Monday, December 27, 2010

Adel Faber & Elain Mazlish: How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk

Review: How to Talk has been in print for 30 years. My copy, printed in 1999, says it's in it's 20th edition. I remember my mother reading it and talking to me about it as she read it. Because parenting is more than intuitive I'm all for these types of books. Now, I'm not sure where I sit on the punishment issue. This book is anti-punitive. That's fine. I am anti bribery, which the opposite extreme of parents who spank or take away stuff. This book is anti-bribery. Great! Anyhow, I like this book. It teaches communication skills that are valuable no matter who you're speaking to. More importantly it encourages the reader to practice by role playing, by writing out lessons, and by having key concepts posted everywhere. Really the authors are attempting to make empathetic speaking and listening come naturally to angry control freak parents. It's a cultural revolution.

Take Home Lesson:
  1. My children will talk to me/others the way I talk to them.
  2. I need to give my children more physical space and stop mauling them with hugs and kisses.
  3. The easy part is listening. Figuring out what to do next takes a lot of work.

Leonard Sax M.D. Ph.D.: Why Gender Matters, What parents and teachers need to know about the emerging science of sex differences.

Review: This book is basically a 250 page advertisement for gender segregated schools. I am convinced. Reading one book does not an expect make, still I do have a son. He truly is a different beast from my daughter. Occasionally I find myself looking at him and thinking - You. Are. An. Alien. (My husband too). It could be personality or birth order that makes raising him different, but really I suspect it's because he's a boy. I read this book to help me understand him better, so that I can help him succeed in his is life pursuits. Incidentally, this book has been more helpful for my relationship with my daughter. There are better tips in the girl sections. It has convinced me to be more gentle with her, and less indulgent with him. The book has taught me to be less afraid of the word feminine, to be able to define what it means to be a man or a woman without feeling guilty that they are not the same. I suspect when my children are older (in their 10's) I'll have to reread this book. It's a valuable resources.

What I want to Remember:

  1. Boys are less risk adverse. Danger is thrilling. Instead of saying if you run in the road you might get hit by a car, just say don't run in the road.
  2. Boys don't hear as well as girls. If he isn't following your instructions try talking louder. Try 'yelling'.
  3. If he's having trouble sitting still in kindergarten he might not be developmentally ready to sit still. It might not be ADHD. Get lots of opinions. Don't be afraid to hold him back until he is ready for school. This is crucial to his feelings about school and his feelings about academic success.
  4. Because girls and boys have different brains (they see and hear different, and solve problems with different parts of their brains) they need to be taught differently. If she says I suck at math, then try a different approach. If he says reading is boring, he might need reading material geared to his interests. [Review how male and female students learn math best]
  5. In high school: Male teachers teaching science or math classes may inadvertently discourage their female students by talking too loud or seeming to be unsympathetic or by being unable to modify their lessons to suit female strengths. Female teachers teaching languages or humanities might alienate their male students by talking too quietly, by being too friendly, or by talking too much about feelings instead of facts.
  6. Dating is important for boys. Because of the way boys make and keep friends it is important for their future emotional health that they learn how to be friends with girls. We need to teach our girls to set their personal value high so that boys can't take advantage of them*. That is if boys want sexual intimacy they must also offer emotional intimacy. NCMO victimizes girls now, and bankrupts boys later. (*ummm, is it really only up to a young girl to say "No"? Boys need to be taught some responsibility too. Also feelings of self worth are negatively impacted by social aggression among girls. Leonard Sax recommends sports where appearance doesn't matter to help build selfworth among girls)
  7. Boys need a socially approriate outlet for their aggression, especially boys who are not naturually athletic. If your boy doesn't make the team, be sure to provide him with a physically rigourous activity.
  8. Make sure your son has a positive male role model. More than one, or even a group of men would be great. And make sure he has 'man' time.
  9. Make sure your daughter has a positive female role model. More than on, or even a group of women would be great. And make sure she has 'woman' time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Like most avowedly alternative cultural movements, alt comedy was also an expression of snobbery.

Kelefa Sanneh, "Funny Person", New Yorker, November 1, 2010, 64.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Joanne Harris: Runemarks

One Word Summary: Chaos is necessary
Critique: I liked how Harris played with words. I liked learning about Odin and his crew, there aren't enough stories featuring Norse gods. I liked the maps at the beginning of the book. Who wouldn't? The plot is intricate, I expect she was pulling her hair out in parts. Harris must have had fun writing her characters. The goblins reminded me of Terry Pratchet's Mac Feegles. On the whole I smiled through this engaging book.
Rate: 3 oracles
Teaser Synopsis: In a world where order rules and anything magical is stamped out Maddy Smith is proud of her glamour. With the dubious help of her only friend and mentor, One Eye, she learns the old stories about the old gods. This story begins on a typical Monday morning 500 years after the end of the world (Ragnarok) when she unwittingly opens the door to the world below; where the adventure of a lifetime awaits.

Spoiler Synopsis: One Eye instructs Maddy to travel into the tunnels beneath Red Horse Hill to find a tool he desperately needs to save the world. He doesn't tell her what it is. He also refuses to accompany her because his old enemy is likely guarding the thing. Maddy is courageous. She forces a goblin to guide her. When she's good and lost and hungry and powerless, the goblin deserts her. But she does find the thing trapped in some sort of geyser. It's like a quartz volley ball. Almost immediately she meets a young man, who appears unmagical and has a plausible story for also being lost in world below. (Wow... this is getting LONG) Maddy decides to trust him, despite One Eye's warnings to trust no one. And that really begs the question: is One Eye trustworthy? Later she learns her mistake. It turns out the young man is Loki and he is One Eye's not-dead-after-all enemy. Anyhow, because her glamour is so powerful she's able to free the thing from the geyser. It turns out the thing is an Oracle. And the Oracle sees a battle looming with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Which, I guess means, Ragnorak was not the end of the world after all. Alright so... meanwhile Maddy's archenemy (some sniveling unimaginative mortal boy) alerts the authorities that peculiar things are happening at Red Horse Hill. The Parson, an ambitious member of the Order (a fanatical hegemonic group with religious undertones determined to stamp out chaos), with the help of a conveniently near junior magistrate lays siege to the Hill. I can't remember all the details but the Order capture One Eye (who turns out to be Odin). Maddy inadvertently wakens the the wife of Njord (a huntress) who is one of the seven sleepers (AKA: the Vanir who survived the end of the world). The Huntress Goddess wants Loki dead. While she's confronting Maddy, who has hidden the oracle behind some ice, Loki falls from the ceiling. He saves himself by claiming to be in alliance with Odin and to have possession of the oracle. They all go to rescue Odin from the Order. Meanwhile the junior magistrate is preparing to enter Odin's mind and steal everything he knows. The Parson interferes with the inquisition. The magistrate dies. Odin escapes. The Parson hears a voice in his head. Ummm, and then I can't remember why but The Huntress forms an alliance with the Parson. Odin goes somewhere. Maddy and Loki decided to travel to the Underworld to fetch reinforcements, first they pick up the oracle hidden behind some ice in where the Vanir are sleeping. The Huntress returns to the mountains. The other Vanir wake up. She wants them to join with the order against Odin. They are all undecided. They go to meet Odin. The Huntress kill Freya and frame Odin. The Parson's wife gets in the way. Freya isn't killed. Odin goes somewhere again. The other Vanir decide against the Order. The Huntress is spitting mad. Odin has gone to Red Horse Hill. The Huntress and the Parson are chasing him. The Parson's wife her secret admirer and his pig follow them. And the other Vanir take up the rear. Loki and Maddy make a deal with Hel to enter the underworld (the place where the dead Aesir are trapped in eternal torment). The must leave there bodies behind.... really you should just read the book.

Am I overly sensitive or was there an anti christian agenda in this book?

Alfred A Knoph 2008

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kristin Harmel: After

One Word Summary: Kate's Club

Synopsis: Lacey's father is dead. He was a great dad. One year later she's relishes the opportunity to help other kids who've lost a parent too soon. Turns out there's a lot of kids grieving.

Review: Is is heinous to criticize a story about a girl who's father/mother/sibling dies? In short this novel was okay, but not particularly memorable. I liked that Kristin Harmel included other ways a child can loose a parent. I liked the shifting dynamics of a family coping with loss, and the depiction of the other two families as well.

Rate: 2 rainbows

Other Books:

The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessin
That one with the girl who gives a boy a leprechaun hat. She dies tragically and he leaves it in her coffin. She's the friend of the girl who's mother dies.
The one with the girl who learns to surf. She's from New Jersey.
Delacort Press 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nicolas Drayson: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa

One Word Summary: Jack is local
Review: Bravo, Mr Drayson. I felt like you were my best friend sharing an incredible tale with me over a cup of tea in the garden. I loved this book first for the title, and next for your flare for understatment. You kept me interested for more than 8 hours! I loved the whole thing. It was tangental, hilarious, and humane all wrapped up in 202 pages. Bravo.

Synopsis: Malik, a short round balding brown man, enters an impossible wager at his gentleman club to win the right to ask Rose Mbikwa to the annual hunt ball. The story is about this diminutive man greatness, with a lot of bird watching.

Rate: 5 Red Bishops

(Note this novel is higly quoteable. It's worth having a copy to keep forever!)

Houghton Mifflin, 2008

Georgette Heyer: Regency Buck

One Word Summary: Guardian Shmardian
Review: The covers of these novels usually say something like: Sparkling. I heartily agree.
I like Georgette Heyer. This is one of my favourites. The ending is a little havey cavey, but still it's an enjoyable romp.
Synopsis: Miss Judith Taverner travels to London for the season against her guardians wishes. A guardian she's never met and who can't take the trouble to notice her. On the way to London she's insulted by an arrogant gentleman with magnificent greys. She later discovers that it was her Guardian, The Fifth Earl of Worth, who stole her kisses. She spends the entire season at loggerheads with him. And someone is trying to kill her brother! Could it be the Earl?
Rate: 3 snuff boxes

More Words: While I was in the Heyer section at the library I also picked up Helen. It takes place in England, 1895-1925 ish. I liked it at first, but my initial good impression couldn't outlast Helen's constantly saying, "I don't know what love means. I haven't grown up yet" (at the age of 23? Really?). Her friends explaining herself to herself for the edification of the reader was also a dead bore. Heyer's philosphizing about Truth and Psychology did drone on a bit as well. More than all that, however, I found Heyer's feminism alarming. It's undercurrents of misogynism alarm me. I don't know if these were her personal ideas or the ideas of the class she was writing about, but I didn't like it at all. I noticed the same tone in her other 'modern' stories. I'm sure it's rampant throughout her regencies only I'm inured to all the inequality of that period. Really I don't mind if she's a snob. She's English after all. But I don't like to think she despised her own gender.

Helen Halstead: Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride

One Word Summary: Blase

Review: Mr. Darcy stomps around in his big boots scowling at anyone who looks at his wife wrong. And if he's not doing that he's delivering smouldering looks to Elizabeth. He never says anything truly intelligent through the whole book. In fact the reader is made to suffer while he repeats himself. He has two lines- "Don't look at my wife that way" & "Elizabeth I love you to distraction". He does of course laugh and smile now that he's married to dear Lizzie, but that's to her credit. The whole book is a tribute to her wit and charm. Only book itself is not witty or charming. On the upside Wickham dies in an asylum. Syphilis, who'd have guessed.

Synopsis: Elizabeth navigates the shoals London Society after her marriage. She takes the Ton by storm. Her younger sister, Kitty, becomes interesting.

Rate: 2 fairytale matches

Nicholas Sparks: Dear John

One Words Summary: Coins
Review: I don't know why I keep tasting this olive, but I do. I've been trying read The Life and Death of Charlie St. Cloud, and I think I know why I'm reluctant to commit. It reads like a Nicholas Sparks novel, they both have the same macho assure-ity (how do you spell that? It is a word right?) that likes to break complex things down. I'm thinking complex things like: Humanity, Love, The Meaning of Life. Insentive handling renders these complex things lifeless. Anyhow, I took this book to the beach and read it there. I like the unconventional conventional ending, it made me cry. Yes I am a sap.
Synopsis: Army dude rescues Christian goddess. He's self contained, she's perfect. They have an instant connection and make promises to each other that they eventually break. They manage to fight so reasonably before the inevitable occurs. He learns a valuable life lesson. And she learns to drink wine.

Rate: 2 tours of duty

Two Books I Hesitate to Mention

There was nothing wrong with these two, except that I found the characters insipid and the style boring. They could have been lots and lots better. I did finish them both, and sighed with relief.
I do like the cover of Wildwood Dancing, a version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It's clear some research went into the work and there was a part in the beginning when Jena plucks a faerie creature from her shoulder while sneaking off to the Wildwood that was magical. It's really too bad about the dullness of the last 300 pages.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Suzanne Collins: Catching Fire

One Word Summary: Team Peeta
Review: Good. I spent an excessive amount of time discussing the merits of Suzanne Collins' emotionally detached style with my friend N. Bryson. I even called my best friend, P. Neale, in Canada to hear her opinion of the finale, Mockingjay. Everyone is talking about this book, because there is so much to say.

Synopsis: It's the quarter quell. Katniss and Peeta need to survive another round of the hunger games. And President Snow is out to get Katniss, before the districts rebel.
Rate: 3.5 atomic bombs
Censorship: The bad guy is named Snow!

Kristin Cashore: Graceling

One Word Summary: kindness is a grace everyone can have
Review: Great writing. Compelling plot. Interesting characters. A dash of mystery. And my favourite, a little romance. Kristin Cashore did a wonderful job.
Synopsis: It's a world divided into seven kingdoms. There are people with extraordinary abilities known as gracelings. Katsa's grace is the ability to kill anyone. She's used by her uncle, one of seven Kings, as a sort of strong arm to enforce his will. She hates her grace, because people are afraid of her. One day, with a little help from Po, she realizes she doesn't have to act the monster. Together they strike out on their own to save the kingdom from an unknown menace. While on her journey Katsa learns a few home truths about herself.
Rate: 4 insurmountable mountains
Harcourt Books 2008

Review: Another fantastic tale by Kristin Cashore.

Synopsis: On the other side of the mountains, the Kingdom of the Dells is at war with itself. Gracelings are unheard of, but there are monsters. They crave the taste of monster blood, they are irresistibly beautiful and they can control your mind. Fire is the only human monster alive. Most people hate and fear her. For the last 16 years she has lived quietly, but now she's compelled to help restore peace to the land. It's an opportunity to undo her father's wickedness. And really she wants a chance to prove she isn't the monster people think she is.

Rate: 3 red heads
Censorship: Teenagers do have sex.

Dial 2009

Todd Mitchell: The Secret to Lying

One Word Summary: Demons
Review: Todd Mitchell captured the torment being immature and unsatisfied in his novel TSTL. His writing is evocative without being unbearable. When I finally closed the book at 3am I let out a the breath I'd been holding forever. Although I never cut myself as a teenager, I remember feeling an intense loneliness that nothing could ease. I especially liked the dream sequences; they reminded me a little of Dave Egger's famous autobiography.
Synopsis: Unremarkable James jumps at the chance to reinvent himself. He's at a new school, making new friends, getting noticed by girls and finally doing stuff. However his new persona gets out of hand. He quickly morphs from Ignored to Mysterious to Pariah, all while he's trying to figure out what he wants.
Rate: 3.5 pranks
Censorship: Teenagers have sex. There are mental health issues.
Action List:
Read Todd Mitchell's first novel The Traitor King

Candlewick Press 2010

Ben Sherwood: The Man Who Ate the 747

One Word Summary: The Greatest Love
Review: I liked this novel. It was hard stay interested at first, but then it grew on me. Although, quirky characters are getting a bit cliche. Still I liked it.
Synopsis: J.J. Smith learns that love is more than biological algebra. Turns out there's more to it than pheromones, facial symmetry, and vocal resonance.
Rate: 2 antacids

Bantam Book 2000

Sophie Gee: The Scandal of the Season

One Words Summary: Swan 1711
Review: I haven't finished reading this book yet. So far I like. But it'll probably be an age before I pick it up again. When I read it I actually feel like I'm suffering through an English Winter with a too small fire.
Synopsis: The story that inspired Alexander Pope's famous poem: The Rape of the Lock.
Action List: Go back to university and take a degree in English.

Scribner 2007

Becca Fitzpatrick: Hush Hush

One Word Summary: Twisted City of Angels
Review: I'm not sure why this book was on the New York Times Bestseller List. I didn't like the writing much. I especially didn't like the dialogue. Is that how teenagers really talk. Really? And I think the story promotes unhealthy attitudes about romantic relationships.
What is in a name: The romantic hero's name is Patch. Why? I put off reading this book because I thought the name was too trendy or belonged to a dog. I realize story characters are not real people but they weren't born yesterday. They should have age appropriate trendy names. I mean Ryan was a really popular name for boys 18 years ago. Anyhow, I know my complaint is ludicrous. So, now I'm wondering if Authors choose names that are au currant or do they set the baby naming trends.

Synopsis: A creepy new guy shows up a school and wont leave Nora alone. Against her better judgment she becomes involved with him and then she gets entangled in his problems. But it's true love right?
Rate: One Nephil
Other Books:
Simon & Schuster 2009

Monday, November 1, 2010

James Dasher: The Maze Runner

One Word Summary: Build a better mouse trap

Review: Did I like this book? In a word, Yes. The monster is a fascinating mixture of disgusting and frightening. It's an Edward Scissor Hands Rolly Polly Ooze Insect. Maybe now I should read Lord of the Flies. It'd be fun to compare the two. Anyhow, the ending is a bit of a tease. I'll have to read the next books to find out what is really going on. It's intriguing.

Synopsis: "Everything is about to change." That's the message the girl brings to the boys living in 'the glade', a warehouse style encampment surrounded by stone doors which lead to a maze with an exit no one can find. When the girl wakes up from her coma it becomes apparent that the glade residents must find a way out soon, or die. But who put them in the impossible maze? for what reason? and why can no one remember anything about their life before?

Rate: 3 scourges

Other Books:
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Random House 2009

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anne Fortier: Juliet

One Word Summary: Siena
More Words: Wonderful. It's a little bit of a circus near the end. A charming circus. Obviously Anne Fortier and her Editor and her Agent and her Mother worked diligently to weave such an intricate plot. They did a fabulous job connecting Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet to 1340 Italy and incorporating both into a modern mystery. I loved the Author's Note. Although, it's still not clear to me what is fiction. I hate to mention the only thing I wish was better, because it'll take away from everything I did like, but here goes anyway. The romance. It seemed abrupt. Both parties accept rather quickly the reality of their former life (as The Romeo and The Juliet). I think even hopeless romantics might question their sanity before embracing a doomed reincarnated love. I wish there had been some otherworld signal to... I don't know to give a sort go ahead before they went ahead. Of course, there might not have been one on purpose, or I might have missed it. And Fortier did provide enough backstory to lend credibility to the romance. To end on a positive note, I really like the contradictory dynamics between the two sisters. This book is marvellous. Everyone should read it.

Rate: 3 maxed out credit cards

Other Books:
Never Let Me Go, by Joan Smith

Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat Love Pray

One Word Summary: eat pray love
More Words: This is like reading a stranger's notes on life. Yes, there are a lot of personal pronouns, there are some wittisisms, there a few life epiphanies, and there are brief references to personal tradgedy. Only the interesting stuff (errr, the stories) are short and vague, ultimately it's still written by a stranger. A stranger I'm not that interested in; unless I can learn the sordid divorce details. It's terrible of me, but it's obvious she wants to dish. However I would settle for more stories featuring Mom on the farm. Anyhow, I'm glad for Elizabeth Gilbert. She is a lucky woman. Unfortunately I'm more of a home body and didn't make it through Italy... I wonder did she ever kiss Giovanni?

Did I read a review of the book, or a follow up book in the New Yorker? Last Year? I seem to remember a reference to grandma cutting up a beautiful cloak to make clothes for her children. I liked that review.

Rate: 2

Meg Waite Clayton: The Wednesday Sisters

One Word Summary: I want to be an astronaut
More Words: I like what I learned about the female experience as a wife and mother in the '60s and'70s. The book is set in a fascinating era, and I feel like I appreciate the social culture of that time better, now that I've read this story. Unfortunately, I didn't really like the book. The story is about very four very different women who start their own writing circle, all told from the perspective of one lady. Every few chapters the perspective would change and the reader would get a paragraphs worth of insight into a different lady. It was informative, confusing, and a little boring. I wished there could have been more everyday details. For example, Kath becomes a single parent. I wanted to read more about her struggle to feed and bathe and care for children and find time/energy to realize her own dreams. I wanted to read a passage where she cries, fuly clothed in an empty bathtub. Although I can understand why the author didn't delve into the everyday heartaches of motherhood; she's in the business of writing books people will read not preaching to the choir. Besides a story like that would have to be on the scale of Middlemarch. As it is the book had a sort of Forrest Gump feel- the women just sort of show up where history is happening and say stuff like: and this is how it was for us. I guess that'll just have to be good enough.


I know writers who have a talisman or a ritual to make writing easier:
bunny slippers they wear or a certain candle they always burn when they're
writing; putting pen to paper at sunrise, or noon, or 11:00 p.m.; sitting in a
certain chair in a favorite cafe or walking their dog on the beach first;
playing one song on their iPod on infinite repeat for one novel, then choosing
another song for the next. But that always strikes me as dicey. What if the cafe
table s taken? What if the dog you walk on the beach eats your bunny slippers?
What if your iPod dies? And the fact is, we were mothers and wives; if we waited
for the stars to align just so, we'd still be waiting.
Rate: 2 sidecars
Other Books:
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Books To Read

The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald

Love Story by Erich Segal

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kristin Hannah: Distant Shore

OWS: Mom has a Life Crisis

Synopsis: Elizabeth is stuck with an empty nest and a dried up marriage. She's unhappy. This year she's going to get her groove back.

More Words: I barely remember this book. It was okay, I guess. There was something I wanted to comment on. It'll have to wait until I remember. Something about Jack and his annoying introspection. And about how women lose themselves when they love.

Rate: 2 french doors

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games

One Word Summary: Reality TV used for evil

More Words: The writing is sparse. The story is thrilling. I read about this series in the New Yorker, and then a friend recommended it to me. Thank you M. Stewart. I liked THG, but sometimes I wonder why the reader is expected to accept information, because Katniss does, with no explanation. For example, I'm not entirely sure what makes the capitol a bad place- okay the people are frivilous and shallow, the wealth is unequally distributed, the Hunger Game is insane, the President has mean eyes, the government is totalitarian (AKA: the dystopic boogeyman) and there's some mystery about the Avoxes, but I'm still don't feel chilled. However I do like the spin on reality T.V. and I will read the next two books.

Synopsis: Each year one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts on Panem (what used to be the USofA) are chosen by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. A televised gladiator contest everyone is forced to watch. This year Katniss will be the female tribute. She has some terrible choices to make about love and survival and she must walk a subtle line between crowd pleasing and treason.

Shannon Hale: The Actor and the Housewife

One Word Summary: When Sally and Harry really were just friends
More Words: Shannon Hale is hilarious. A lot of my friends said this was a light fluffy book; and they all wore the same depreciating pout while they said it too. I think the book was a riot, but not lite or fluffy. Not that I didn't just skip to the end anyway... I was too jealous of Becky to read the whole thing. She's oozes charm, and I hated her for it. Didn't she ever have a bad day? And she made me feel guilty because I don't always like the way my husband smells (although sniffing his neck can smooth the ruffles out of any day). Plus, I once had a dream where Shannon Hale and I were quasi-friends and I was stealing books off her shelf. Anyhow, reading about the housewife made me feel like a stalker. Like I was wandering through her house and stealing things. Yuck.
Synopsis: Can a man and a woman be just friends? Can a married person have a best friend who is not their spouse? Who is a gender they are sexually attracted too?
Rate: 2.5

Tanith Lee: Wolf Star (Claidi Journals Series #2)

One Word Summary: Eerie
More Words: Fabulous. I can still picture the world Tanith Lee created with words. Claidi, her intrepid hero, is an endearing blend of self-doubt and spunk.
Synopsis: Claidi is kidnapped on her wedding day. Her captors abandon her in a crumbling palace with moving rooms and mechanical servants in the middle of a jungle on the other side of an ocean with an unsociable guardian who looks a lot like her fiance. But Claidi doesn't just accept her fate, she masters it.
Rate: 2 dolls

Maggie Stiefvater: Shiver

One Word Summary: Winter
More Words: I like the cover.
Synopsis: Grace has weird obsession with the wolves living in her backyard (and absolutely no parental supervision). One wolf is obsessed with her (He's really a werewolf struggling to maintain his humanity). After the wolves attack and kill a local teenager the town officials are out to destroy the wolves. Plus it turns out the rich-boy-vicitm turned into a werewolf and he's on a rampage. And then there are some other complications with Grace's friends. Anyhow Grace and her Wolf try to make everything right between the humans and the wolves.

Rate: 2 photographs

Lauren Barnholdt: One Night that Changes Everything

One Word Summary: Cheetos
More Words: I read a review that basically said there was no character development or growth and that the plot was banal. It ruined my ability to just enjoy the ride. One Night is a little questionable, but mostly I felt a robbed. There just wasn't enough romance. Anyhow, I liked Two Way Street, so LaLaLa. I refuse to read any reviews in case they ruin that story too.
Synopsis: A girl keeps a journal of all the things she wishes she had the courage to do. The girl's ex-boyfriend his friends steal her journal and threaten to publish it on-line if she doesn't take their dares. The dares, of course, come straight from the journal. It's fun. Just don't wonder why teenage boys would care to help a girl step out of her comfort zone. And don't wonder too much about the ex-boy friend.
Rate: 2 bikinis

One Word Summary: Hotel
More Words: I didn't need a review to help me along with my opinion this time. I didn't like the book, and I have no reason. I like the idea, I like the moral ending, I like the playa getting played, I like the new quirky best friend, I like the supportive sister, I like the ipod playlist, I like the romance... but I didn't like the book.
Dumb Question: What is three coats of mascara? Is it three applications to the upper lashes? or is it applying one coat on the bottom of the upper lashes, one coat on the top of the upper lashes and then one coat on the top of the lower lashes?
Synopsis: An underage math genius is roped into playing poker to earn a lot of money for college.
Rate: 2 Sweatshirts

One Word Summary: Liar
Synopsis: Devon is a liar. She tells a lot of lies. She says she's sorry and people forgive her.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jill S. Alexander: The Sweetheart of Prosper County

One Word Summary: Bullies
More Words: Since I'vre read TSOPC I've come to the conclusion that Texas is a much more interesting place than I thought. FFA! Catfishing! Family Owned Hardware Stores! The book won a TAB* sticker on the cover-err I don't know what that means. Teens in my area like the story? Well, I liked it. The 'issues' got over simplified (& there were a lot) and I'm not sure if there was a romance. Still, I think I might go and get me some cowgirl boots.

Synopsis: Austin Grey wants to be someone. Her action plan is to win a spot on the hood of a fancy car in The-No-Jesus-Christmas Parade. She's going to raise a rooster, join the FFA and tell the school bully where he can stick it. Along the way she'll make some new friends and she'll learn that being someone means liking who she is.

Take Home Message: Make friends, everyone is worth knowing, except for spoilt bullies
Dedication: for my husband, Jon, who never gave up on the girl from Texas

Rate: 2 prizewinning roosters

Write/Story Scale: I read about this type of rating on another blog. I liked the idea, I'm stealing it. Sorry other blogger I dont know how to make links yet or I would give you credit.

Feiwel and Friends 2009

Monday, August 16, 2010

Megan Whalen Turner: A Conspiracy of Kings (Queen's Thief Series #4)

One Word Summary: Sophos
More Words: I love this series. I like the way MWT writes intrigue- she doesn't make my head spin and she's never annoying. Reading one of her stories is like being on a ride at Disney Land. You can just sit back, enjoy, look around, take pictures. Everything is going according to plan. Gen's convoluted plan; but he always lands on his feet. He's like a cat.

Dedication: To Diana Wynne Jones, thank you for the stories and for the leg up.
Synopsis: Sophos believes he's a poet and not a king. When his Uncle, Sounis, dies and leaves the country in turmoil Sophos races to his friend for help. Only Gen is now Eugenides, the king of Attolia. Their once easy friendship is encumbered by politics. Can Sophos man up and save his country from civil war and the Mede invasion? Will the paltry army Gen has spared to him help?
Rate: 3 pockets
Harper Collins 2010

Jaclyn Moriarty: The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie

One Word Summary: Poisonous
More Words: Jaclyn Moriarty, isn't that a great name? And her writing is hilarious. And she's from Australia. Her stories are like very expensive clocks. The Ghosts of Ashbury High is her latest novel, I'm excited to read it.

The Key to Understanding Teenagers:

  1. They have a tendency toward reverie
  2. They have trouble judging distances
  3. They have difficulty with anti-climax

Synopsis: Nobody likes Bindy. She wouldn't believe it if you told her because she's the smartest and friendliest person she knows. What she doesn't see is that she's also the most annoying person anyone knows. To give her credit, she is trying to click with her peers. But it's not easy, especially since her life is falling apart. Could someone be trying to kill her? Poor girl.

Rate: 3 venomous snakes

Scholastic 2006

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Carrie Ryan: The Dead-Tossed Waves

One Word Summary: Survival is not enough
Synopsis: It's years after Mary escapes the forest of hands and teeth. Her daughter, Gabry, only wants to stay inside the walls that keep her safe. Except one night she sneaks out with her friends. It should have been safe enough. No ever one got caught, or hurt, before, until this one night. And now, Gabry must leave the safety her home forever.
More Words: I thought I was done zombies, but I read a review in the New Yorker about the surge in Dystopic Writing for YA and I thought maybe I should try to understand the genre better. Really though, zombies creep me out. And books like The Uglies don't make me happy plus they become boring after book 5. And books like Feed are truly depressing. Anyhow, this is a great reference book if you worry about surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.

Rate: 2 mudo
Delacorte Press 2010

Kate Brian: Fake Boyfriend

One Word Summary: Let's go to paris

More Words: My husband asked me why I didn't just close the book and turn out the lights. I think my perpetual groanings and moanings were keeping him awake. Do other people talk to their books? Anyhow, the story is ridiculous, which makes if fun. I think Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys is better if you want to pretend you're twelve again.

Synopsis: Isabella's boyfriend dumped her two weeks before prom- after she's paid for everything. AND despite his slimy two timing ways she'd take him back in a heartbeat. What's a best friend to do but make up a fakeboyfriend on myspace for Isabella to fall in love with. Only if he's fake, how can he take her to prom. What's a bestfriend to do?

"Unbelievable," Vivi said, leaning back in her chair and crooking her arms behind her neck. "Less than an hour to make up a whole person"

Rate: 1 passport

Simon & Schuster 2007

Catherine Gilbert Murdock: Front and Center

One Word Summary: Birdhouse in your soul
More Words: D.J. is a great character. She's got an authentic voice and she's strong the way we, or at least I, would like to be strong. This is her third installment, and it's still pretty good. Bravo to CGM.
Synopsis: It's winter semester for D.J. She's back at school and just trying to stay in the background. Except everyone's on her case to be a basketball star.

"Everyone has this huge hangup about walking, like it's the most important thing you can do after you break your neck."

"I swear, every person I know gets far ore satisfaction from doing good deeds than receiving them. Maybe that's the whole point in the end, all of us putting up with good deeds, tolerating them as best we can, counting the minutes until we have the opportunity to reciprocate"

Why do we all hope our first love will be our only true love?
Rate: 3 swooshes

Houghton Mifflin 2009

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Rating System

5- This book makes the world a better place

4-This book is worth reading more than once

3.5- This book will lodge itself in your longterm memory

3-This book is worth sharing with friends

2-This book has merit

1-This is a book that someone worked hard to write

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sharon Shinn: Angelica

One Word Summary: Angels
More Words: This is the fourth book in the Samaria Series. I haven't read the others. This one is great. The alien culture is diverse, the story is interesting, the characters are solid, and there's just enough parallelism to our reality to give a person ideas to chew on.
Synopsis: An unknown enemy is annihilating isolated communities in Samaria (a continent on a planet colonized by humans who've forsaken most technology and have adopted a peace loving theocracy). While the government struggles to protect the population, the Archangel-elect is trying to manage his domestic issues. He has one rebellious younger sister, and one fiancee who is still in love with a former partner, and a host of angels to manage. Basically he's trying to save the world and everyone in it all alone.
Rate: 3 arias
Penguin Putnam Inc., 2003

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Patricia Veryan: Some Brief Folly

One Word Summary: The chimney sweep

More Words: Either I'm sick of Regency, or Patricia Veryan is not Georgette Heyer. Clue, I'm not sick of Heyer. Two things I didn't like- first our lady has to beg her hero to marry her ad nauseum and he refuses on the most feeble of pretexts. Second- an unfaithful wife won't consent to a divorce? When does a Regency Lady ever have any choice in this matter?

Synopsis: Miss Euphemia's carriage accident forces her to accept hospitality in the home of a rake. They fall in love, but he wont marry her because... And her brother falls in love with the Rake's sister, but he wont marry her because...

Rate: 1 betrothal

St. Martins Press 1981

Rosina Lippi: The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square

One Word Summary: Dog Lover's Paradise

More Words: Why can't a conversation just be a conversation? For the most part I'm incapable of analyzing people's words while they're talking. I usually need a few days to figure out what their word choice, inflection, and tone really meant (and what I should have said). If this novel reflects reality then other people must be more interesting/intelligent/crazy than me. Also Julia and Dodge rushed to conclusions, which is boring. I like a good tension filled courtship. I couldn't finish the last 20 pages; but I did like the expensive bedding.

Synopsis: A Claustrophobic and an Agoraphobic fall in love and then learn how to live with each other.

Rate: 2 pillows
G.P. Putnam's Sons 2008

Carloine Adderson: Sitting Practice

One Word Summary: the second noble truth/thinking
More Words: The blurbs on the back were so enticing that I had to try this book. And I wasn't disappointed. It is very well written. I especially liked how two people, so in love, can completely not get what the other is thinking or feeling.

The Globe and Mail review: Adderson achieves a remarkable
effect with her prose. Its clarity is so overwhelming that it becomes
The Vancouver Sun wrote: Adderson's prose is characterized
by fierce intelligence, razor-sharp wit, and wry omniscience. She writes with a
tone of subdued mirth or bemused wisdom that lends the book both immediacy and
intimacy. In her hands sex, religion, parenting, even something as simple as
making bread come from a completely unexpected vantage that makes them suddenly
new and strange.

Synopsis: Iliana and Ross are in love. Six weeks after their wedding a car accident leaves Iliana paralyzed. She and Ross struggle to cope with their personal and mutual tragedies. Plus a whole family of idiosyncratic people join them for the ride.

Things Some People Might Not Like (TPMNL): The F-Word, Adultery, Atheism, Gluttony
Rate: 3 tennis balls
Trumpeter 2008

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ally Carter: Only the Good Spy Young

One Word Summary: Tombs of Blackthorn
More Words: ummm, the first book was really fun- before it turned into a series. It still is fun, which is why the seriousness is a strange mix. I'm feeling a little bored with paragraphs that begin "You may think x about spys, but you'd be wrong because you forgot we're teenagers and we're girls." What I think is: I'm gonna hafta quit these books before the story gets out of hand like the gilmore girls.

Rate: 2 spy kits

Jane Austen: Persuasion

One Word Summary: looking at her hands
More Words: This might not be Austen's finest story, but I still like it and the writing is very good. I wish Cousin Elliot didn't have to be vilified to be rejected. It doesn't do much for Anne's credit to be admired by no one but a scoundrel (not including all the other eligble males: the country bumpkin, or the unfaithful sailor). Furthermore, it is rather convenient if a little odd that Captain Bentwick would choose Miss Louisa Musgrove instead of Anne (or at all).

Anyhow, I only picked up this novel because I read half of Pride Predjudice and Zombies (along with my favourite parts of Pride and Predjudice), and hated it. Yes it was silly, outrageous, and violent, but Austen's witty phrasing didn't always survive the meat grinder. Really only the fight scenes (with Darcy and Lady Catherine) and the study questions were any good. Oh, and that one line where Charlotte prefers Darcy over his cousin because his head, and therefore his brain, is bigger. That line is funny. Seth Grahme-Smith is welcome to his royalties, I'll stick with the original stuff. To get the whole zombie brain drain out of my system I read a little from Sense and Sensability too.

Rohinton Minstry: A Fine Balance

One Word Summary: Eunuch, cut out my heart
More Words: The author supplies the despair, and the reader must provide the hope. This is a very good tale. The opening quote from Balzac's Le Pere Goriot is appropriate.
"Holding this book in your hand, sinking back in your soft armchair, you
will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me. And after you have read this
story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for
your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy.
But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true."
Synopsis: The birth and decline of an unlikely friendship between four lonely people trying to survive the Indira Gandhi administration in 1975. Or the fabulous adventures of two country mice in the city by the sea, with short appearances from the widow, the student, and the hair collector.
Rate: 5 tears
Other Books To Read: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, and The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

"Why does everybody have to choose the railway tracks only for dying?"
grumbled another. "No consideration for people like us. Murder, Suicide,
Naxalite-terrorist killing, police-custody death - everything ends up delaying
the trains. What is wrong with poison or tall buildings or knives?"

Best of Intentions

I normally love reading books for children but lately I've been unable to sink my teeth into any... here are some that look promising. Hopefully I can come back to them later.

The Mousehunter by Alex Milway.

Crows and Cards by Joseph Helgerson.

The Traitor King by Todd Mitchell. ( I like dedication, and I like the acknowledgments) Mr. Mitchell has a new book out, The Secret to Lying, it's got good reviews on B&N, that'll be worth a look at too)

Dedication: For my family, who believed in me even when I said I wanted to be a writer.

Josephine Tey: Daughter of Time

One Word Summary: Tonypandy
More Words: I looked up Richard III on Wikipedia just to verify the official story about his reign. I confess I like Inspector Grant's version much better (Joan Wolf vouchsafes a Good King Richard in her regency, Fools Masquerade, too), although I'm not much interested in searching primary sources to be sure Richard didn't have a hump. As for the story (a spoonful of sugar, really), I got the impression Ms. Tey was a bit of an intellectual snob. First she had her inspector wax eloquent on the decline of the novel. Then, and this doesn't support my accusation, but still... she gave each character a superfluous name. The woolly lamb. The amazon. The midget. The actress. The charwoman. The last two don't count since she didn't actual use those names, but I got so used to thinking of her characters as labels that I don't remember their real names. Anyhow, it's a clever technique, and I can't help but think she overused it to make some point which flew entirely over my head. Ipso facto, she must be an intellectual snob. Because my taste runs to romance instead of mystery the only thing I can really say to recommend Daughter of Time is 1) It's educational and 2) it's short and therefore 3) it's not a waste.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

One Word Summary: Black was her colour
More Words: After Anna begins her affair with Vronsky, I skipped ahead to see if she eventually throws herself under a train. Then I read various passages to find how she came to that point. Now that I've finished most of the story I've come to a few conclusions. Tolstoy has a way with words but I don't like him (if Levin really is autobiographical and if the short bio I read is true). I don't like shallow men like Vronsky either. I pity all women who can't hold on to their youth, beauty, mystery, or even their hair. Trains are a great literary device. I don't think Anna did Dolly any favours by patching things up between her (Dolly) and her husband (Stiva). And I'll be sure to avoid men named Alexie. I did like the part where Levin calls Stiva a fool for selling his land so cheap.

Can you think of anything that could have salvaged this train wreck?
Are you an Anna, or a Kitty?
Why does Ayn Rand hate this novel?

Rate: 3 tears
He had heard that women often did care for ugly and ordinary men, but he did not believe it, for he judged by himself, and he could not himself have loved any but beautiful, mysterious, and exceptional women.

Patricia Veryan: Married Past Redemption

One Word Summary: Kill MollyMae or whatever writers call their perfect alter ego.
More Words: Here's another clean Regency Romance Author to check out. I think she wrote in the '70 and '80. I do know she died last year. Anyhow, I read Married Past Redemption (which made me smile) back to back with Lanterns (which bored me to death), and couldn't tell the difference between the two heroines. That's my only complaint. She is supposed to be "the best regency romance writer since Georgette Heyer", so I wont write her off yet.
To help rescue her family from financial ruin, Lisette Van Lynsey marries a man who happens to the brother of the girl who married the man she really loves. Throw in a large dog, a disastrous wedding night, a romantic poem, a whole slew of misunderstandings, some unhealthy jealousy, a scoundrel and you have a romance. It's great.

Rating: 3 smiles
More Authors:
Veryan's Books

Carol Lynch Williams: The Chosen One

One Word Summary: Wrong
More Words: I can't say how wrong this is. I remember meeting a polygamist family as a missionary and not knowing what to say, but wanting to say- "you're wrong." Mostly I remember the man smiling at me. It was an irritating smile because it said there is nothing you can do to change this. I can't even remember the expressions of two women or their daughters. They're a blur. And then a few years ago there was a huge sexual abuse scandal in southern Utah, and so many children were taken into protective care. I wonder what's happening now?
Synopsis: Kyra is thirteen years old. She is the chosen to be the sixth wife of a sixty year old man, her uncle. He's holds a position of authority in the community and she cannot refuse him. Various methods of intimidation are used to coerce the child. Luckily or unluckily she escapes.

St Martins Griffen 2009

Sharelle Byars Moranville: The Snows

One Word Summary: Four Short Stories
More Words: My married name is Snow. I had to read this book. I liked it. The writing was uncomplicated and straightforward.
Synopsis: Start with Jim in 1931 he's sixteen and he leaves home and takes his sister with him. Later, in 1942/3 his kid sister, Cathy, is an unwed mother at sixteen. Next his daughter, sixteen year old Jill, reports on the Kent State student shootings in 1970 for her school newspaper. And finally, his grandaughter Mona is sixteen. She returns to Iowa for Cathy's funeral and reconnects with her family.
Henry Hold and Company 2007

Tanya Egan Gibson: How to Buy a Love of Reading

One Word Summary: Meta-
More Words: First off, I liked this book. Professional reviewers seemed to think it shallow they called it an unsuccessful attempt at meta-fiction. Still, I think people should give it a try- ideas about substance abuse, and love, and beauty, and how we change people are still zinging around in my head. The title caught my eye. I opened the book, read the inside jacket and almost put it down. Then I read the beginning chapters and thought "what is this gossip girl a la Megan McCafferty crap!" But I persevered and came out at the end sobbing-how embarrassing right. The end is sappy. I almost want to read The Great Gatsby a fifth time (another olive of mine). Anyhow the writing is clever and not a little self mocking as it readjusts itself to suit Carly's preferences. Yep, this is a fun book. Read this book.
Synopsis: Carly is fat, unpopular, unfashionable, uncool, and maybe a little freakish (ref: possible public masturbation debacle). In a misguided attempt to reinvent Carly, her parents commission an author to write a book for Carly to love. Enter Bree (and Justin), the author (and the author's past), they talk about writing and what makes a good story. They, Bree and Justin, are the best thing that's ever happened to Carly. They care about her. They reinvent her. Meanwhile Carly loves Hunter. He is bent on self destruction, and Carly can't save him. One thread of this story is how she let's him go.
Rate: 3.5
Dutton [Penguin Group] 2006
Why are the only responsible adults in this book writers of fiction?
Does Hunter love Carly? I know he says so, but does he?
Does everyone create and liveout their selfimages?
Is Hunter's goodness, payback for Carly's favour?

A.S. Byatt: The Children's Book

One Word Summary: Poor Tom
More Words: I didn't enjoy this book, although it has given me some ideas to chew on. Byatt could have written a brief-but-not-compelling-history-of-the-arts-and-crafts-movement-in-England-from-1895-to-1915. A huge problem, for a simple person like me, was the vast number of characters. Then Byatt killed off everyone that couldn't have a snappy happy ending. Thank goodness for WWI, right? I feel guilty for not being remotely interested in any of the women characters, because... well I am a woman. I'm still unsure about one idea. Byatt writes somewhere near the beginning that the children of arts and crafts generation experienced childhood differently from all other children past and present. How asinine, I thought, at first. Of course now I'm wondering if I missed the point. Maybe Byatt meant that the romanticized childhood was invented during this period-like Olive creating Todefright with Violet manage it smoothly. Whatever she meant, I still don't get it.
Knopf Books 2009

She was thinking much faster than usual, and reflected sardonically that
those hungry-minded women, those frustrated female thinkers, of whome Marian
Oakshott spoke, would always need her, Eslie, or someone like her , to carry
coals and chop meat and mend clothing and do laundry, or they wouldn't keep
alie. Someone in the scullery carrying out the ashes. And if one got out of the
scullery, like a disguised princess in a fairytale, there always hd to be
another, another scullery maid to take her place.

Nevertheless, she would like to get out.

{and that half speach by Saraphita after Benedict Fludd is dead}

Joyce Carol Oates: The Gravedigger's Daughter

One Word Summary: keeping going
More Words: I skimmed and skipped huge dull passages throughout this novel. It was dull and I didn't always 'get it', but the author skillfully created one mysterious gypsy with so many voices. I still want to know: Who is Hazel Jones?
Synopsis: The story of a girl a)struggling to hide from her past or b) to define herself or c) to conquer her weakness.
HaperCollins 2006

Rebecca Solnit: Wanderlut, a history of walking

One Word Summary: Space-Time
More Words: Wow! I relied heavily on my dictionary while reading this book. The reading went slow, and even slower during the chapters I didn't fancy. It took about six months to digest. Usually I'm too impatient to tackle longish projects, but this was a very good book. It's an education. Solnit is thorough, thoughtful, and witty. I'm not a poet or a philosopher or any type of mover and shaker but I am a walker. In the last six months I've felt more conscious of the space outdoors- appreciative, protective, and while I've been luxuriating in the freedom of my feet I've also been chaffing at their limitations. I wish people would park their cars. I wish it were easy to fetch groceries with two young children on foot. I wish communities were designed for pedestrians.

Viking (Penguin Group) 2000

Quotes: I've flagged so many passages. Here are three chosen at random.

They have castigated her cross-country walk across
the boundaries of decorum; she is mocking their garden propriety by suggesting
that they have become part of the garden's array of aesthetic objects, objects
that she can contemplate as impersonally as trees and water. That evening Miss
Bingley strolls about the narrower confines of the drawing wroom, where all the
Netherfields characters but Jane are gathered. "Her figure was elegant, and she
walked well," says Austen. The acuity of idle people about each other's conduct
extended to critiques of movent and posture, and a person's walk was
considered an important part of his or her appearance.

The word citizen has to do with cities, and the ideal city is organized around citizenship - around participation in public life.

What exactly is the nature of the transformation in which machines now pump our water but we go to other machines to engage in the act of pumping, not for the sake of water but for the sake of our bodies, bodies theoretically liberated by machine technology?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Joan Wolf: The Road To Avalon

One Word Summary: King Arthur, duh!
More words: I like Joan Wolf. I like King Arthur. I liked this book. After I finished this I read The Edge of Light, about Alfred the Great of Brittan. I liked it too. Soon I'll try Born of the Sun.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To Be Read Later

Gideon Trillogy Book One: The Time Travellers
by Linda Buckley Archer

Here's a book that I want to read... but not right now. I like the cover design. The first few chapters were a good start. I feel a little wary because the cover says 'if you loved Harry Potter, you'll love this book' or something very like. I don't want to be disappointed. Can anyone tell me, is this good?