Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For the Record: August 2009

I'm so busy that not only has it taken me 2 weeks to get around to doing something I'm on top of, but I'm not even going to do a thorough individual job at it...I'm going to copy and paste my book reviews from LibraryThing! The good news (or bad news, depending on your viewpoint) is that I'm so busy this month that I'll have very few reviews that even need writing next month. As it is, most of the books I read in August were pre-reading for school.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Puffin Story Books)Mara, Daughter of the Nile, Eloise Jarvis McGraw Action, romance, intrigue...not to mention history and culture...this book is fast paced without being shallow. The story is balanced enough to be enjoyable for both boys and girls, I think. The romance isn't mushy, the action isn't contrived, and the suspense holds steady throughout the book. I liked seeing the difference between slave life and noble life, between Egyptian life and Syrian life...it's a great way to have fun learning some history.

The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, Elizabeth Payne This book gives a good overview of the Pharaohs and historical highlights of Ancient Egypt. It includes some good b&w photos of architectural finds. There were occasions when the text was a little too opinionated, relying on conjecture, ("They seemed scarcely more human than the wild animals they so feared.") but for the most part seems to do a good job of teaching about Egypt.

Landscaping With Fruit: Strawberry ground covers, blueberry hedges, grape arbors, and 39 other luscious fruits to make your yard an edible paradise. (A Homeowners Guide)Landscaping With Fruit, Lee Reich Rarely have I seen a gardening book that combines a great layout, many great photos, as well as easy to read, entertaining, and informative writing. I enjoyed reading this book and still pick it up for reference.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Maybe it was because I never read the book when I was young, or maybe I simply don't have an innate appreciation for fantasy literature, but this book--like the movie--is just weird to me. My girls (whom I read the book aloud to) thought that it was pretty good; they have yet to see the movie. All that said, I'm glad to have read it--simply because it makes me feel more culturally literate. : )

Hittite Warrior, Joanne Williamson This book provides an interesting look at ancient history from a viewpoint other than the Egyptians. It was written fairly simply, but full of adventure and action. I liked how you get a sense of how the varying cultures interacted, as well as how much people's religions played a part in their lives.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle)The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer This was a sweet lighthearted look at a heartbreaking point in history. The characters weren't very deeply drawn, but were touching and enjoyable to read about nonetheless. It was a look at the world through rose-colored glasses, a way to sympathize with those that lost without feeling swamped in the mire. I wish that I knew people like those in the book. It was a bit of a fantasy, but a nice little foray.

God King, Joanne Williamson My initial impression wasn't entirely favorable, because the story took a little while for me to get into. The action quickly picked up however, and I sped through the rest of the book. Written simply enough for younger readers, I liked the balance of ancient and biblical history. There was enough interest and adventure to hold interest, while still being fully historical. A fun way to learn about history, and to get a more personal interpretation of biblical cultures and stories.

Mr. Popper's Penguins, Richard and Florence Atwater This is the story of a housepainter in a small American town. He's always wanted to travel, but has never been able to...he loves books and movies of the Arctic and Antarctic. He is married to a lovely lady whose main concern is how tidy the house is; therefore she dreads winter--Mr. Popper's off-season--when he'll be lying around the house reading books. Too hard to keep a house tidy! Of course, the addition of a penguin to the family changes everything. This story is quick to read and funny. The fact that it was written in 1938 lends to much of it's charm. It's quite funny that nobody knows what a penguin is, and that the penguins ride on buses, in taxis, and stay in hotels mostly because no one has had any experience with them to say otherwise. My 5 year-old and 8 year-old daughters both enjoyed listening to this book.

The Song of the LarkThe Song of the Lark, Willa Cather This is the second work of Willa Cather's that I've read (previously read O Pioneers!) but it convinced me to read all of Cather's works (My Antonia is next). The theme wasn't quite as strong as in O Pioneers, but there were moments that were so insightful, beautiful, and touching that it was very much worth the reading. I love how all of the feelings and emotions are described and explained. The sentiment mixed with duty (whether to others or oneself) is tangible. How Thea's journey to unleash her artistic side is so intrinsically tied to her memories of home makes for a deeply touching story.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For the Record: July 2009:

I was hoping to get a ton of school books pre-read this month, and it just hasn't happened. My list isn't as long as I'd like it to be, and I feel like I'm running out of time before school starts and the year ends. I haven't been nearly as productive in supplemental school stuff this summer as I'd hoped to be...but I did read these great books this month:

War and Peace (Everyman's Library classics)War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy. This was fabulous. Really wonderful. I wrote out my favorite quotes here. I'll be re-reading this someday.

Tender Graces, Kathryn Magendie. This was a Library Thing Early Reviewer book, and a very good one at that. I made the mistake of judging this book by it's cover, which happened to be 8.5"x11" and comb-bound with a sentimental pastel photo on the front. It was a well written coming of age tale set in the '60s in the South. At times very poetic, it was a mixture of heartwarming and heartbreaking. It was quick to read (although most anything seems quick after reading W&P) but not unintelligent.

Charlotte's Web, E.B. White. E.B. White has a way of writing that makes you laugh. He's great to read aloud; my girls and I enjoyed this very much.

Fair and Tender Ladies (Ballantine Reader's Circle)Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith. This story affected me more than I thought it would. It is a seemingly simple story of an Appalachian lady told through the letters she writes throughout her life. In skipping over the mundane details, I felt them all the more. The fact that the author encompassed the majority of the main character's life really brought to attention the realization that life rarely turns out exactly as you've imagined it at 12 years old, but that doesn't make it all bad.

The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman. Hard to believe, but I hadn't read this book yet! It was easy to read (could've been summed up in a much shorter space, though). I like the disctinction made between feeling in love, and feeling loved. The information was organized in a clear, simple way, and is a good basis for relationship building.

The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan. This is a memoir of a journey through breast cancer. It is funny and touching, and made me burst out in tears quite often.

They Came Like SwallowsThey Came Like Swallows, William Maxwell is a story set in the middle of the Spanish Influenza of WWI. The storyline is fairly simple, the length rather short, and the characters weren't extremely easy to identify with. But in spite of those things, this is an amazing book. William Maxwell somehow manages to expose the very inner part of his characters...the parts that we often don't ourselves acknowledge. We are familiar with the parts of ourselves that we show others, and we are very familiar with the voice in which we think, but beneath those things is our core--those fears and needs that dictate how we act and react without our even knowing it. Great writing.

The Golden Goblet, Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Yay! I pre-read a school book! I had a hard time with the first few pages of this book, but it soon picks up and stays exciting until the end. I liked how the thoughts and feelings of the main character were depicted, and the historical portrayal was done well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

For the Record: June 2009:

I didn't read as many books in June as I'd planned, and most of them are smaller books. The reason being, that although I went on vacation and had plenty of time to read, I started reading War and Peace instead of some of my smaller books. This is what I finished:

The Hope Within, Tracie Peterson. This was the 4th (and last) book in a series. This last book meant more to me than the other 3, in that I could identify with some of the struggles. I am glad that I read the series, and felt that it had more substance than many other Christian historical fiction books do. It was, however, a bit more troubling than other Christian books. There are many hard things that happen to the characters...be forewarned!

Loving Frank: A NovelLoving Frank, Nancy Horan. This novel is about Frank Lloyd Wright, and a love affair that absorbed years of his life. I was irritated through most of the book, because I don't understand how any mother could leave her young children. Though the subject irritated me, I felt that it was written well, and wasn't overly sympathetic. If you enjoy a good surprise ending, then this book may be just up your alley--I definitely didn't see it coming.

The Cricket in Times Square, George Seldon. This was the last book that we read aloud for school, and it ended up being one of the favorites. It's a neat story about a cricket who makes wonderful music, and the search for the perfect balance between friends and family, and home.

The BFG, Roald Dahl. Oh my goodness, what a fun book! How is it that I'd never read this book before? I got to read it aloud to my girls, and we loved it.

A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New WorldA Voyage Long and Strange, Tony Horwitz. This book relates American history before the arrival of the Pilgrims. I enjoy American history, so this book was fun to read--although it did stall out in the middle. I liked how he mixed history with his personal travels and discoveries; it made the history portions come alive.

Tirzah, Lucille Travis. I pre-read this book for next year's studies and was very pleased. It relates, in novel form, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. I liked how it portrayed the character of God, and showed the story from a point of view we don't typically see. I'll probably be reading this aloud in the fall.

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen: A NovelBeauty in the FieldsAnne Tyra Adams and A Place in the Sun by Jill Rubalcaba. These two books get to share a spot because they were both very short books. These I also pre-read for next year's studies, and I don't know if I'll be using either of them. In both of the books I had a hard time connecting to the main characters, and never really discovered any purpose or point to the books.

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, Susan Gregg Gilmore. This was the book chosen for my book club this month. It was fun to read, and very heartwarming. It was sort of a coming-of-age book set in the south. I loved the characters and the writing style; made you feel like you were there, like you knew the people. Fun summer read!