Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Five Fictional Towns

Jen Robinson posted a few days ago on Booklights about her five top fictional towns. Thinking back to my own reading from childhood, there are some fictional towns I feel like I could move to.
The Girls of Canby Hall by Emily Chase takes place in Green Leaf, MA. I can see the Canby Hall campus, the dorm where Dana, Faith and Shelly live, and the different restaurants and stores that make up this fictional town. I grew up dreaming of attending a boarding school myself and I read and reread these books so often that I feel as though this town is my own.

River Heights, Nancy Drew's hometown is another town I have read a great deal about. While many of the locations only are referenced in one or two mysteries, the number of books set in River Heights is huge, and Nancy is the quintessential teen sleuth.

Sweet Valley, California - How could I miss the fictional hometown of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the beautiful, nearly perfect blond twins in this series? Sweet Valley is as wonderful as its name implies: full of California sun and beautiful weather. As a teen reader of this series Sweet Valley made my own hometown pale in comparison.

Portland, Oregon - Beverly Cleary's Ramona lives on Klickitat Street in Portland, which we come to know as a nice, although somewhat rainy, place for her family to reside. Helpful neighbors like Howie's grandma and other family, make it seem as though the Quimbys could live close to you. Since Cleary is a native of the Pacific northwest her rendering of this setting as Ramona's hometown is accurate.

New York City - Judy Blume is known for her ability to truly "get" kids and even though her books are set in an urban setting, unfamiliar to me in my youth, a lot of what she wrote still rang true to me. Blume's books do often feel a little bit more worldly than the place I live, but I have read and enjoyed every single kids book that Blume has written and know she understands kids from all across the country.

What fictional towns do you remember from your childhood?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I have never participated in Teaser Tuesday, but will this week because I still have two books I am in the middle of, and therefore have no review to post.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Standing in the doorway, I saw the girls tossing and turning in their bed. Clara gripped my arm, "Go get Doc Fox." (page 119) Winnie's War by Jenny Moss

Visit the author's website:

Monday, September 28, 2009


This is another book I have had hanging out in my TBR pile of library books. I almost took it back because I knew I was running out of time to get it read, and once again am happy that I took the time to read it. (I wonder how many great books I miss because I just truly run out of time and can't get through them all).

Jennifer Bradbury has created a book that can be for both boys and girls, a sports book for sports lovers and those who are ambivalent. A book about friendship, of not getting along with a friend, and secrets.

Childhood friends, Chris and Win embark on a post-high school graduation bicycle trip across the country. Chris' parents are not excited by this plan, but allow Chris to go, worrying about him the entire time. When he returns he comes back without Win, who has left him to finish the ride solo. Chris thinks that Win will eventually turn up, but time passes and Win contacts no one. His wealthy parents who have appeared apathetic to their son up until now try to use their money as leverage to get Chris to reveal where Win might be. However, Chris doesn't know where his friend is, either. In retrospect Chris is able to find some inconsistencies in Win' story, but those alone don't really explain where Win may be now. Chris goes on a search for his friend all by himself, hoping to use some of the postcards he has received as clues to Win's whereabouts.

Chris narrates the story alternating between portions of the trip and the present time when he has begun his freshman year in college.

This book was suspenseful and also a story about friendship and finding yourself. For those readers in need of a sports book this book fits the bill as well. A great read.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All The World

Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee have created a beautiful picture book. The watercolor illustrations done by Frazee give a soft, colorful feel to the rhyming text of this book. The story, written in just few words, shows how the world is where each person is, and each page is a new location or activity that is common to many people. I received a galley of this in the mail and was especially impressed by the packaging of this book: packing paper that looked like sand, along with a seashell, rock and stone. The book begins, "Rock, stone, pebble sand. Body, shoulder, arm, hand. A moat to dig, a shell to keep..."I have this one on order for my school library and will be ordering it for my personal library, too. What a gorgeous picture book!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Between Me and the River: Living Beyond Cancer: a memoir

Carrie Host had a great life - three wonderful children, the youngest just ten months old. A loving husband, great friends, beautiful home in Boulder, Colorado. And then out of nowhere she is diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, carcinoid tumors in her abdomen and a variety of other organs.
Looking at Host's picture in the back flap, her beauty is obvious and it is almost impossible to imagine that at one point she questioned whether she would survive her battle with cancer. Host shares personal information about her struggles - physical and emotional. She knows her diagnosis will forever change her children, two who are entering their teen years. She longs for them to have the carefree lifestyle she did at their age, but knows that her news will make them grow up quickly. As a mother she puts her children first and battles to keep her emotions in check, trying to remain upbeat about her future. While she would prefer to stay in Boulder and receive treatment close to home, it becomes obvious quickly that she will need to receive care at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Host develops many physical ailments after her initial diagnosis - one life threatening battle with sepsis that rages through her body as she and her husband quickly fly back to the Mayo Clinic for her to be admitted.
While doctors remove her tumors and Host would like to believe she can resume her life, her world is changed forever. First of all, she is no longer the physically fit, active mother of a few months ago. She must start from scratch in returning to health. She is also emotionally changed from her battle. Doctors share with her survival rate statistics, and she realizes she may have to face her cancer again and again.
I appreciated Host's honesty and her ability to bare her soul to readers. She likens her cancer journey to being hurled into a raging river and her battle as a struggle for shore. This is a battle she intends to win.
Host's book has already been listed on Indiebound's list of must reads for the month of August. I received my copy from Online Publicist last month and have been waiting to review Between Me and the River until this week, during the book's blog tour.
Visit Carrie Hosts' website to learn more about this remarkable woman and her memoir.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Late Lamented Molly Marx

I'm not much for dead people talking - and here the past two books I have read have had ghosts in them. The Late Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow was a fun chick lit/women's fiction book. Molly Divine Marx narrates this book from her grave. At the age of thirty five she was struck down while riding her bike. Suicide? Did someone murder Molly? Molly doesn't give that away until the very last page and all the characters in this book: Molly's parents, her daughter Annabelle, her twin sister Lucy, her husband Barry, her boyfriend Luke, best friend Brie and a number of other bit players all have a part in this whodunit. Part of Molly's tale is a recounting of what led Molly to this point. She tells about her marriage to Barry and his unfaithfulness, her own love affair with Luke Delaney and his pursuit of her after she tries to end their relationship. Molly led a life in New York City which most would consider to be picture perfect. Her home was lovely, as was her wardrobe, and her job. Yet when Molly tells her story I could envision being friends with her.

I am so happy that I finally had time to finish this book before school this morning. I have been taking it with me wherever I go. Next up, Attica Locke's Black Water Rising.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Twenties Girl

I have loved Sophie Kinsella since I read the first Shopaholic book several years ago. Kinsella writes some wonderful chick lit fiction that I appreciate for the enjoyment it brings. Twenties Girl is another such installment of chick lit.

The story begins with Lara's 105 year old great aunt Sadie's funeral. Lara is dealing with her break-up with her boyfriend and a fledgling career as a headhunter. To make things worse, she begins hearing the voice of a ghost-that of her dead great aunt. Sadie the ghost is young, dressed in her 20's, flapper-era clothing, requesting- demanding- that Lara find the necklace that meant so much to her while she was alive. A little bit of suspense, a little bit of mystery, and of course some misunderstanding along the way, all make up this fun ghost story.

This book grew on me as I read. I'm not much into ghost stories or this sort of a fantastical tale, but this book worked for me. I'm still not sure that Kinsella needed her story to be 435 pages long; I think the story could have been told more quickly. I am also amazed/skeptical of Kinsella's ability to actually write as quickly as she does (especially since she also writes under her real name, Madeline Wickham). Perhaps she is able to do so because her stories are just fun, not beautiful writing.

If you enjoy chick lit and want to be entertained, this book is one you will enjoy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Can't Stop Watching

You know me....stuck with my dial-up internet service. This might be a good thing some of the time since if I had high speed I might find myself on you Tube an awful lot. This is one of the latest things I have been watching repeatedly.

Sleepless Nights

For some reason I just was not able to sleep last night. My husband's allergies (which result in him snoring) do have something to do with it, but instead of going out to lay on the couch and sleep there, or read there, I decided to get up and make some Amish bread. That was at 3:30 AM. I also exercised and did two loads of laundry, showered, got three girls ready for school and did the dishes. I feel sort of accomplished today. Later I will probably feel sort of tired. I also finished Rembrandt's Daughter by Lynne Cullen. This one is already out in paperback, so it's been out a while, but I always hesitated to pick it up. The 1600s aren't really my era of choice when I pick out historical fiction books to read. However, I was happily surprised by this title. I started reading and just couldn't put down Rembrandt's Daughter. While Rembrandt did have a daughter, Cornelia, out of wedlock, much of Rembrandt's relationship with his daughter has been fictionalized. There's a little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance and a little bit of tragedy as the plague makes it's way around Amsterdam. Historical notes about each person at the end help give a better perspective of the relationships of the characters and how their lives played out. As I was reading I thought back to Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier that I read several years ago now - an historical fiction book about Jan Vermeer. While that book was good, I enjoyed I am Rembrandt's Daughter even more and recommend this to any high school or adult reader.

Monday, September 21, 2009

When You Reach Me

I stayed up last night reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead- literally reading the entire book in one sitting. Wow! I have seen this book on various short lists as a possible Newbery contender and I would have to agree with this as well.

Set in New York City in 1979, Miranda carries around her copy of A Wrinkle In Time. She and her best friend Sal have a parting of ways, and Miranda spends a great deal of time thinking about her walk to and from school where she encounters a mentally ill homeless man - hoping never to receive his attention. Miranda begins to receive notes from someone who appears to know things before they happen. Stead's ability to have this all come together in the end is remarkable. I don't think I can even begin to give a summary of this plot....there are too many interconnected threads- things that don't seem important, but by novel's end are an essential part of the story. I have had this on my pile for a while and am totally enchanted by this book. What a great middle grade novel!

Bedtime Stories

I paid a visit to two libraries on Saturday and even though my girls weren't with me, I came away with some great picture books to read at bedtime.
Martha Doesn't Say Sorry by Samantha Berger is a great story about Martha, a girl who does many wonderful things: give hugs, read stories, make presents...but Martha does not say she is sorry. Ever. Eventually Martha is forced to say she is sorry and can even do it without prompting. This story is so cute, and as my own children have struggled with apologizing I hope they can appreciate Martha's struggle as well.
I Don't Want a Posh Dog by Emma Dodd is another too cute bedtime story. The text is rhymey which makes reading aloud fun as we realize that the type of dog this little girl doesn't want: a jump up and pounce me dog, a fancy attitudey dog. This is one I may be reading very frequently while it is checked out.

Our third bedtime story is Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca is a non-fiction book featuring the Apollo 11 story and man walking on the moon. This story had a lot of information for my girls - especially since they didn't really have any prior knowledge about space or astronauts. I could see how interested they were in some aspects and may have to look further to find out more to satisfy their curiosity. There is a lot of text, but because it is written in short phrases, doesn't seem overwhelming. And while I liked the softly colored illustrations, I may look for some actual photographs to show my daughters gain a better perspective on this topic.
I like having some great new stories at bedtime to share. These three were all winners in our house this past weekend.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Annie's Ghosts

Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg has been the latest book I finished over the weekend. This non-fiction look at one family's secret: a handicapped aunt, was an interesting look at the history of mental illness and how treatment for the person and of the person have changed over time. It is also a personal account of one family's realization of an aunt they never knew and a secret their mother kept from them her entire life.

Steve Luxenberg's mother, Beth, always called herself an only child. Growing up, Steve knew little about his mother's family. When her doctor comments to Steve and his sister that their mother had a sister, neither one question their mother about this, only wanting her to return to health, believing their will be time in the future to ask her about this sister. While their mother does get better, they never bother to find out more about the revelation she made to her doctor. So, after his mother's death, when Steve is confronted with some more information indicating his mother was not the only chid she claimed to be, he sets out to learn more about his aunt, Annie Cohen. While he is unable to unearth some information, much is left to speculation. What is certain is that his mother hid his aunt's existence from her children. Whether or not his father knew of the secret is one thing Steve researches. By contacting old friends and relatives, Steve tries to piece together the need for secrecy and also learn more about his aunt. Initially believing that perhaps this aunt died at a young age so that perhaps his mother felt like an only child, or that she was sent to a home at a young age, Steve is astounded to find out that his aunt lived with his mother and her parents until the age of twenty one. Every image he has of his mother's childhood must change to fit this news. And what were Annie's problems exactly. While it is known that Annie had some sort of problem with her leg it is never determined if it is genetic or something that occurred at birth. Her leg is amputated as a teen and she is fitted for a prosthetic. She was also perhaps a slow learner, perhaps mentally retarded, yet there is no definitive answer to that, either. Steve begins to look at the home where Annie spent many years and tries to find out about her life while she was there. What he soon realizes is that there were many, many people much like Annie - not known by their family.

Luxenberg is able to answer some of the questions he set out to, and others he is left doing his best at making educated guesses based on what he knows about his mother and the times she lived. While this is a look at his family's story, it is also the story of many others of that time period. Hard to put down, I wanted to know more about Annie myself and how she felt, what she thought and what led Steve's mother to believe no one should know about her sister.
Vist the author's website at

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I have just turned the last page in Muchacho by Louanne Johnson and I loved it. Eddie is a character I am going to be thinking about for a very long time. Johnson sent me this book herself and I fear that no review I write will be able to really do this book justice.

Eddie Corazon is a teenager growing up in New Mexico. At first glance he seems like a tough guy - he is in trouble at school and hangs out with a rough crowd, including his cousins who are involved in some illegal deals. He is also a student at an alternative high school where he attends, but doesn't put a lot of effort into his academics. However, he has promised his mother he will graduate from high school and even agrees to take dancing lessons to get one of the credits he needs. While at dance class he meets Lupe, one of the best things that has ever happened to him. Lupe is smart and driven and only at the alternative school because she had been targeted by a bully at her old high school and often beaten up. With Lupe in his life Eddie tries to turn things around for himself. While he appears to lack drive or ambition, he has a lot going on under the surface that others can't see. He wrestles with who he is and where he is going with his life. He knows that people see him and anyone who looks like him as Mexican and that even though his family is American and has been in the country for over three hundred years, his ethnicity alone may cause people to treat him differently. Eddie is also a reader. This isn't something tough guys talk about with each other, but each book Eddie reads impacts him in some way. Eventually Eddie becomes a writer, focusing on poetry. When Eddie is sent to live with his uncle he is able to have a mentor who he connects with and who is a positive influence on him.

This book was well written from beginning to end. I enjoyed every single word, especially finding Eddie's poetry to be beautiful. Ms. Beecher, Eddie's teacher is also such a likeable and influential character. As I started reading, the teacher from Dangerous Minds is who I envisioned, and then laughed to myself as I realized that Louanne Johnson wrote the book Dangerous Minds (which I read fifteen years ago now after being totally taken by the movie). This book should take a place in high school literature classes, and is one that I hope is widely recommended to both high schoolers and adults.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hey...Look at this!

It's Friday afternoon and Peaceful Reader and I are having a great time at a meeting of school librarians. My big a-ha moment is learning how to put my signature on my posts. Too cool. We are also learning a few other things more relevant to our jobs, but this is an awful lot of fun. So, I am going to have a great time playing around with this for a while.
I also have had my best mail week yet. Louanne Johnson sent me an ARC of her book Muchacho to review. I am so excited to start reading. Kidliterate has already written a glowing review of this book, so I have high expectations.
I have high hopes for a weekend of reading.
Check out my signature. What do you think?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The End of Overeating

The past week I have been working my way through The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler. I enjoy non-fiction but usually pick memoirs which have a more story-like quality to them. This book was a bit drier than a memoir, but also covered a topic I am interested in. Before becoming a teacher librarian, before becoming a classroom teacher, I worked in a health club and also have a degree in Fitness Management. The college classes I took were in nutrition, kinesiology, physiology of this book is one that really interested me. Plus, I am probably an overeater myself. I am the type of person who thinks about food and then is not really satisfied or able to put that food out of my mind until I get it. According to Kessler a large portion of the population has this problem. Some people are overweight because of it, while others compensate for this by exercising vigorously (that would be me). Kessler goes on to explain how many foods we have available to us are created with the idea of the food being the stimulus for a reward (the feeling we get while eating them). Restaurants and other food manufacturers create foods with that in mind. Over time America's waistlines are expanding but so are the portion sizes. Kessler is able to show how America has reached the status of being a nation of excess (probably in more ways than their eating). While I wish merely reading this book would take away my desire to eat certain foods when I hear their name or when I drive by certain restaurants, Kessler also gives some advice for trying to end this behavior. Basically, there is not an easy fix. Part of the battle is finding a way to avoid places that may trigger the desire for a much loved food. And developing a series of times when you are successful at resisting temptation will also help because you are building a pattern of good responses. As Kessler points out, overeating is like an addiction. Other addicts have to quit their vice completely and have support groups such as AA. Eating is something you can't stop doing, so you are confronted with the temptation to fall back into bad behaviors numerous times a day.

While I wish simply reading this book could end my own fascination with some foods, Kessler's research is interesting and his points for dealing with this problem are helpful. I will have to see how able I am to take his advice and apply it to my own life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In My Mailbox

It is so rarely that I get one thing in my mailbox - and yesterday I got TWO! Janssen sent me A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck and I also received The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties from The Picnic Basket. These two may have to bump a few others from their spot at the top of my TBR pile. What a great Monday!

Monday, September 14, 2009

End of Book Two

If you have read Catching Fire, you know from the title of this post that I have reached the end. And as everyone else has already said, it was good....hard to put down... The third book has not even been written entirely yet which I read in article I read in USA Today last week. Suzanne Collins is still working on it and publication won't occur for another year. There are some books that I worry about not being able to remember what occurred when I have to wait for a while to read a sequel, but I am certain that I will remember exactly where this book ends. And, I am also still torn. I like Gale, but I also like Peeta. And I really want Katniss to end up with Peeta, but then I feel bad for Gale. I wish that Katniss could pick them both. I could rehash the plot, but that would give too much away, so I will just say that this book and Hunger Games are something to put on your TBR pile if they aren't there already.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still Time For Bedtime Stories

I may have hit a wall in terms of finding reading time, but the girls and I are still reading each night before bed. Two nights ago we finished Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. I never read this series as a young girl, and I don't think I even knew about it until a few years ago. I know. Where have I been? My oldest daughter especially likes realistic fiction, so I thought this might be a good series for her to get into. Both girls ended up enjoying it a lot. It is just a nice story about two friends. What is not to like about that? My middle daughter seemed confused sometimes about which girl we were talking about and how to keep them straight, but I could definitely see reading them some more books in this series. Last night we started 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith. I read this to myself in fourth grade - before there was a movie to see. I really liked the book and had read it in past years to my classroom of first graders. The girls haven't seen the entire movie yet....they are scared by Cruella De Vil, but are enjoying the first bit we have read. It's interesting how many words I will stop and ask them if they know and all the vocabulary they are getting....canine, furrier, ermine, cloak....I know I didn't stop as often to discuss vocabulary when I read to my class of students and am wondering now how many things I took for granted that they just knew.

Tonight we have gymnastics and our garage sale will be open. I am hoping to get rid of lots of stuff that is taking up space. I was so tired last night I only read 2 pages in Catching Fire which is just pathetic.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Me, Too

I tried to resist the whole Catching Fire craze. I liked Hunger Games. In fact, I liked it a lot. But typically I am the person who loves discovering great books. If they have already been discovered, I might read them, but I am not the person who needs to read them the day they come out. So, while I wanted to read Catching Fire, it really was not on my radar quite like it has been for other people. However, I have been in a bit of a reading rut. I seem to go through this sometime each fall. Whether it is the whole going back to school thing, or the lack of as much reading time as during the summer, I usually clean out my stack of library books once in the fall. That means I have been a bit in-between books right now. Which means that when I got home yesterday and found a box from Amazon at my door, I was able to start right in on Catching Fire. And, although I am not far, I am enjoying myself. Catching Fire is just as good as everyone has told me and I am looking forward to finding spare minutes to keep reading. So, me, too. I will jump on the bandwagon in the Catching Fire craze. And, I may be just like everyone else awaiting book three, which I read this morning in USA Today is scheduled to be published in Fall 2010-a whole year from now!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Burn My Heart

I am always so annoyed when it takes a children's book to educate me about some historical event that I knew nothing about. Every time this happens I wonder what unit in school I slept through, or didn't get taught. Burn My Heart by Beverly Naidoo is set in Kenya in the 1950s. Mathew and Mugo are friends, although Mathew is white and Mugo is black and works for Mathew's father. Mugo is aware of his place in life, yet when Mathew goes away to school he misses his friend. At first both boys are unaware of the growing conflict between some black Kenyans who are a part of the Mau Mau rebellion trying to get their land back from the British. But tensions continue to escalate forcing both boys to eventually take notice. When a horrible event leads Mathew's father to suspect Mugo and his family of taking part in the rebellion, Mathew realizes what a good friend Mugo has been.

I was so interested in this book and learning about this time period in Kenya's history. I also appreciated the glossary in the back along with the list of Kikiyu and Swahili names. While I am not sure how much teen readers enjoy them, the Afterword in historical fiction books giving more explanation to the events are always helpful. In Burn My Heart the Afterword was especially helpful since I had no background knowledge about the event prior to reading this book.

A great book for teens and historical fiction lovers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Waiting For Some Free Time

I enjoyed my three day weekend, having an extra day off. I thought I would get some reading done, but no such luck. I did read a wonderful memoir Between Me and the River by Carrie Host that I am going to be reviewing in the upcoming weeks, but I am also suffering from having too many books to choose from. I just have had a hard time finding "the" book.
On a different topic, I am still without a working van. The three girls and I have been driving around our small Ford Contour. Thank goodness we have an extra vehicle to drive, but I will be looking forward to having more room. I think this will diminish the many fights that occur while driving around right now. We still don't have a computer that works at home - another thing that needs to be taken care of soon. Thankfully we did get our phone back in working order, but it did take a visit from our phone company to fix that situation.
This week I will be working getting ready for a garage sale this weekend at my house. My garage is stuffed full of kids clothes, toys and other stuff I hope someone wants to buy. The bad news is that the forecast keeps increasing the chances for rain on Saturday.
I am very excited that I won a copy of Richard Peck's latest book A Season of Gifts from Janssen at Everyday Reading. I am thrilled to get this book and start reading. I am also awaiting a box from Amazon that holds Catching Fire. Until then I will have to try and steal a moment or two for reading whenever I can and will keep looking for something that I really am excited about.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sophomore Switch

Growing up, I had many dreams of moving away to school one day - always to England - and loved books that centered around that type of storyline. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald is a fun read as an adult, and would have been even more entertaining in my teen years by fueling my fantasy. Emily, a proper English girl has broken up with her boyfriend Sebastian and needs to get away for a while. Missing the deadline for any reputable or Ivy League school she must be happy with her enrollment at UCSB - The University of California - Santa Barbara, more of a party school. The girl whose place she is taking is Natasha's. Natasha is happily leaving America for England because of a scandal. She was snapped in what is now the infamous "hot tub incident" with a celebrity and her pictures have been plastered all over the tabloids. In England Natasha can leave her bad reputation behind. Both girls are entering worlds where they are not comfortable. Natasha must step up her academics and shed her party girl image. Emily must let loose a bit and try to have more fun.

This book was a fun read. There is not a lot of information about British or American culture included, just more of a story about two girls learning more about themselves. Told in alternating viewpoints I enjoyed seeing both sides of this story, as well as the friendship the girls developed when they were able to meet in person.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass is a beautifully illustrated, lyrically written biography of a little known artist. Anderson, born in 1903, loved both nature and art and was able to make the two converge as he painted his natural surroudings and wrote poetry. Living along the Mississippi Gulf Coast Anderson had many opportunities to create art from his surroundings. Discussed in the end notes, Anderson must have suffered from form of mental illness or depression. At one point he moves away from his family, never again living together with his wife and children. The one thing he found helped him keep his sanity was his ability to make art. When Anderson was able to create, he felt better. Anderson died in 1965 at the age of sixty two from lung cancer. In 1991 a museum was established to showcase Anderson's work and in 2003 the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, honored Anderson. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and many of Anderson's works were ruined. Some have been restored, and the Anderson family has vowed to carry on.

The illustrations by E.B. Lewis are beautiful, soft watercolors. I also enjoyed learning about Anderson and his work. Art teachers could find ways to use this selection as well as classroom teachers. This is a beautiful biography. Click here to visit the Walter Anderson Museum website.

If America Were A Village

A few years ago I bought and enjoyed the book If The World Were A Village and loved it. I enjoyed the various statistics about how life differs for people around the globe. Now, If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States by David Smith has just been published and this book is just as wonderful as the one focusing on the world. Statistics are given on various topics: How old are we? How wealthy are we? What are our families like? What religions do we practice? How healthy are we? What do we own? More topics are included as well, and I like the breakdown, relating everything to the idea of America consisting of 100 people. This book would be great for students learning about percentages of things, too. Written for children, this is definitely a book for the upper elementary grades and older and would even make a great coffee table book. I think once I lay this out at home even my husband will get sucked in.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Die For You

I mentioned yesterday I was reading Die For You by Lisa Unger and that I NEEDED to read it because the book was so suspenseful that I could hardly make myself put it down. Once again I had too many other necessities to tend to and ended up falling asleep while reading. Well, my middle daughter got up in the night to use the bathroom and since I was up and my alarm would go off within a half hour I decided to stay up and read. (You know you are hard core when you get up at 3:45 AM to read!). Happily I finished Die For You which was great right til the end.
Isabel Raines is a famous novelist married for five years to her husband Mark. When he leaves for work one morning and doesn't return Isabel calls the police only to be told that sometimes men just leave of their own free will and don't want to be found. Isabel goes to his office and while there a four people come in, claiming they are FBI agents. During their raid of Mark's office the three employees at work are killed and Isabel wakes up with a head injury. This starts a mystery that Isabel cannot leave alone. While law enforcement is involved, Isabel tries to find the truth herself. Who is her husband? Was their entire life a lie? Early in the search it is discovered that Mark Raine went missing in 1999 and that Isabel's husband truly isn't who she thought he was. The mystery goes further as Isabel discovers that her money is gone and the man she thought she knew has taken everything from her. The mystery has many more twists and turns and kept me turning the pages.
I don't always pick up mysteries, but this one is worth it.
Click here to go to Lisa Unger's website.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Luxury or Necessity

Right about now I am still trying to get in the groove and wishing I had more time to read for pleasure. I am enjoying having a routine and being busy, but....Some people may view reading as a luxury. A few weeks ago I read a blog (sorry, I can't remember which one) about this very topic. I know many people view reading as a luxury - there are many other things I could be doing at home - cleaning, laundry to name two. But reading is a necessity to me. I would much rather be doing that than any of my chores. And, I don't think I would be very happy if I didn't get to read. I need something to keep my brain going, something to think about. I don't usually watch TV at all which means reading is my one luxury and relaxation. Right now I am in the middle of a GREAT mystery that I don't want to put it down. Having a job is totally cramping my style right now. Lisa Unger's Die For You is supenseful and my hopes of finishing it last night never quite panned out. I have made some progress this morning and the book is only getting better. I still have many things on my "to do " list but I absolutely HAVE to read is a necessity.