Category Archives: Books

Books, glorious books!

10 days ago: I was volunteering in the deaf-education classroom of a teacher I really admire and mentioned that while her students all read a book (almost) every day, it often seemed to be above their level and thus wasn’t doing them a lot of good. She agreed, and said she’s tried to have a system in place but the kids don’t follow her system and she didn’t know what else to do nor have the time to implement a new system. I suggested a computer program which uses trade books but ranks them by level, and then lets the kids take a test on what they read. She was excited and asked me to look into it. I was excited and did as soon as I got home.

10 days ago…a few hours later: I e-mailed her with a free system I had found like I described, but I didn’t think it was the big one I was familiar with. After another hour of searching I e-mailed her again when I found the big one I was familiar with: Accelerated Reader. (I know it’s not a perfect system, but in her situation for her kids it seemed like it would be helpful). She e-mailed back she had heard of it and would look into if her school had it available.

7 days ago: I spent all weekend bouncing up and down with the prospect of reorganizing books! Using numbers! Books! Organizing! Numbers! Dream come freaking true!

5 days ago: I e-mailed again to ask if her school had the AR system, and beg her to let me ask if she would like to use their ranking system, even if she couldn’t use their tests, to level her books.  She replied they didn’t but she’d love to implement the leveling system if I was up for it. I threw a happy party.

4 days ago: I went out of my way to go to Staples to select the perfect labels for the project. I then spent much of the evening guesstimating how many of each number I would need, aligning a printing template perfectly and testing out fonts and sizes, and printing out labels.

3 days ago: I showed up bright and early and worked with the kids….and then when they went for group work rather than observing and helping I grabbed bins of books and started joyfully labeling them. After labeling about 300 or so I pulled them from their bins and reorganized them all by number. I re-sorted them into bins, made new labels for the bins to identify which numbers were in each bin, and made personalized cards for the students telling each of them which levels of books they were allowed to read (based on reading tests they had recently been given). I stayed almost the full school day (instead of leaving at lunch like I normally do) gleefully doing this. I then went home because I had not eaten all day and baby was not. happy. about this. After eating I fretted the rest of the evening because I had not brought any books home to continue working on them and I could not get the darn books out of my mind.

2 days ago: I obsessed all day about the dang books. I decided to go back on Friday to work in the room and pick up books for the weekend.

1 day ago: After loading 4 reuseable bags with books (Note: heavy!) and hauling them out to my car I hurried through my homework so I could spend the rest of the evening labeling books.

Today: Still joyfully labeling books. This is the best. Project. Ever.

I have a problem.

That problem is named Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.


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Book catch-up

It’s been awhile since I discussed books I’ve been reading for several reasons. With school, I had less time to read. I was in the middle of a series that was meh. And I just haven’t been getting over to this here blog. Which leads to me now having seven, count ’em, SEVEN books to review! (Don’t worry, three are in a series…) So here we go!

Lord of Snow & Shadows
Prisoner of the Iron Tower
Children of the Serpent Gate
Sarah Ash

This series opens with Gavril, a painter living in sunny Smarna with his mother, whose innocence is shattered when strange men appear at his door to inform him that he is the heir and new ruler of the kingdom of Azkendir. As they take him to assume the role of Drakhoul he notices the physical changes that are beginning to overtake him, and he realizes this role of ruling is not something he can just shrug off. Through his travails we meet many other characters, and watch what happens to the continent during this time of upheaval.

This series was just…meh. It was good enough to keep me reading, and I didn’t hate it, but there was very little positive about it. I kept waiting for it to become good, to become interesting, for the characters to develop, for the focus to shift to the human element, and it just..never..happened.  By the third book I was thinking about the characters some when I wasn’t reading it (which usually I do with books but just wasn’t with this series), but when I’d pick it up I had virtually no draw to keep reading it. Most books I’m meh about I get into once I have them in my hands, but this book couldn’t even shine there. The plot is interesting, the characters are interesting, the whole thing just isn’t well done. The characters are interesting in theory, but are never given any depth. Things happen to them, and you grab onto the occurences to try to figure out who these characters are, but with nothing developed it’s hard to really care. As one reviewer said on Amazon, “Somewhere inside this book is a better book dying to get out.” I think that sums it up perfectly. Overall this series is fine. I wouldn’t not recommend it. If the plot appeals to you, you may enjoy it. But I just can’t bring myself to give it any kind of positive endorsement.

Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children
Todd R. Risley & Betty Hart

As you can see from the cover design, this is a little bit older book. It discusses the research the authors did in the language development of young American children. They followed 42 families for about 2 1/2 years, recording one full hour of every month and transcribing every single thing uttered in that time period. They then used this to look at the differences in the experience of language children have, and how those differences affected the children’s future language development. Their results were astounding, showing that families from poorer socio-economic groups speak to their children less on average and with lower “quality” speech for learning language than families from higher economic groups. This leads to vastly higher rates of vocabulary and language acquisition, and these differences continue to have an effect throughout the school years. It really highlights the importance of speaking to and interacting with children while they are young, as their experiences at this young age can set the path of their language development for the rest of their lives. Very interesting and informative, easy to read for the scholarly level of information being presented, and important information. Not a “fun” book, but a good one.

Language Development
Erika Hoff

I have to start by saying I am so freaking proud of having read this whole book cover to cover. It is DENSE. There is a LOT of information in here. But it is amazing. This book describes how children go from not being intentionally communicative at birth to speaking with largely adult-like language by age four, often with no direct instruction. It is a giant topic to tackle in one book, which means this is not a light read! But the information is fascinating, and it is presented in an organized format. And what I most appreciate is that there are a plethora of examples. Basically every topic has a description of some experiment, observation or research done on young children to illustrate what is being discussed. This makes the subject very real and tangible.

I don’t suspect many people will be picking this book up for fun. It will most often be read for  a class, simply because people don’t read into a topic like this in such depth on their own. But it is a good book, and I am glad I read it. I will be keeping it in my library!

One Child
Torey Hayden

This book is, in a word, fantastic. It is the story of Torey Hayden, a psychologist and special education teacher, working in the 1970s. In this book she describes her time in a special education classroom for the severely disturbed, children who do not fit in any other place. This book is mainly about her relationship with Shelia, a little girl who was sent to Torey’s classroom after she, at age 6, lured a 3 year old into the woods and set him on fire. Torey discusses her work with the girl and the amazing transformation that takes place in her classroom. There is so much emotion in this book, and so much heart, and you cannot help but be sucked in and feel for the characters passionately. I have read this book repeatedly and still get fully absorbed in it. My only word of caution is that this is a book from another time. Psychological knowledge was different. Approaches were different. Teacher boundaries were different. So if her stating things which might now be out of date is going to bother you, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you can get past that, you will find a truly phenomenal book waits.

Ghost Girl
Torey Hayden

Again, a fantastic book by Torey Hayden. This one is even more disturbing than One Child, and the story that comes to life is truly horrifying. Masterfully told, as always, at the beginning of the book we meet 8 year old Jadie of Torey’s newest class, an elective mute who walks completely doubled-over with her arms wrapped around her stomach. Over approximately one year Hayden breaks Jadie’s silence and gains her trust, discovering that Jadie’s world is not for the faint-hearted. Fair warning – this book is extremely disturbing. If you have experienced sexual abuse this may be too triggering for you. Also, this is a non-fiction story. Which means, unlike in fiction, we don’t get a nice, pat ending all tied up in a bow. This, however, is one of the few books that I find so amazing that a non-satisfying ending doesn’t ruin the book at all. I highly recommend it.

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Book Updates

Tangled Webs
The Invisible Ring
The Shadow Queen
Shalador’s Lady
Twilight’s Dawn

Anne Bishop

These five books are all follow ups to the Black Jewels trilogy. And I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed them! I’m impressed with the author’s ability to keep a character and world alive and thriving and growing through so many books. Three of these books (The Invisible Ring, The Shadow Queen, and Shalador’s Lady) only incidentally follow the main characters of the original books, but they are still involved while we focus on other, new characters. Twilight’s Dawn is another compilation of four short stories, and the rest are novels. Overall, these are great books: captivating and full of interesting characters and problems. I was pulled in for all of them. However, they are no original series or Dreams Made Flesh. Those four books are the must-reads. If you enjoy those, then you’ll enjoy these. They’re better than the vast majority of fantasy books out there, and if they weren’t connected to one of, in my opinion, the best series ever written, I’d probably have given them even higher marks. My expectations just started at the top, which made them pretty impossible to meet.

The one little annoyance I had with these books was that, to create new problems or expand on her world, Bishop would sometimes introduce totally new concepts. It is explained how these never came up in previous books a little bit, but some of these creations were so big I had a hard time believing it would never have been mentioned before. She is absolutely consistent, there aren’t contradictions in her books at all, but sometimes it felt a little like, “Wait…why haven’t I heard of this before?” That is a minor annoyance, though, I thought she did a great job for the most part, and I must admit, the new concepts were interesting!

Also, fair warning. The last short story  of the last book, Twilight’s Dawn, at the end of this massive series will completely rock your world. Especially if you like happy endings. It’s not that it’s not happy, it’s just not…right. I didn’t want to think about it! It was a tough place to be, and while everyone’s response was right on, it was almost harder because I didn’t want to think about it and she made it feel so real! Very hard to read, still leaves me with a feeling of WHAT?!?!?! all these months later.

Beyond the Hanging Wall

Sara Douglas

I thought I hadn’t read this book when I picked it up out of my home library…and I couldn’t remember that I had until tens of pages in. That says a lot.

It’s good. It pulls me in when I first start. And then progressively, it loses me. The fantasy aspect gets a little too big and weird for me, and the transition isn’t smooth enough. I just don’t quite buy it, and it leaves me staring with a brow raised going, “…really?”

It’s a light read. Not bad. But I just can’t say I recommend it.


Brandon Sanderson

This is the first book since I read the original Black Jewels trilogy where I was sucked. in. Neglecting my family kind of sucked in. Really, really enjoyed Sanderson’s storytelling, and I now am really looking forward to reading his other books.

However. That being said, again, I found the ending somewhat disappointing. Nothing specific about it, it just seemed a little too pat.

In this book there we are taken to a country with a young bride as she crosses the sea to meet her new groom. This country includes the walled city of Elantris, formerly where godlike people lived after they went through a transformation that allowed them to wield amazing powers, now where people who have undergone the transformation are thrown in and locked. About 10 years ago, the transformation stopped turning people into powerful super-beings, and instead turned them into wrecks of their former selves. Once she arrives she finds herself surrounded by political intrigue, automatically married to a husband now considered dead, since on her trip he was taken by the change and thrown into Elantris. We follow her struggle for knowledge, power and acceptance outside of Elantris, and her husband’s struggle to find a new purpose inside Elantris. The characters are strong, and the reader tries to follow along and figure out how everything can turn out right, or in what way it will end up wrong.

Would I recommend it? Yeah, it’s a good read. Especially since most people don’t get as hung up on endings as me. It is a good, solid, enjoyable book. The ending just wasn’t exactly my cup ‘o’ tea.

Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: A Complete Guide

Penny Simkin, April Bolding, Ann Keppler and Janelle Durham

If you are pregnant, read this book! It is fabulous. Seriously. So. Good.

A few months ago when the baby crazies got strong, I went to get a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Luckily, I read the reviews first. The attitude in it seems very negative, very focused on all that can go wrong, very flippant about such outcomes, and very do whatever the doctor says, and very full of incorrect information. (Note, I haven’t read it, but I have heard this a LOT since by those who are into births that are more than just going in and letting the doctor run the show. Not that there’s anything wrong that that, but it is not what I want) Not what I was looking for.  Not reassuring. Feeding into our country’s culture of fear surrounding childbirth. Some of the reviewers mentioned this book as a better alternative, so I went and picked it up.

So very, very glad I did!

This book covers basically everything you’d want to know about childbirth. It includes discussions of things that can go wrong, along with pain management options, complications, and more. But it does it without trying to scare you. It treats tough topics more like it’s equipping you with information, so that you can go forward and do the best you can. And I appreciated that.

It has a lot of fabulous information. And unlike the book I’m reading now, it includes a real section on how to pick a healthcare provider that you will feel comfortable with, whatever kind of birth you want to have. I mean, heck, it opens with a short chapter on how pregnancy and birth is a momentous occasion! This book seems interested in your emotional well-being, not just your physical, which I appreciate. There are chapters on changes during pregnancy in mom and baby, exercising and eating well during pregnancy, possible complications, the stages of labor, the multitude of options during childbirth, cesarean birth, and even information on recovery after and how to care for a new baby. And while this book is clearly written by those who tend to lean towards more natural births, I really don’t feel it is demeaning or belittling of other options. The chapter on c-sections is fair and informative, there is no snarky undertone or dismissive voice.

If I could only have and read one book on pregnancy, I would choose this one. And if any of my friends get pregnant in the future, I would highly recommend this book to them, if not give it as a gift. So. Good. Highly recommended.

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More books: Black Jewels

Another book update! I swear I had a mild flu over the symptoms except feeling crappy and wanting to stay in bed the whole time..and since I had Friday and Sunday off, and nothing but class on Saturday, I basically did!

What also might have contributed to that was the books I was reading. They also might have contributed to me completely ignoring my husband the whole weekend.

One of my favorite series of all times. Recommended to me by my bestie. Despite it being about my fourth time through, I could not put it down.

The Black Jewels Trilogy

Daughter of the Blood
Heir to the Shadows
Queen of the Darkness

Anne Bishop

This is one of my top three favorite series, so I definitely recommend it, but I only recommend it to the open-minded. For one thing, Saetan is a main character..and a really nice guy! (Lord of the underworld Saetan, not hell vs. heaven Saetan, if that makes it any better). One of my favorite things about this book is that the characterization is phenomenal, you will be sucked in and you will care about the people in it. And these people are some of the most unique characters in one of the most unique settings I’ve come across. The main-main character is a young girl named Jaenelle. She lives in a world governed by magic, where the Blood can use craft in all three realms (two of which are for the living, one of which is for the dead). The society is matriarchical, with women Blood ruling and men serving by their natures. It is also a world where darkness reigns; your power is reflected in the color of the jewels you wear, and the darker the jewels you can wear, the more power you have. Jaenelle, who we first meet as a child of 5, has more power than anyone in the history of the Blood, and is the embodiment of a prophecy millenia in the making. We watch her grow and develop into Witch, the powerful ruler of all, and love her and cheer for her and her friends and teachers the whole way through.

Bishop has created a fascinating, mystical world and filled it with captivating characters. Her storytelling is phenomenal. The plot is rich and the love story evocative. Her characters come to life, and it may be hard to remember you don’t know them outside the pages of a book. The story will linger with you long after you have read it. This is writing at its best. Read it.

And once you have, try…

Dreams Made Flesh

Anne Bishop

Bishop is one of the few authors I have come across who has successfully written a follow-up set of short-stories to her phenomenal core work. Dreams Made Flesh is four short stories, two of which are very short, and two of which are longer. The two longer ones are my favorites, one telling the story of Lucivar between books 2 and 3, and one telling the story of Jaenelle after the trilogy ended. It is so great to reconnect with the characters, and I really feel that these stories fill out and add to the main trilogy, rather than just being tacked on. I would even go so far as to say you’ve not gotten the whole Black Jewels Trilogy experience until you’ve read the two longer short stories contained here. This last short story finally gives the series a real ending, some good closure, and a much more satisfying stopping place than where the original story ended. In addition, these stories really fill out many of the characters more, letting you get to know them well and see new sides to their personalities. Highly, highly recommend, but only if you’ve read the Black Jewels trilogy.

I love these books. There is a book that technically comes in between the trilogy and Dreams Made Flesh, but it isn’t really connected to the characters as well (if I remember) so it didn’t really stick with me. I’m reading it now. And will follow it with the four other books which have since come out in the Black Jewels world. (None of which give me new letters, but I can afford some time since it’s April and I have 13/26 letters of the alphabet done!) I’ll be sure to let you know how they are, too, since once you’re sucked into this world I’m sure you, too, will want all you can get of it!

If you read them I’d love to hear what you think!


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More books: Midwives and Empires

I’ve been moving slowly that last month or so with reading. I’ve kind of been up-in-the-air between series; even though I have new ones I just couldn’t decide where I wanted to go. Throw in some non-fiction, which takes longer, one of which I’m about 3/4 of the way through but is still quite a long book, and my number of updates is not speeding along! That’s OK, my goal is to enjoy my reading, and I still have 11/26 of the letters down by the end of March! And I still have 2 book updates to share now. As always, click on the picture to go to the Amazon page.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

Ina May Gaskin

I had heard Ina May referenced by many natural-birth proponents, and finally decided to look up her work. This is the only book of hers I have read…but I loved it. Ina May is a total hippie who was part of a commune that was started decades ago where they decided they were going to go back to a more naturalistic type of birth; women attending women, with trained midwives rather than OBs. Her statistics are phenomenal, and she is respected by midwives and OBs around the country (and even around the world). The first half is nothing but birth stories. All kinds of birth stories from births she (or her team) attended. You see, women in her community don’t fear birth, because it is not a topic of horror stories. It is presented as hard, tiring, and painful, but not something to be scared of because basically everyone they know has done it and has found peace and joy in it. In our culture, however, the culture of birth is full of fear. So to counter that, Ina May presents her readers with a large number of birth stories from all different women with all different experiences, from short, easy labors to ones that took days, from unwed teenagers to “high risk” older women. She is trying to share her culture of confidence with the reader by sharing all of these stories. And since her c-section rate is under 3%, and forceps and vacuum extraction rates are even lower, and maternal death is almost unheard of, these stories really are typical of what she sees (and if I remember correctly, I believe there even was an assisted birth story in the tens her former clients shared).

The second part discusses her views on birth, including many tips for coping and many techniques she found to work, along with attitude. She wrote this book because after the stats she gave at the end of her last book an OB came up to her and said he wanted to know how she achieved those stats. This book was her answer. She describes “sphincter law” which she follows (along with the “law of 3 Ps” which OBs follow). Basically, she says that the cervix and vagina are sphincters, just like the rectum or urethra. And just like how it is hard to poop in front of a large group of hostile strangers, it is hard to let your cervix dialate and let your vagina relax to avoid tearing in front of a large number of strangers (or really any other situation in which you are uncomfortable or stressed). This insight alone I thought was really cool and worth reading the book for (trust me, she explains it better). The information and techniques she shares in here are really interesting, but her view definitely is one-sided. She is definitely not advocating for episiotomies or c-sections, though she is glad they exist for the women who need them, and while she doesn’t bash hospital birth she does point out many potential downsides from it being standard.

Overall I found this book very, very empowering. That seemed to be her biggest point. Throughout the whole thing there is this message that women can birth. We are made for it. And, generally, we can do it just fine. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is pregnant or thinking of becoming so, but it’s one you have to pick up on your own. I would never give it to a friend unless I knew she was open to natural birth because it is so one-sided, and what feels empowering to someone open to that may feel pushy to someone who wasn’t. However, looking at reviews, it seems that if a women comes to it on her own even many very pro-hospital-birth women thoroughly enjoy the book.

Hidden Empire

Orson Scott Card

This book is the sequel to Card’s Empire from 2007. In the first book there is a civil war in the US. In this book there is a world-wide epidemic. Are the conspiracy theorists right? That’s what we get to find out. The main character is a special ops agent who runs his jeesh of highly specialized soldiers. Other semi-main characters is single mom who is an advisor to the president and a young African monkey-catcher. This book is very action-packed and full of excitement. It was enjoyable and I did get somewhat sucked in, but it was nothing special. Good, not great. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, so that can ruin a book for me, but if you want some brain candy and like good action, then this is a pretty good choice.

You can tell my apathy by the length of my commentary.

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A-Z Update

I’m doing pretty well so far this year, less than 3 months in I’ve already read books with titles starting with 11 of the letters of the alphabet! And considering I have 3 “S” books, and 2 more books that are half-done, I’m pretty pleased with myself.

And yes, I totally count re-reads. Because I may have just finished the Twilight series for the fourth time. If I read it through cover-to-cover this year, it counts!

So I need to update my reviews. I’ve fallen quite far behind. As always, click on the picture of the book to be taken to an Amazon link for it. Here’s a brief glimpse at what I’ve been reading (that I haven’t talked about here before):

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamists’ Wife

Irene Spencer

I think this is the best book I have read on polygamy in all of my exploring. Irene was raised in the FLDS church and entered into a plural marriage, but her family life was not idyllic. Her story is full of confusion mixed with confidence, and overflowing with heartache. We get a picture of life inside many typical FLDS communities, and an inside view of the strains of sharing a husband with so very many other wives. I cannot put into words how this book touched me, but it paints a picture that pulls at your heart strings in ways you weren’t expecting. This is one of very few books I’ve read that actually brought up some tears while I was reading it. I highly recommend it, whether you are interested in other cultures in general or polygamy specifically, this book is, in my opinion, the best introduction and overview out there, while being a captivating, easy read.

Favorite Wife: Escape from Polygamy

Susan Ray Schmidt

I was drawn to this book, partially by the captivating intro given on Amazon, and partially because it is written by one of Irene’s sister wives. This is another look into the same family as shown in Shattered Dreams, by a wife who came much later to the family. Susan was seen as the favorite wife by the other wives, but she never saw herself that way. Her story is very different than Irene’s, though it depicts many of the same times, and getting to see each of these women through each other’s eyes is fascinating. I did not enjoy this book as much as I did Shattered Dreams, but I did enjoy it and find it a nice counterpoint to Irene’s story.

The Hunger Games Trilogy
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

Suzanne Collins

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hunger Games trilogy, and have to thank a commenter on my 2010 A-Z Challenge for suggesting it to me! Within minutes of picking up the first book I was totally and completely hooked. [Early spoiler alert. This is revealed early but slowly, if you don’t want to know, skip to the next paragraph] It is set in the future when the country (world?) is divided into 13 districts which all support the one Capitol. To keep the districts in line the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games every year. Each district must send two tributes, adolescent children, to fight to the death in the arena, killing often with their bare hands or whatever rudimentary weapons they can find. The battle takes weeks as the 26 children are whittled down to 1. This year, the main characters’ number comes up. We follow her in her journey through preparation for and participation in the Hunger Games.

The books are not brutal; though they do include violence they are not about violence. When I started the first book I was completely captivated and could not put it down. I posted a status on Facebook to that effect, and my brother warned me, “Each one gets worse.” I do have to agree with him, while the first book is STUNNING, the second and third are each a bit more of a stretch. Partially this is because the characters are so fully developed in the first book (one thing I love) that there isn’t that much more developing to do with them in the future ones. But that being said, I still do not regret reading any of them, and I still enjoyed reading all three. I think the first book could have stood alone, without any follow up, but I still highly recommend the whole trilogy. Because once you read the first you won’t be able to resist seeing what happens to the characters in the future books, as they will have become so much a part of you.

The character development is fantastic, the world building is stunning. You will keep reading, searching for more scraps of information, to see if what you have guessed about the rules of this world could be true, if things really work that way. If you want an enjoyable, though slightly dark, read, I definitely recommend The Hunger Games trilogy.


Sheramy D. Bundrick

This book was recommended loaned to me by a friend who knows I enjoy reading, and while it’s not my normal fare I definitely enjoyed it! The book tells the story of Vincent van Gogh from the point of view of the prostitute for whom he cut off his ear. There is very little known about this prostitute, here called Rachel, from historical documents, so the author (an art historian) writes a novel answering the question, what if there was a true loving relationship between Vincent and Rachel? She weaves this tale deftly, keeping true to history but adding depth and personality to the players. This book gives you an insight to what may have been, and you will never view van Gogh, or his paintings, the same way again. I have approximately zero interest in art (since I have approximately zero understanding of it), but I really enjoyed this book and it made me want to go see van Gogh’s paintings. I recommend it if you are looking for an enjoyable, light read.


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Just a friendly reminder…

Only one more day to enter the my blogiversary giveaway! Entering is super easy, and you can get some free money to Amazon!

I went book shopping yesterday because a Borders near me was closing and everything was one sale. I got some super cute Boynton board books for my future baby. Because I am obsessive like that. I now own Doggies! :) What would you get with Amazon money? Just tell me (on my blogiversary post) to enter!

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Happy Blogiversary to ME!

Yesterday the hubby and I went out to dinner. And he looked into my eyes and said, “Can you believe it was a year ago Tuesday that we went to the Olympics together?” in a romantic, so-much-has-happened-since kind of way.

To which I immediately responded, “Wait, you mean I’ve been blogging for a year already!?”

The dreamy look drained out of his eyes pretty fast.

But he’s an awesome hubby, so then he grabbed his phone and looked up the date of my first post, and lo-and-behold, it was the next day!

Sure is a good thing he brought it up, or I might have missed it!

So much has changed in the past year, but it’s been a good one. And my mini-bloggy family has helped. So thanks y’all.

To really thank you and shamelessly pander for new reading material ideas, I’m stealing Corey’s idea for a give away. This means you can basically double your chances of winning the same prize! (And then follow her because she was one of my first bloggy addictions that got me into the whole thing and is awesome. Plus I’ve actually won stuff from her! Extra awesomeness!)

So, the prize: $10 to!

Nothing too fancy. Just enough to have some fun :-D

How to enter? Leave me a comment telling me either a book you have read recently and enjoyed or a book you would buy with the Amazon gift certificate/card/digital promise of moolah.

That’s it.

Please enter, and enjoy!

UPDATE:  Well, I guess I shouldn’t post in a hurry late at night (for me) because I leave out important info. The drawing will be Monday (a week from now) around..let’s say…noon. So you have til then to enter!


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More books

It’s another post about books! I know, you’re thrilled. But I just started the 2011 A-Z Challenge, I’m three books in, and the one I just finished almost made me cry, so now I have to write about it/them.

In the order I’ve tackled them, here’s what I’ve read so far:

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamist Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, Elissa Wall & Lisa Pulitzer

I’ve been on a polygamy kick recently. I love and am fascinated by sociology, studies of culture, of how we tick and how we interact, of what is “normal” to others versus “normal” to us. This fascination is why I love fantasy and science fiction: every (well-done) book is basically a big thought experiment in another “normal.” I firmly believe that getting outside of your normal is necessary to being a well-rounded and intelligent person, and I love books that take you there. This one is one of my rare non-fiction reads, and it will plunge you into a world outside your comfort zone.

This book is definitely biased, as is clear in the title’s use of language. But still, it is an insider view into a large polygamist sect in fairly modern times, and how difficult it can be to break free. The story is fascinating and appalling all at once, as Elissa tells us the story of her life, starting with her parents’ marriage (her mother is her father’s second wife) and coming up to present day after she testified against Warren Jeffs for his responsibility in her repeated rape. Elissa was born into the FLDS church and raised in polygamous families (yes, plural, her mother was “reassigned” to a new husband when her father was deemed incompetent by the prophet). She attended FLDS school, wore FLDS clothes, was brainwashed and indoctrinated with FLDS teaching, and at 15, since she was proving troublesome, was married to her first cousin. This is not a light read, but it is extremely detailed and fascinating, and it does have a fairly happy ending (as real-life stories so rarely do). I recommend it to those interested in the topic; if you’re not particularly interested there are definitely lighter reads out there that can still give you a glimpse into this intriguing lifestyle.

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

This book and author were pointed out to me by the fabulous Corey when she did her book giveaway, and I secured my own copy when I wasn’t lucky enough to win one. (It’s OK. I have still won her give-aways. Twice. Only drawing(s) I’ve ever won!) The story is about a thirteen-year-old girl, Anna, who was conceived by her parents using science to ensure she would be a perfect genetic match for her older sister. Her sister, Kate, has a form of cancer that is aggressive and “learns” each treatment thrown at it, meaning that once you’ve used a treatment it will never work again. At this point in the book Kate is near death, not from the cancer, but from a kidney shutting down in response to the aggressive treatments it has had to endure. Anna sues for medical emancipation, meaning that she can make her own medical decisions instead of letting her parents decide for her, in order to avoid having to give up a kidney against her will. The book follows the family during the legal struggle and includes many flashbacks to give us background.

Each chapter of the book is told from a different character’s point of view, and I must say, I love that every character has their own font. The book is good, and definitely pulled me in. It was a page-turner and I went through it quickly. But boy is it high on melodrama! Reading the reviews, it seems Picoult’s books aren’t always this high on the melodrama, but this one screams “Lifetime Original Movie.” So if you go into it, go into it knowing that that’s what you’re getting into (complete with corny ending!). But if you don’t mind, and you want some engaging brain candy and/or are interested in the topic, then this is a good, enjoyable book that really does look at some hard questions. Things like, what obligation does Anna have to be a donor to Kate, given that she is the only one who can be but that being a donor is dangerous, painful, and has life-long implications? What happens when a baby, conceived for her cord blood, grows up? How can parents make medical decisions for their two children, when what is best for each is opposite? The ethical questions are fascinating, and are given a fair shake in this book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

This book is fabulous. I’ll just start right there. Fabulous. I totally get why it is a New York Times Bestseller. It is appealing to almost everyone. There is no niche target audience here. It’s just good.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the point of view of Enzo, a Shepherd-Poodle-Terrier-who-knows mix. I know, sounds like a corny concept. It makes a great book. And looking at reviews, people who aren’t animal-lovers agree. Which I get. Since the other major aspect of this is racecar driving, something I have absolutely zero interest in (really not a big sports fan at all, let alone car racing), and yet, in this book, it’s made fascinating.

The book starts at the end of Enzo’s life, and then Enzo takes us on a recap of all he has witnessed. Enzo was brought home by Denny when he is just a puppy, and watches as Denny goes through life: finding a wife, having a daughter who he is devoted to, becoming a semi-professional driver. And then he watches as it is all torn apart, by fate, by others’ selfishness, by trickery and lies. Enzo is there for Denny through it all, with a unique and insightful look on everything as it happens. As one reviewer on Amazon says, “Bad things happen to good people in this novel, and then worse things, and soon you are so angry, so hurt, so tear-stained and concerned that you do not think for one second to step back and say, hey, wait, this is just a story! A shaggy dog story, at that!” This book Sucks. You. In.

It is fabulous. There is no way to describe it. No way to convey its power. All I can say is: read it.

(As I was reminded today by a client and friend, a warning (and semi-spoiler alert): a dog dies in this book. This is no real spoiler, as I said, the book starts at the end of the dog’s life. But still, if you have lost a dog recently and are still hurt by that loss, this book may be too painful to handle for now. But remember it. And when you’re ready, come back. Because Enzo’s view of death for a dog is a beautiful, if heart-wrenching, thing.)

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2010 A-Z Challenge Wrap-Up

It’s been fun doing the 2010 A-Z Challenge, but since I’m currently reading another book that starts with S, and tomorrow is the last day of 2010, I think it’s time to wrap things up and give some love to the last books I read and didn’t post “reviews” on.

I got through 21 of the 26 letters of the alphabet. Not bad, considering the 4/5 I missed were Q, X, Y and Z. I read far more than 21 books this year (Heck, the Animorphs alone had 54!), but I’ve noticed I read a lot of books of the same letter over and over. I had a lot of Ss. Surprisingly, a lot of Bs. Lots of Ps, too. But evidently no Ks. Weird.

There are 3 series that contributed my list that I have yet to write about. So, without further ado, my (brief) thoughts on them:

The Homecoming Saga by Orson Scott Card

Card has long been one of my favorite, go-to authors. He wrote Ender’s Game, a fantastic introduction to sci-fi writing that is widely admired and known by sci-fi readers and normal people alike. His books are typically solid and enjoyable, with well-developed characters and a well-thought-out plot. The Homecoming Saga was no exception. I reread the whole series this year, including The Call of Earth and The Memory of Earth, which were added to my list. The books are about another world, Harmony, where humans have lived and developed a new society after basically destroying Earth. The Oversoul watches over the people and has become a kind of god, keeping them safe and answering their prayers. Then, the main character’s family is called out into the desert to begin a pilgrimage, leaving all they’ve known. We watch the characters grow and develop, and by the fifth book watch their children take over. The society on Harmony (in the main character’s hometown) is fascinating, if for no other reason than that it’s matriarchal. If you want another reason, their marriage structure is completely unlike anything I’ve ever heard of. It’s not a super-challenging series, but it does bring up great questions, as I feel any good book should. I definitely recommend it to people looking for a good read that’s not too heavy but more than just fluff.

PS Yes, I am aware many claim this is basically a re-telling of the story of The Book of Mormon (Card is LDS). I. Don’t. Care. I don’t know how true it is. It doesn’t matter. Even if the over-arching plot is similar, the details are unique and the characters are fabulous. Plus, couldn’t the same criticism be made of most of the Bible? It’s still popular.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

OK, this is a series I was led to kicking and screaming. I promised my friend I’d read the first four books if she’s read the Twilight saga (which come to think of it, I don’t think she ever completed…hey!) Of course, once I was that far in, I was too stubborn not to read all 11 books that are currently out. Death Masks, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril all made it on my list. The books are about Harry Dresden, a private investigator operating out of Chicago who will look into magical happenings for you. Oh, and he’ll also use magic to solve some cases, like to find missing objects. Because, you see, he’s a wizard. Butcher has created a parallel world in our modern-day existence in which magic is happening all around us, and magical creatures regularly visit. We follow Dresden, the protaganist, through many cases, battles, and personal struggles throughout the course of the series. It is very slow to get started, and at first while I found Dresden endearing the books just didn’t pull me in. By the end, though, I’m definitely hooked and intrigued by the world that was (slowly) created, and I would recommend the books to anyone who has the patience to get into them. The continuity is great, and the depth of thought given to the world is really fascinating and makes me enjoy exploring it more. I can’t wait for the next book to be released!

The Animorphs by K.A. Applegate

Oh, Animorphs. This is a children’s series. A children’s series that is 54 books long. And it’s great. I mean, OK, you’re clearly reading kids books. They’re about 160 pages long, and each took me only about an hour to read. But they’re good at exploring a lot of questions about right and wrong, relationships, how to fight an enemy without becoming them, and at raising awareness and empathy for all kinds of animals.

The Animorphs is about 5 junior-high-school kids who come across a dying alien whose ship has crashed in an abandoned construction site they were cutting through. He was shot down in a battle over earth, defending humanity from a race of parasites who wanted to take over. The parasites won the battle, and the good guys aren’t coming any time soon. To give earth a chance, the alien gives the 5 kids the power to morph into any animal they can touch for 2 hours at a time. The series is about the kids’ battle for earth against a secret invasion being carried out by these parasites, who crawl into your brain and completely take over. The people they control are indistinguishable from normal humans, and the kids try to slow the infiltration until the good aliens can come back and save the day.

The stories are fun, fast-paced, and will suck you in. The characters are believable, and every book it rotates who is telling the story. You get to know all the kids very well, and each has their own way of viewing the fight. Over the 54 books they each develop tremendously, and you see it from all angles. I can’t wait until I have kids I can share these books with, and kid or adult I think these books are an enjoyable read.

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