Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Door in the Wall

by Marguerite De Angeli

I decided to read this Newbery Medal book because it won in the year I was born. The theme is presented early in the book when the friar, Brother Luke, leads a young crippled boy around the inside wall of the village. Brother Luke tells Robin that if he ever comes to a wall to just follow it and eventually he will find a door.

Later as Robin learns to whittle and play the lute, and as he strengthens his arm muscles by swimming, Brother Luke reminds him that he is finding doors in the wall. All the doors take effort, but they are there and they lead us past the walls, or restrictions, of our lives.

I hope my grandchildren grow into avid readers. I would like to read this one with them or give it to them when they get a little older. Along with teaching a valuable lesson it depicts the medieval period quite well. I learned that the word window came from the holes in the rock walls of buildings that were referred to as wind holes. I like picking up little tidbits like that in my reading.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christine Kringle

by Lynn Brittney

In this book we learn that it's preposterous to believe that one, and only one, Santa can possibly stop at every single home on Christmas eve and deliver presents the world over. There are really many Santas that take over that responsibility. Each Santa and his family are members of the Yule Dynasty and each has his own country to take care of. In the US it is Kris Kringle, in Japan it is Santa Kurohsu, Brazil has Papai Noel, Slovakia has St. Mikulas, for Canada it's Old Belsnickle and in many South American countries there are the wise kings.

The Yule Dynasty meets annually on Nov 29 to take care of business. This year Kris Kringle hopes to persuade the council to change the age-old policy of turning the family business over to the oldest son. You see, Pa and Ma Kringle only have a one child, their daughter Christine.

There is another problem for the Yule convention when a small village in England announces it's decision to ban Christmas.

The process of resolving these problems and a few others that emerge along the way are at the heart of this whimsical, creative and delightful book aimed at the 8 to 16 year old reader. Christine Kringle is a fun book that will certainly get you in the Christmas spirit with its fun takeoff on the Santa Claus tale.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Bookman's Promise

by John Dunning

This is book #3 in The Bookman/Cliff Janeway crime series and it is my favorite, so far. Luckily there are 2 more in the series that I'm looking forward to reading.

Janeway combines his antiques collector knowledge with his muscular tough guy cop persona in hot pursuit of the ultimate dream of every book collector: the undiscovered handwritten copy of a prolific and famous author.

The Bookman's Promise is part book collector's paradise, filled with Dunning's unquestioned knowledge of musty book dens and collector's facts, and part mystery buff's delight as his sleuthing skills go on the hunt for clues that span a century.

I liked this passage about writing and think it could apply to life itself:
I think it was Doctorow who said that about the writing process - it's like driving a car across country at night and all you can ever see is what's immediately in your headlights, but you can make the whole journey that way.
Another insight, this time dealing with books and the internet:
A book is a mirror: If an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out. That was written two centuries ago by a German wit name Lichenberg, but I think the same applies today to a computer screen.
A few other passages that struck me is some way:
"I know it's tough, I said, and felt stupid saying it. She confirmed my stupidity with a frigid look. "You don't know anything," she said, carving me into a Mount Rushmore of dunces.

Bad language is just bad manners, it's a symptom of a bankrupt mind.

Give an idiot a microphone and he's just a louder version of the same old idiot.

No one could have imagined that he'd do this to himself. It only proved that even a great poet like John Donne could be wrong. Every man is indeed an island, and deep personal torments can coexist with all the ingredients of a happy life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Birds in Fall

by Brad Kessler

It was a bit of coincidence to read Birds in Fall right after reading Bel Canto. The books had such similar feelings. The mood that was created had to do with isolation from the real world and, too, the loss of normal time patterns. Both deal with a disaster that puts the main characters in a type of limbo. I talked about that mood that was described so well in Bel Canto in the review just before this one.

The encapsulation into a temporary existence in Bel Canto was the result of members at a party for dignitaries being held hostage at the hands of terrorists. In Birds in Fall a different type of catastrophe produces a similar situation for a group of people who lost loved ones in a plane crash off the coast of Nova Scotia. The airlines arrange for families of the crash victims to fly and stay in Nova Scotia for a brief period of time. Some of those family members stay at a little inn very near the site of the crash. Each person is dealing with his or her own trauma that insulates them from the others. As the days go by little shared moments cause the cocoon to open and include the other's. Instead of disappearing the cocoon grows to surround the group and keep them in a time warp as they deal with the losses they are suffering.

Bel Canto was told by a woman author and Birds in Fall by a male author. The stories are different and both are wonderfully told. But reading them so close together I couldn't help but be aware of how each author skillfully depicted a feeling, a mood, of life being placed on hold. People going through the motions of life, but cut off from the normal work-a-day life they had so recently been involved in.

There was a lot of symbolism involving the migration of birds. Here's one example:
"How is a story like a bird?"
"It keeps us aloft. It flies. It goes from one place and lands at another, seemingly at random. But its movements are carefully choreographed, and if you look closely, you'll know exactly where it will next perch."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett

I started this remarkable book in August because it was the selection for my f2f book club. Unfortunately I didn't finish it and I had to set it aside to finish up a few challenges. I picked it back up this month and finished the last half.

Bel Canto received the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002. The term 'Bel Canto' refers to a style of singing. Since part of the book's focus is on a woman who mesmerizes her audiences with her beautiful singing the title is apropos.

The story is set in an unknown South American country. In an attempt to draw foreign money into their economy the country hosts a birthday party for a rich Japanese businessman with a famous opera singer providing the entertainment. In the middle of the party the guests are taken hostage by a radical militant group. All the woman but one, the opera singer, are released. The hostage situation drags on for over 4 months.

"What begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion." (from the back cover)

I really enjoyed my first Patchett book and look forward to reading more. She skillfully conveyed the feeling of complete closure from the real world. The hostages and terrorists both lived inside a bubble of space and time.
"The day no longer progressed in its normal, linear fashion but instead every hour circled back to its beginning, every moment was lived over and over again. Time in the manner in which they had all understood it, was over."

"Time could barely pull the second hand forward on the clock..."

". . . as if the world had become a giant train station in which everything was delayed until further notice."
A few other quotes that I liked. I won't share all the passages I marked.
"The quality of the gift depends on the sincerity of the giver. It also helps if the gift is something the receiver actually wants."

"At the moment one is sure that all is lost, look at what is gained."

"Step back," Roxane said, and shooed them away with her hand. "I'm going to want that air."

"It's easier to love a woman when you can't understand a word she's saying."

"He would not have chosen to draw attention to himself, and without his playing the story might have missed him altogether. But there was a need, a specific request, and so he stepped forward."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas Theme Book Challenge - 2007

Here's one I feel confident that I can complete.
Read 2 Christmas books in 2 months
My choices:
1. Christine Kringle
by Lynn Britney
2. The Cricket on the Hearth
by Charles Dickens

This fun challenge is brought to us by Susan at My Reading Adventures.

The Body in Kelp

by Katherine Hall Page

This is book 2 in the Faith Fairchild 'TheBody In" series. All the books start with the words "The Body in." The first was The Body in the Belfry and the next one after The Body in the Kelp is The Body in the Bouillon. The series features a New York city woman transplanted to a small Massachusetts village when she marries the handsome minister. Of course, there is the occasional murder that needs to be solved to keep Faith's life interesting when she's not busy with her 2-year-old son and her small catering business.

This series is perfect when you need a light, cozy mystery. Nothing to write home about but fun to read.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Latitudes of Melt

by Joan Clark

I read Shipping News earlier this year while we were traveling in Newfoundland. It didn't fill me with a sense of Newfoundland the way that Latitudes of Melt did. Shipping News could have taken place anywhere in a small, cold, coastal community whereas Latitudes evoked a strong sense of Newfoundland.
"There amid the cushioning green, millions of bakeapples shown like orange stars, spreading inland as far as the eye could see, past the blue pond water to the infinite rise beyond. They were a galaxy whose constellations changed as handfulls of berries tumbled into pails. No matter how far the women walked inland, they were never out of sight of the sea. . . the berries grew best in boggy ground, the same bogs where purple iris grew."
Newfoundland is in the middle of the latitudes of melt, between 46 and 51 degrees north, a region where icebergs calved in Greenland drift down the Labrador Current to dwindle in the coves before disappearing altogether below the 43rd parallel. For this reason alone the title was appropriate for the story. Clark carries the theme of icebergs and melting beyond the setting and into the characters themselves and their relationships. There are times when the current of circumstance melts the frost in a person's and other times when the cold hardens into an iceberg. And like an iceberg only a small portion of the thing is visible.

Latitudes of Melt starts out when the main character, Aurora, is found bundled into a basket and floating on a flat piece of ice. The book is about her life and those she is closely associated with. It covers nearly the whole of the 20th century.

I really liked this book - the story, the writing, the characters were all captivating. It was a treat to read about some things I had learned about earlier in the year, such as growlers, bakeapples, bogs, the Christmas tradition of mummering and confederation. This is a book I look forward to reading again.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

2008 TBR Challenge

Mizbooks is again hosting the TBR Challenge. YAY! This is one of the first challenges I signed up for last year and it remains one of my favorite. The whole point is to choose books you've been wanting to read and/or books you've had on the list or library shelf for too many months. I have more this year to choose from than ever before.

Other book bloggers have made so many great recommendation and I've been introduced to Bookmooch which makes it so easy to acquire books. The list grows and the shelves moan. I NEED this challenge. The real challenge is choosing just 12 books.

I narrowed the choices to this small list of 12. I have got to stop buying and trading books. And I should probably quit reading all those fabulous book blogs that I love.
1. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
2. Lewis Carroll Biography by Morton N. Cohen
3. Yarrow by Charles de Lint
4. Sixpence House by Paul Collins
5. And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran
6. Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
7. Singer of All Songs Kate Constable
8. Birth House by Ami McKay
9. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
10. Grandmother and the Priests by Taylor Caldwell
11. Cruel Miracles by Orson Scott Card
12. The Sign of the Book by John Dunning

Young Adult Reading Challenge

Another "Joy"ful challenge from Thoughts of Joy to simply read 12 young adult books in 2008.
1. River Secrets by Shannon Hale
2. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
3. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M. T. Anderson
4. Gossamer by Lois Lowry
5. Trumpeter of Karkow by Eric P. Kelly
6. Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
7. Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
8. Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
9. Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable
10. Anne of Avonlea by M.L. Montgomery
11. Magyk by Angie Sage
12. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ella Enchanted

by Gail Carson Levine

This is a totally enjoyable, clever take-off of the Cinderella story. There are enough twists and turns along with some new story elements to make this a 'new' story, not just a retelling of the same story.

I would have love this book as a youngster. And since I didn't read in my younger days, I'm glad I can still read a youth or YA book and today and experience much the same pleasure.

Ella Enchanted is a Newbery Honor book.

"What's In A Name?" Reading Challenge

Annie from Words by Annie is hosting an interesting reading challenge for next year. It's called "What's In A Name?" A Reading Challenge.

Dates: January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008

The Challenge: Choose one book from each of the following categories. I listed a couple to choose from.

1. A book with a color in its title.
Yellowknife by Steve Zip
White Bone by Barbara Gowdy

2. A book with an animal in its title.
Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosopy Through Jokes by Thomas Catchcart and Daniel Klein
Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler
The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters

3. A book with a first name in its title.
Maggie Again by John D. Husband
Thursday Next: A First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
Becoming Jane
Jane & the Unpleasantness of Scargrave Manor
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Goodnight, Irene by Jan Burke

4. A book with a place in its title.
The Resurrection of Lady Somerset by Nicola Beaumont
I Never Saw Paris by
A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi
Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
Pelagie: The Return to Acadie
Long Ago in France by M.F.K. Fisher

5. A book with a weather event in its title.
A Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason (isn't dusk a weather event?!)
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

6. A book with a plant in its title.
Witches' Bane by Susan Wittig Albert
Yarrow by Charles de Lint

Monday, November 05, 2007

Reading Full Circle Challenge

I have got to stop signing up for challenges. I know that. Nobody needs to tell me. Actually, I put my foot down and told myself, "NO MORE." But as you can see I am joining another challenge.

It was the button that did it! Not really, although I do love the button. It was the challenge of taking books I've already listed for other challenges and connecting them in a full circle.

You can read all the particulars of this challenge and sign up yourself at Joy's blog. The basics are to link one book to another using a word in the title. The last book in the list needs to connect to the first. The contest runs from Jan through Dec 2008 and you can decide to read 6 or more books.

I went with 12 books - all are books that I already own, except for 2. That's not too bad, is it? One of the books I'm buying used for a penny + S&H and the other I can check out from the library. Here's the list:
1. Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip
2. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
3. A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi
4. The Day the World Came to Town
5. Pumpkin Town! Or, Nothing Is Better or Worse Than Pumpkins by Katie McKy
6. Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
7. Still Life by Louise Penny
8. Murder Gets a Life by Anne George
9. Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerney
10. The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer
11. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
12. Fatastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger by Laurence Leamer

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Book to Movie Challenge Finished

This was a really fun challenge to participate in. My thanks go to Callista at SMS Book Reviews who hosted the Book to Movie Challenge. The books and movies I reviewed for this challenge were:
1. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
2. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
3. Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil by E.L. Konisburg

My favorite was The Scarlet Pimpernel, both book and movie. I most surprised with how good the book and the movie for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were. I liked the Newbery Award-winning Mixed-Up Files, but didn't care for the movie.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

by E.L. Konisburg

I've heard people say that they really identified with a character in a story, but it's never happened to me. Until now. And it only happened at the beginning and the end of this book.

The main character is an 11-year-old girl named Caudia who doesn't feel fully appreciated by her family so she decides to run away from home. That's not the part that I identify with, though I could. JK

This is the description of Claudia that sounds like me.
"She studied maps and the tour guide book of the American Automobile Association and reviewed every field trip her class had ever taken. She made a specialized geography course for herself. There were even some pamphlets about the museum around the house, which she researched."
"Once she made up her mind to go, she enjoyed the planning almost as much as she enjoyed spending money. Planning long and well was one of her special talents."
I love to plan for trips, to find all the little-know as well as the 'must see' places of interest that are close to the road we'll be taking. I like to read books that set the mood and I enjoy gathering interest facts to share with my husband as we travel. Of course, I have to write all this down or it's forgotten long before the trip occurs.

Another identifying feeling:
"She never liked feeling either very hot or very cold, and she hated feeling both at the same time."
Sadly, this one is true of me also.
"Her net profit, therefore, would be as great as that of someone who read a great deal but remembered very little."
This is the story of a young girl and little brother who run away from home to the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art. They live there for over a week. I enjoyed this book by the same author of The View From Saturday which also won a Newbery Award.

Just a few more passages that I liked.
"But lying in bed just before going to sleep is the worst time for organized thinking; it is the best time for free thinking. Ideas drift like clouds in an undecided breeze, taking first this direction and then that."
"Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around."
Here Mrs. Frankweiler disagrees with Claudia's idea that you should learn one new thing every day.
"I don't agree with that. I think you shuld learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, they you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow."
How did the movie compare to the book? The movie changed quite a few things and it was boring. Yawn! I only watched an hour and then had to turn it off. I didn't get bored with the book. My suggestion: Read the book and forget about the movie.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jane Austen Mini-Challenge

Another great challenge - this one is not just for reading, but for watching. Becky of Becky's Book Reviews is hosting this fun Austen Mini-Challenge.

The aim is to read and/or watch at least two Jane Austen novels/movies in 2008. Masterpiece Theatre is showing all 6 movies in the 2008 season.

Becky is making the challenge very easy and fun. You can either read or watch a Jane Austen related book or movie. She even said we could watch Becoming Jane if we wanted to. I want to!

I am going to try to watch all 6 of the Masterpiece Theatre's selections:
1. Emma
2. Mansfield Park
3. Northanger Abbey
4. Persuasion
5. Pride and Prejudice (Ahhhh...)
6. Sense and Sensibility

AND I want to read 2 of Austen's books other than Pride and Prejudice which I've already read.

AND for an extra umph and reward I want to read Becoming Jane and then watch that movie.

Thanks Becky, for designing this great challenge. I'm really looking forward to this. And didn't Booknut create a perfect button for the challenge? Awesome, Booknut.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Bookman's Wake

by John Dunning

I read Booked to Die earlier in the year and really liked the writing, the mystery and the main character. I knew then that I would want to read more books in the Cliff Janeway series. When Verbivore came up with the Reading the Author Challenge I didn't have to make any hard decisions on which author I would read.

The Bookman's Wake was the New York Time's notable book of the year in 1995 and was even better than Booked to Die, which makes me even more excited to read the other 3 books in the series.

The lead character is a Denver policeman who retired to open up a used book store. He's also a book scout who becomes embroiled in murder cases. This time he is coaxed into going to Seattle to track down a young book thief and possible murderer.

A few passages that stood out at the time I read them:
"Forget what you thought you knew and maybe you'll learn something."

"I read somewhere that fiction's the only way you can really tell the truth."

"Lighter fluid is one of the book scouts's major tools, used for removing stickers from book jackets safely and without a trace. Paper can be soaked in it without getting stained, wrinklet, or otherwise damaged, unless someone remembers what lighter fluid's really for and sets it on fire."
I like the references to books and the interesting tidbits about book scouting. Of course, if that's all these books promised I probably wouldn't read anymore. Dunning does a wonderful job of building his characters and developing a thoughtful mystery. I look forward to book 3, The Bookman's Promise.