.  I really enjoyed this book.  It has the potential for great discussion about having courage to stand up for what is right.  It's also a sweet story about the power of friendship.

One for the Murphys, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
One of my 5th graders at school recommended this book to me a couple months ago. "Ms. Laurie, you HAVE to read this BOOK!  It's AMAZING!"  I promised her I would, and I am so glad I did. The book is about a foster child named Carley who has no idea what to make of her new foster family.  The Murphys are just a little too perfect, and Carley isn't sure she can ever fit in.  This was another book that made me cry.  It was so full of love and healing and hope.  Highly recommend it.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, by Kristin Levine
It's funny, but I literally just realized this book is written by the same author as Lions of Little Rock. I just happened to read them both this month.  The book is set in the 1910's. 12-year old Dit has been hoping that the new postmaster will have a son his age.  He is disappointed and surprised when he learns that the new family not only has a prim and proper daughter, but they are African American. Dit and Emma strike up an unlikely, but sweet and loyal friendship.  I didn't like this one as much as Lions of Little Rock, but I did enjoy it.  It has similar themes of friendship and courage in the face of racism.


Being in Saudi Arabia, I don't get to go to a movie theater unless we travel out of country.  But fortunately, there's Amazon Instant Video and Netflix to get me through.  Here's what I've watched this month:

Main Street
This was a 2011 movie starring Colin Firth.  I watched it because, well, Colin Firth.  It was a bit difficult to adjust to him in such a different role, and using a Texas twang.  I can't say I loved this movie.  Firth plays a man who is trying to convince a small, struggling town to allow his company to store toxic waste in a warehouse.  The movie keeps you guessing as to whether or not he is being honest with the town. It was a slow-paced film and it ended very abruptly.  It was well-acted, and it brought up some important ethical issues, but it left me feeling unsatisfied in the end.

Daniel Deronda
This is a 2003 miniseries based on the book by George Eliot.  Gwendolyn Harleth is a somewhat vain and self-centered girl who meets Daniel Deronda after losing at the gambling tables.  They feel an immediate connection, but their lives draw them in different directions.  I like a story that shows good character development, and I enjoyed seeing how Gwendolyn learned from her experiences.  Daniel is one of those good, steady, compassionate men that can make women swoon.

October Baby
2011.  A young woman named Hannah is shocked to learn that she was adopted.   Struggling to find herself, and wanting to understand issues with her health, she sets out on a road trip with a childhood friend, his not-so-nice girlfriend, and a few other friends.  It's a heartbreaking and heartwarming story.  I enjoyed it.  It you watch it, make sure you have a box of tissues close by.

Friday, January 23, 2015

First few books of the year

I've read or listened to four books so far this year. I enjoyed them all.

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by David and Tom Kelley

This book is by brothers both of the design firm IDEO and one is the creator of Stanford's The idea behind this book is that it's not just "creative types" that can bring creativity and innovation to their jobs and lives, but that we can all be creative and bring design principles into our everyday situations. I believe what they say, but I'm not sure that it's as easy as they make it sound. They give exercises in the book, but I don't see them being as effective as taking one of the wildly popular classes at the But we can't all do that, so a book is a good place to start. I particularly enjoyed chapter 5, Seek: From Duty to Passion the best.

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

I read this several years ago, but I didn't remember much about it. I remembered that it was beautifully written, and I loved the language. I remembered one quote.

I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.

So I decided to check the digital audio book out from the library. It was read by Julie Harris. I think I preferred reading it to listening to it, because the complexity of some of the sentences and the difficulty of pronouncing some of the African place names made the audio version not flow quite as well.

I still love it, and it's still beautiful. It is a memoir written by the pilot Beryl Markham. She made the first solo flight across the Atlantic ocean from east to west. She talks about her childhood in Africa raising race horses and hunting wild boar and how she learned to fly and her work as a pilot in Africa and about her flight across the ocean. A wonderful book. I think some time, I'll read it again.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan

I read this on the recommendation of a friend who is totally in love with this book. This is the story of Clay who finds himself as an unemployed designer much in need of work. One day he stumbles upon Mr. Penumbra's bookstore and gets a job as the night clerk. He begins to notice strange things. Most of the customers check out books, but don't buy anything. His job is to meticulously track what is happening in a log book. Being a designer, he decides to create a 3D model of the bookstore. After meeting Kat from Google (and starting to date her), they find out that patrons of the bookstore are trying to solve codes and find the key to immortality.

This was a fun book. It's good for people who like both fantasy and the mundane. Perhaps it has something to teach us about our own journeys toward immortality and who we might bring along.

Trash by Andy Mulligan

I listened to the audio version of this book while commuting. This was an interesting, fast-paced story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I found parts quite disturbing. The book follows the story of three trash boys, Raphael, Gardo and Rat. They live at a dump and spend their days picking through trash hunting for things to sell so they can earn money for themselves and their families. This was the first disturbing thing, because there are children around the world who live like this. One day Raphael finds a bag containing a wallet, a key, an ID card, and 1100 pesos - his unlucky-lucky day. It turns out the police are looking for these items as clues in a robbery case. A houseboy has stolen $6,000,000 from his corrupt (though never caught and convicted boss). The houseboy was caught and killed by the police. The boys follow the trail of clues to solve the mystery and finish what was started and maybe save themselves and the poor people of their city.

As I said, I really enjoyed this book. I had a lot of trouble with the police corruption and the brutality of their treatment of a child. So if you have kids, you might read it first before letting them read it, just to make sure they can handle it. It's a story of empowering the powerless and righting wrongs and doing what is right even when it is difficult or dangerous. It is well worth the read.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Heather's 2014 Reads

Several of us discussed it, and we decided that in 2015 we should make a better effort with both the 50/50 challenge and the blog, even if our chances of success aren’t all that great. I thought I’d begin by listing all the books I read in 2014, with occasional notes. It wouldn’t be worth doing the movies, as I only saw three or four, which is as many as I’ve seen in the first few weeks of 2015.


I had a decent reading year in 2014 – over 60 books. I seriously embraced audio books as a valid way to experience more books. When I Metro and walk to or from work, it takes about an hour, and since I can’t really read during that time, audio books seemed a good use of my time.


Here’s what I read in 2014

  1. Beautiful Creatures
  2. Beautiful Darkness
  3. Beautiful Chaos
  4. Beautiful Redemption
    1. This is a series of paranormal young adult romance or something novels about a Caster (witch) and the boy whose interested in her. I read them because I saw the movie of the first book and liked it. It’s a good thing I saw the movie first, because I would have been annoyed with the changes they made. A well-written, interesting and enjoyable read.
  5. I am Half-Sick of Shadows – Flavia de Luce, so of course it was a good book.
  6. A Cape Code Notebook – Short book that I bought during a trip to Cape Cod.
  7. The Orphan of Awkward Falls – Children’s book
  8. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – another children’s book. This was excellent.
  9. Charon’s Cosmology – poems by Charles Simic
  10. Murder Past Due
  11. The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived before Achilles (audio)
  12. The Raven Boys – I didn’t realize this was the first book in a series (The Raven Cycle), so I was really annoyed when I got to the end. I enjoyed it, more YA paranormal.
  13. Human Chain – poems by Seamus Heaney
  14. Cannery Row – I read this before a trip to Monterey. I recognized Steinbeck’s characters on the statue we saw.
  15. Morning poems – poems by Robert Bly
  16. Pooh and the Philosophers: In Which It is Shown That All of Western Philosophy is Merely a Preamble to Winnie-the-Pooh
  17. The Human, the Orchid and the Octopus (audio) – I loved this book.
  18. Splintered
  19. Shades of Grey (not to be confused with that other book) – This book was set in a colourtocracy and was one of my favorite books of the year.
  20. Summer World (audio)
  21. The Dream Thieves – second book in The Raven Cycle
  22. Fahrenheit 451 (audio) – Just revisiting a book I’d enjoyed in high school.
  23. Way Off the Road (audio) – Humor, and it did have some funny bits in it.
  24. The Voluntourist
  25. Dive # 1: The Discovery – Children’s book
  26. Infinity Ring #1: A Mutiny in Time (audio) – Children’s book. This one was written by James Dashner, so I was interested in it. These are middle-grade books written by various authors, so all a particular writer’s style is edited out. Still fun for children, and I’ll continue listening to them.
  27. Eaarth (audio)
  28. Infinity Ring #2: Divide & Conquer (audio)
  29. The Jungle Book (audio)
  30. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Alchemyst
  31. Why Read Moby Dick (audio)
  32. Stung – YA, dystopian
  33. Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians (audio) – Children’s book
  34. Man Down
  35. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  36. Olive’s Ocean
  37. The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable – I read a lot of children’s books, trying to keep up my knowledge, but there are too many!
  38. Around the World in 80 Days (audio) – He never rides a balloon!
  39. Science Matters (audio) – This is a book designed to give the reader basic scientific literacy. It has the best explanation of the theory of relativity that I’ve ever heard. It was great, and I might have to listen to or read it again.
  40. The Calder Game (audio)
  41. The Danger Box (audio)
  42. The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone
  43. Adam Bede (audio)
  44. First Light
  45. Being Henry David
  46. A Tale of Two Cities (audio) – I never read this, even as an English major. It was great.
  47. The Unfinished Angel (audio)
  48. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (audio)
  49. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead (audio) – Dave Barry
  50. Physics of the Impossible (audio) – Michio Kaku
  51. The Lost Code
  52. Treasure Island (audio) – I listened to this because I wanted to listen to a modern “sequel” read by David Tenant. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. An excellent adventure story.
  53. Book of Mormon – this is a reread, but that’s OK.
  54. Silver: Return to Treasure Island (audio) – see 52, above
  55. The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (audio) – I listened to it because I liked the title.
  56. Infinity Ring #3: The Trap Door (audio)
  57. Infinity Ring #4: Curse of the Ancients (audio)
  58. Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library (audio) – children’s book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
  59. The Getaway Car – I read this after hearing Ann Patchett give a talk.
  60. X-Files: Whirlwind – Don’t judge me.
  61. A Path Appears – excellent! I got my copy signed by Nicholas Kristof.
  62. The Real Boy
  63. Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Book 3 of The Raven Cycle
  64. Our Mutual Friend (audio)
  65. Man’s Search for Meaning
  66. Dave Barry’s History of the Millennium (So Far) (audio)