Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wrapping Up and Looking Forward

We had a great 2009 here at WeBeReading!

K got through 147 books for a total of just over 46,000 pages. That's an average of about 125 pages a day which for me is about two hours of reading.

Only six of the books were non-fiction and I hope to improve upon that next year. I have 17 unread non-fiction titles on my shelves and 28 on my library list so I should be able to find at least a dozen interesting ones!

I marked nineteen books as "would not read again" which seems high but as a percentage of what I read for the year, it's not bad! In contrast, I had 79 books that I would definitely consider reading again.

I read 79 authors that were new to me this year. Many of these were review copies and challenge books and that is one of the main benefits of these activities. This also doesn't count all of the many fantastic picture book authors that we discovered this year!

I strangely had only one re-read this year -- The Shadow of the Wind. I definitely liked it as much the second time as the first.

And my final fun statistic is the number of books over 600 pages that I read this year -- seven! Bleak House (914), Drood (773), Stone's Fall (800), Inkspell (635), Inkdeath (663), God is An Englishman (634) and East Lynne (624).

Z added dozens of books to his home shelves and borrowed stacks of books from the library. Next year I hope to work him into basic chapter books. He's at the right reading level for them but his attention span isn't quite long enough!

This year we also hosted Poe Fridays which will end next month around Poe's birthday. We finished the Take a Chance Challenge and the 1% Well-Read Challenge. We also went a little bit berzerk on the R.I.P. IV Challenge. We started a new feature -- Starred Saturdays. And most of all, we had fun reading and sharing with all of you!

Have a very happy New Year!
K and Z

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Reviews of 2009

I had written one massive summary post to go up tomorrow but have decided to split off the list of reviews and post that today. After all, we wrote over 150 review posts this year!

Here are almost all of our reviews for 2009 (except for a few library visits where I did quick children's book reviews). I have starred our favorite reads -- including East Lynne, The Age of Wonder and Un Lun Dun. If you started following us later in the year, we would love it if you visited some of our past reviews.


*Bleak House - Charles Dickens
The Reluctant Widow - Georgette Heyer
The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie (Poirot)
The Robe of Skulls - Vivian French 1
People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
Bonjour, Babar - Jean de Brunhoff 1
The Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K. Rowling 1
Drood - Dan Simmons
The Rabbit and the Turtle - Eric Carle 1
By the Pricking of My Thumbs - Agatha Christie (Tommy & Tuppence) 2
*The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey - Trenton Lee Stewart 1
*The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman 1


Revelation of Fire - Alla Avilova
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte 2
The Conqueror - Georgette Heyer
The September Society - Charles Finch
Winter in Madrid - C.J. Sansom
*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Library Mouse - Daniel Kirk 1
Postern of Fate - Agatha Christie (Tommy & Tuppence)
*The Seance - John Harwood
The Spiderwick Chronicles - Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black 1 2
The Kingmaking - Helen Hollick


Little Miss Spider - David Kirk 1
*Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk - Boris Akunin
Poirot Investigates - Agatha Christie (Poirot) 3
The Invention of Everything Else - Samantha Hunt
Swim Little Fish! and Dinosaur Stomp! - Paul Stickland 1
*The Black Tower - Louis Bayard
*Vienna Blood - Frank Tallis
*The Last Dickens - Matthew Pearl


Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark - Donna Lea Simpson
*Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert 2
King's Fool - Margaret Campbell Barnes
*Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear
Sherlock Holmes in America - ed. Martin Greenberg 3
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffeneger
*Mother of the Believers - Kamran Pasha
The Dead Beat - Marilyn Johnson 4
Mrs. McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie (Poirot)
The Crimes of Paris - Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler 4
*The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
The Man's Book - Thomas Fink 4
The Lying Tongue - Andrew Wilson


What Would Jane Austen Do? - Laurie Brown
The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire - C.M. Mayo
Stone's Fall - Iain Pears
*Tanka Tanka Skunk! - Steve Webb 1
*Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
Why Shoot a Butler? - Georgette Heyer
The Unfinished Clue - Georgette Heyer
Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer
The Glassblower of Murano - Marina Fiorato
Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren 1
A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy - Charlotte Greig


My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier
James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl 1
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe
*The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
*Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People - Farahad Zama
Cousin Kate - Georgette Heyer
Night at the Museum - Milan Trenc 1 2
The Rossetti Letter - Christi Phillips
*The Pet Dragon - Christoph Niemann 1
Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic - Suzanne Weyn 5
*Un Lun Dun - China Miéville 5
The Devlin Diary - Christi Phillips
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type - Doreen Cronin 1


Wicked Plants - Amy Stewart 4
The Thin Man - Dashiell Hammett
The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal - Sean Dixon
Inkheart - Cornelia Funke 1 2
Not A Box and Not a Stick - Antoinette Portis 1
Hippolyte's Island - Barbara Hodgson
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat - Lynne Jonell 1
*Of Bees and Mist - Erick Setiawan
An Edible History of Humanity - Tom Standage 4


Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Inkspell - Cornelia Funke 1
Elephant and Piggie Series - Mo Willems 1
*The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John le Carré
Cowboy & Octopus - Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith 1
The Game - Diana Wynne Jones 5
*The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone - Dene Low 1
Ice Land - Betsy Tobin
Inkdeath - Cornelia Funke 1
The Puzzle King - Betsy Carter
Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell


The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett
God Is an Englishman - R.F. Delderfield
The Composer is Dead - Lemony Snicket 1
*The Somnambulist - Jonathan Barnes
The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss - Claire Nouvian 4
The House at Midnight - Lucie Whitehouse
To Serve Them All My Days - R.F. Delderfield
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, Every Friday and New Pet - Dan Yaccarino 1
Ghostwalk - Rebecca Stott
The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett
*The Green Knowe Series - L.M. Boston 1
The Ghost Stories of Muriel Spark 3


Birds of a Feather - Jacqueline Winspear
*The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories - Joan Aiken 1 3
*The Man in the Picture - Susan Hill
*The Magician's Elephant - Kate DiCamillo 1
In A Glass Darkly - Sheridan Le Fanu 3
Wonderland - Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew 6
The House of Lost Souls - F.G. Cottam
The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme - Bobbi Katz and Adam McCauley 1
*The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science - Richard Holmes 4
Pretty Monsters - Kelly Link 3 5
Half-Minute Horrors - editor Susan Rich 1 3
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
The Cain Saga: Forgotten Juliet - Kaori Yuki 3 6
*Spellbinder - Helen Stringer 1
The Manual of Detection - Jedediah Berry
My Rotten Life: Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie - David Lubar 1
The Unburied - Charles Palliser


The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet - Reif Larsen
In My Father's Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles - Chris Welles Feder 4
Toot and Puddle - Holly Hobbie 1
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffeneger
*Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson
The London Eye Mystery - Siobhan Dowd 1
The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) - Gina Misiroglu 1 4
The Broken Teaglass - Emily Arsenault
No Wind of Blame - Georgette Heyer
Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow
When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead 1
Papier-Mâché Monsters - Dan Reeder 4
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations ... One School at a Time - Greg Mortenson 4
Mercury Falls - Robert Kroese
Ophie Out of Oz - Kathleen O'Dell 1
The Simple Art of Murder - Raymond Chandler 3
The Old Capital - Yasunari Kawabata


Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook - Sarah Schmelling
Big Fish - Daniel Wallace 2
*East Lynne - Ellen Wood
Holiday Grind - Cleo Coyle
*The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma - Trenton Lee Stewart 1
Death in the Stocks - Georgette Heyer
Albert - Lani Yamamoto 1
Mort - Terry Pratchett
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
Runt Farm series - Amanda Lorenzo 1
Mr. Timothy - Louis Bayard
43 Old Cemetery Road series - Kate Klise 1

1 - Children and/or youth book
2 - Book v. Movie post
3 - Short stories
4 - Non-fiction
5 - YA book
6 - Graphic novel

Looking forward to another year at WeBeReading,
K and Z

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Youth Series to Die For

There seem to be a pretty high number of youth series that deal with the supernatural in different ways. I've just found a new series that is fun and different -- 42 Old Cemetery Road written by Kate Clise and illustrated by her sister, M. Sarah Klise. I read the first two books in the series yesterday.

The first book is 43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You. Ignatius B. Grumply is a children's ghost story author who has had writer's block for twenty years. He decides to rent a house for the summer to finally write that next book in his series and chooses Spence Mansion in Ghastly, Illinois. The only problem is that he isn't told that the house is already inhabited by Seymour Hope, a young boy who has been abandoned by his parents, and Olive Spence, the builder of the home who has been dead for ninety-seven years. At first Seymour and Olive try to get rid of Grumply but eventually they see other options for co-existence in the house.

This book is told entirely through notes, letters and newspaper pages. It's an interesting way to tell the story and gives a definite "back and forth" feel to the book. I think that grade school kids would find this amusing and, as there is nothing actually scary in the book, it's appropriate for all kids. There has never been a sweeter ghost than Olive Spence -- she even cooks dinner!

The second in the series is 43 Old Cemetery Road: Over My Dead Body. This book continues the story with a busybody bureaucrat who thinks that Spence Mansion is not a proper home for young Seymour. Grumply gets hauled off to the mental institution for insisting that Olive exists and Seymour is taken to the orphanage. It's up to Olive to get them free and to make them all a real, legal family.

This book was written in the same way which wasn't bad for a second book but I'm not sure if I could read many more books in this format. It might get a bit boring. For now, though, I think these two books are cute! The sisters have worked together on other series and their work perfectly complements each other.

Already formulating my haunting plans,

Support our site and buy Dying to Meet You (Book One) and Over My Dead Body (Book Two) on Amazon or find them at your local library. We borrowed our copies from the library.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Not so tiny any more, that's a fact."

I received Louis Bayard's Mr. Timothy for Christmas last year and ended up saving it to read this year due to its holiday setting. This is the story of the adult Timothy Cratchit, a.k.a. "Tiny Tim" from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Things have changed for Tim -- his parents are both dead as are some of his siblings, he no longer has a cane and braces but only walks with a slight limp and, perhaps saddest of all, he turns out to have never been the pious, optimistic child that we saw through Dickens' eyes.

Timothy is homeless right after his father's funeral but ends up with a room in a brothel. He doesn't patronize the business but rather helps the madam learn to read. Things are relatively comfortable for Tim until one day when he sees a young girl dead in the street a few blocks from his home. As Tim passes by the scene, he notices a strange brand on her arm -- a G with demonic eyes in the middle. As he dredges the Thames with an old sailor friend, Gully, looking for bodies worth money to grieving families and medical colleges, they bring up another girl with the same brand and appearance. Eventually, Tim feels compelled to investigate and find out what is happening to these girls. Joined by a street urchin named Colin and a frightened young Italian girl named Philomela, Timothy works to rid London of a horrific evil and also to exorcise his own demons of guilt and self-doubt.

Published in 2003, this is Bayard's first historical mystery and while it didn't have the same polish as his others (The Pale Blue Eye starring a young Edgar Allan Poe and The Black Tower about the missing Dauphin in Paris), this book easily transported me back to Victorian London. There were characters like the kind-hearted and optimistic Gully who could have been penned by Dickens himself. My only real issue with this novel was my decision to read it at Christmas time. Though it is based on A Christmas Carol, it is a dark and sometimes gut-wrenching story that was difficult to read in a time of happiness. Still, i enjoyed it and Mr. Bayard remains one of my authors to follow.

Appreciating comfort and joy,

Support our site and buy Mr. Timothy on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gifts of Books Galore (or As The TBR Pile Teeters)

One of the best parts of book blogging is getting to share what books we acquire (and seeing the same from each of you). Here are the ridiculous number of books that we now need get to read.

Z now has a couple more easy readers and a comic, a Santa book, a book about the periodic table of elements (not pictured), The Lorax, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Henry Huggins, Stuart Little a Disney-Pixar story book and the latest from They Might Be Giants, Kids Go!, which comes with a DVD and is a book that promotes being active. I'm not quite sure how you read and jump at the same time but we're willing to learn!

K now owns
The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber (a youth or YA fantasy)
The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories (for the next RIP Challenge?)
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Maguire
The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet by Arturo Perez-Reverte (the latest Captain Alatriste novel)
The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes (set in the same world as The Somnambulist)
A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd (first in a new mystery series)
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

I also had a gift certificate to the Oxford University Press shop so the following books are on their way --
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories by M.R. James

And I might have spent a little of an Amazon gift certificate this morning on --
The Professor's House by Willa Cather
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (and I didn't realize the silliness of those two titles in the same order until just this moment!)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel by Boris Akunin (next in a series)

It looks like it's going to be a Dickens of a year for my TBR pile (insert groan at my bad pun here). I can't wait to dive in to all of these fabulous new books. This is going to be a year of reading off of my own shelves as much as possible and now I'm assured that they are well-stocked. And Z is going to have some great bedtime stories in the coming months. I hope the books on his shelves are ones that he will enjoy for years to come!

Now it's your turn. Share in the comments what books came into your home this season or post a link. We're curious!

Building a book fort,
K and Z

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Starred Saturdays: week of December 20

We're a bit tired from the holiday yesterday. My sister had to be taken to the airport at 4am and Z stayed up late to spend some final time with her so we're having a quiet day today. Let's keep this short and fun ...

Have some leftover fresh cranberries? Joy the Baker has a solution! Make some Honey Cranberry Cornmeal Quick Bread.

Didn't receive the right book? Why not read Lee Jackson's latest crime novel for free? (via author R.N. Morris)

Just need something to veg out and watch? How about an undersea volcano eruption? (via io9)

Now we're off to watch DVDs, read books, eat leftover pie and nap. I love December 26th!

Bobbing along in the wake of a happy day,
K and Z

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Perfect Holiday Read Is ...

What book is the perfect holiday read for you? What book puts you in the mood for Christmas? What book do you see on your shelves in June that starts you daydreaming about a chilly, pine-scented morning (or a sunny day for our Aussie friends)?

K's choice is

For Z it seems to be

Please share your choice(s), whatever holiday you celebrate!

And to all a good night and more,
K and Z

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Home With Room For Everyone

When we went to the Seattle Bookfest in October, we briefly met author Amanda Lorenzo. Z admired the video for her Runt Farm books and she admired his bright yellow raincoat. When the event was over, she contacted us through the blog and asked if we would consider reviewing her books. Of course, since they had already caught Z's eye, we were interested! We recently received the first two books of the series and they turned out to be a cute set that are homey yet modern, friendly but not overly saccharine, smart, honest and accepting.

The first book in the series is Runt Farm: Under New Management, illustrated by Mark Evan Walker. It begins with Kitten, a youngster left behind when the Brunt family leaves their farm. He decides to stay in the barn and make it a comfortable home. The first night turns out to be a bit scary though and he is more than happy when an egg hatches the next morning and out comes The Peep, a duck that peeps rather than quacks. They have adventures together in the local pond until two super-intelligent mice, escaped from a local animal research facility, join them and really bring the group together. Cletus and Tooth are inventors, cooks, doctors and so much more. They make the barn a true home and the group a true family.

These are short chapter books with a good amount of illustration which makes them appealing as bedtime stories but also great for young readers. There are some longer words used that are defined in the back of each book -- both enabling kids to expand their vocabularies and to learn to look things up for themselves. I thought the subject matter was appropriate for most children although younger children may need an explanation about why some behaviors are not good choices. In the book the choices have consequences but it might not be clear why they were not the right thing to do.

Next is Runt Farm: Beatrice and Blossom. Beatrice is a bunny headed to market who falls off the truck and Blossom is a little lost squirrel. They also become part of the Runt Farm family and learn to be stronger individuals and better friends.

The language in these books is modern but also age-appropriate. The animals speak in ways that children might speak -- sometimes offending where no offense is meant, sometimes speaking their minds when it would have been better to keep something to themselves. These books have realistic interactions that will feel familiar to kids. But again, the reactions by other characters to these words should teach children that it's important to consider the words we decide to use when speaking to others.

A third book in the series was released last month, Runt Farm: Clovis Escapes! Clovis is another mouse from the research facility and I'm curious to see what she will add to the mix. I can only imagine that each book in this series will expand the Runt Farm family into a large group of misfits that find that they actually fit together just fine as long as they have respect and love for each other.

At about 70 to 100 pages, these books are a bit wordy for Z (especially with Christmas taking up so much of his attention right now) so we have been telling the story through the pictures and will work up to reading the full text (although I did read the entire books myself). He adores the illustrations and the character names and also loves when they learn to solve their problems.

Learning and growing together in our family,
K and Z

Support our site and buy Runt Farm: Under New Management, Runt Farm: Beatrice and Blossom and Runt Farm: Clovis Escapes! on Amazon or find them at your local library. We received our copies from a publicist.

Monday, December 21, 2009

" 'I have been here before,' I said; I had been there before ..."

As my introduction to Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited gave me a taste of an author who can build a beautiful, revealing and devastatingly painful story.

Charles Ryder is a WWII soldier, stationed in Britain, who has just been relocated to a new headquarters. Much to his surprise, he finds that it is Brideshead, a country manor he first visited as an Oxford student. It was the scene of some of his favorite memories and also his most painful. This novel takes us back as Charles recounts his history with his college friend, Sebastian Flyte, and Flyte's family.

I found much of this novel to be engaging and fascinating. There were a few parts that were a bit slower paced than the rest of the story and I struggled a bit through them. Still, this was an incredibly well-written and believable story which deals with such diverse topics as Catholicism, war, English nobility and homosexuality.

This is my final read for the year for the 1% Well-Read Challenge (coming in just under the wire)! I read ten very diverse books for the challenge this year. Again, I can see this novel's place on the list as it captures a culture and era that no longer exist. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to the reader. I am glad to have read this novel and am looking forward to reading more of Waugh's work -- especially one of his satires. In the meantime, I have an ARC of Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead by Paula Byrne -- a biography of Waugh and exploration of the family who inspired Brideshead.

Happily 1% more well-read,

Support our site and buy Brideshead Revisited on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Starred Saturdays: week of December 13

Well here we are, just under a week until Christmas! I'm not sure I will be around my blog much in the coming week because I'm picking up my sister from the airport tonight and we tend to spend most of our time playing video games and watching classic movies. I've been dying to watch Christmas in Connecticut!

This week's starred items in my Reader are mostly book reviews --
The Tricking of Freya at Rose City Reader
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks at Savidge Reads
All Saints' Eve at Lynda's Book Blog
A Dark Night's Work at A Reader's Respite
Christmas Day in the Morning at A Fondness for Reading

I'm definitely going to check out the newly re-released Victorian novels from Victorian Secrets. (via Juxtabook)

And here's a different sort of list -- The decade's best unread books (at The Guardian via The Oxford University Press Blog)

I enjoyed the Changing Face of Sherlock Holmes slideshow on The Independent. (via The Inkwell Bookstore Blog)

The Inkwell blog also pointed me to the most amazing Alice in Wonderland cupcakes I have ever seen.

After you check out the cupcakes, check out the new Alice in Wonderland trailer. Tim Burton has preserved so much of the Disney feel and yet made it entirely his own. Fantastic! (via Techland)

And finally ... I'm trying to think of some reason that I need to make Smitten Kitchen's Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce but at this point I'm almost willing to count "to just shovel spoonfuls in my mouth" as a valid reason!

Have a great week and I may or may not see you back here next week!

Taking a break to admire the Christmas star,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poe Fridays: X-ing a Paragrab

Welcome to the last Poe Fridays story of 2009! We're going to take the next two weeks off for the holidays and come back in January for a couple more weeks until Poe's birthday.

The short story for this week was X-ing a Paragrab. You can read it here.

This is quite the silliest story I think I have ever read. A man heads to a new town where he believes there to be no newspaper. There is, of course, a newspaper and the man (by the ridiculous name of "Mr. Touch-and-go Bullet-head", no less) sets up shop across the street from the established rag. In his very first issue, he prints the following bizarre passage --
'Oh, yes!—Oh, we perceive! Oh, no doubt! The editor over the way is a genius—O, my! Oh, goodness, gracious!—what is this world coming to? Oh, tempora! Oh, Moses!'
The "editor over the way" is not amused and makes fun of this rant and its overuse of our jowly vowel O. Bullet-head at first wants to write a rebuttal that does not use the letter O at all but instead heads the other way and writes a paragraph in which almost every word contains the letter O. He leaves the paragraph with the typesetter who shortly finds that an employee of the rival paper has relieved them of all of their upper case and lower case O's. What to do? Why, replace them with x's of course -- hence the "X-ing" of the paragraph.

I'm hoping Rob can tell us whether this is a criticism of journalism in general or was inspired by a specific grudge. Either way, it has Poe's sharp-tongue but also his light humor in it. The paragraph itself (with all of the O's intact) is hilarious and even if you aren't interested in the story, I recommend heading over and reading just that part. It reminds me of British humor.

Our next Poe discussion will be on January 8th and so I thought that we could tackle Poe's only novel--The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket--in the coming weeks. This is apparently not an easy work to get through but I hope someone will brave it with me! You can read it online here but it will probably be easier to read as a print copy or an actual e-book.

Expounding on our astounding Poe (or Expxunding xn xur astxunding Pxe),

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"This is the bright candlelit room where the life-timers are stored--shelf upon shelf of them ... one for every living person ..."

Terry Pratchett has a few "tracks" of novels in his Discworld mega-series. I read the first two Rincewind books (he's a wizard) and then decided to try the first book in the Death series, Mort. The title character is Mortimer, an awkward teen who doesn't have much to offer the world. And yet he catches the eye of one who is willing to take him on as apprentice -- Death. Mort decides to take the offer and travels with Death to his home on another plane of existence -- a home with a servant, an adopted daughter and gardens of black food and flowers. This is the story of Mort's attempts to learn the reaping trade and his realization of the depth of the consequences attached to making mistakes in the job.

I really liked this novel. Death was an interesting character in the first two Discworld books I read and I was looking forward to trying out this story line. I thought Death would feature more in this book but it really was the story of Mort. Still, it was an interesting look at what could be called "the universe's dirtiest job". Pratchett has a unique way of thinking and his invented world is rich and detailed. I'm not sure which book I will choose to read next but I'm sure that I will keep exploring Discworld.

Glad to not actually have the loneliest job in the world,

Support our site and buy Mort on Amazon or find it at your local library. We borrowed our copy from the library.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"It was raining again ..."

Z has been sick at home for a week with a flu-like illness so when I had some library books due, I stopped in and grabbed some fresh books to entertain him. One of the books has turned out to be a big hit -- Albert by Lani Yamamoto.

It's the story of a young boy who is stuck inside on a rainy day. He plays imaginary games and eventually starts wondering about the bigger picture of his place in the universe. Its simple words and illustrations leave room for the imagination -- which is exactly what happened for Z. After we read this together and discussed the ideas in it, Z asked for a piece of paper and a crayon. This is what he made ...

"But Albert did something like maybe ..."

"... floating in outer space, visiting the lions, walking to Alaska, climbing up a tree, and going to Australia ..."

"... going to Mars, walking to China, & being a champion."

I think this was a great opportunity to work on reading comprehension and imagination. Lani Yamamoto has two other Albert books which we will definitely be looking for. There is also a Spanish version, Alberto. Though children may not grasp the whole concepts being presented, it never hurts to plant the seeds of an open and curious mind.

Looking to the stars past the whole wide world,
K and Z

This is a difficult book to find so you are going to have to look for it at your local library.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Secret Surprises Are the Best Surprises

This year I participated for the first time in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. I had a great time shopping for my designated blogger and I received my gifts on Saturday!

I was given a copy of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and some delicious chocolates from Trader Joe's. I've already started in on the mini Belgian chocolates and can't wait to try the peppermint bark (which I've been craving!). Many, many thanks to Joella (who I believe belongs to this blog -- she didn't say but I did some searching!) for the awesome and thoughtful gifts! They are exactly what I wanted!

Loving something for now and something forever,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take Another Chance Challenge Book List

Jenners has just announced the Take Another Chance Challenge for next year! There are twelve challenges this time and they are all new. I will update this post with links to all of the challenges that I complete.

Challenge 1: Read Your Doppelganger
Find an author who has either the same initials, the same first name, the same last name, or the exact same name as you. Read a book by this author and write a post about it. (If you try to keep your identity anonymous on your blog, you don't have to reveal what part of the author's name is the same as your name.)

It's hard to search for the same initials but I finally came up with Karen MacInerney and the first in her Gray Whale Inn Mysteries series, Murder on the Rocks.
review - 5/18/10

Challenge 2: Blogroll Roulette
Find a blogroll at either your book blog or a book blog you like that has at least 15 book blogs on it. Go to and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the number 1 for the min. and 15 for the max. and then hit generate. Then find the blog that is that number on the blogroll you selected. (For example, if you get 10 at, then count down the list of blogs until you get to the tenth one). Go to that blog and pick a book to read from the books that they have reviewed on their blog. Read it and write a post about it. Be sure to link to the blog post you picked the book from!

I chose to use Lenore's blog because her blogroll is for YA blogs which I don't read many of. I got number 9 which is the author Beth Kephart's blog. I'm sure that she mentions books that she has read on her blog but since I've never read anything by her, I'm choosing one of her own books -- Nothing But Ghosts.
review 2/17/10

Challenge 3: 100 Best Book
Choose one of the lists below and go to the link provided. Choose a book to read from the list that you haven't read before. Read the book and write about it.
Radcliffe's Rival 100 Best Novels List
Top 100 Sci-Fi Books
100 Best Romance Novels of the 20th Century
100 Best Mystery Novels
100 Best Non-Fiction Books (pick from either Board List or Reader List)
2009 Best Books for Young Adults

I'm going to really take a chance on this one and choose from the Romance list. In fact, I have a copy of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon here at home that I have been avoiding for quite a while now. But seeing as how it's number one on the list, I guess I will take this chance!
review 2/3/10

Challenge 4: Prize Winner Book
Pick one of the major literary awards from the list below. Click on the link for the award you picked. You will find a brief description of the award and links to past winners. Pick one of the past winners, read the book and write about it.
Booker Prize
Caldecott Medal
National Book Award
National Book Critics Circle Award
Newbery Medal
Nobel Prize for Literature
PEN/Faulkner Award
Pulitzer Prize
Commonwealth Writers' Prize
EMMA Awards

I am choosing another book that I have around the house but will probably put off reading forever unless I challenge myself to read it -- 2005 Booker Prize winner The Sea by John Banville.

Challenge 5: Title Word Count
Go to and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the numbers 1 for the min. and 5 for the max. and then hit generate. Find a book to read that has that number of words in the title. Read the book and write about it.

My number is 2! I'm going to read Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones which I keep hearing about but again will probably put off reading forever.

Challenge 6: Genre Switch-Up
Go to this list of book genres and pick a genre that you have NEVER read before. Find a book from that genre, read it, and write about it. Note: If you seriously cannot find a genre that you have never read, then pick the genre that is as far away from what you normally read.

I was not sure what to do with this one but eventually went for Etgar Keret's flash fiction anthology The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories.
review 7/19/10

Challenge 7: Break A Prejudice
We all have reading prejudices--authors we don't like, genres we don't like, or even publishers we don't like. For this challenge, think of a reading prejudice you have and then find a book that is an example of this type of book. Read the book and then write about the reading prejudice you had BEFORE you read the book and how reading the book either changed your prejudice or reinforced it.

I have always shied away from chick lit but will take a chance with the highly praised Bridget Jones's Diary even though it has discussions about weight and dieting!
review 5/10/10

Challenge 8: Real and Inspired
Many authors or books inspire others to pay homage to them by writing another book inspired by the original work. For this challenge, read both an original work and a book inspired by that original work. Write about both books in one post. Note: This might require some research on your part and requires reading two books so it worth 2 entries.
Examples: Christopher Moore's Fool is based on Shakespeare's play King Lear so I plan on reading both King Lear and Fool. Another example is Jane Austen, who inspired the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. For this challenge, you might read both Pride and Prejudice and the zombie version. (There are tons of other Austen-inspired books out there too.) Another idea would be a graphic novel version of a "standard" novel. The only real requirement is that the "inspired by" book must clearly state what original work inspired it.

I am slowly reading through all of Jane Austen's work and I will have to make my next Austen novel Sense and Sensibility because I actually do want to read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!
review 4/5/10

Challenge 9: Same Word, Different Book
Find two books that have the same word in the title. Read both books and write about them. (Worth 2 entries because you have to read two books).
Example: If you pick the word "Love," you could read any two books that both have Love in the title. To help you find books that have the same word, you could go to, type a word into the Search box and see what books come up with that word.

I am going to read A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  They have almost identical titles!

Challenge 10: Become A Character
For this challenge, you can read any book you want. However, you have to write about the book as one of the characters from the book. The character can comment on his/her treatment by the author, other characters, the "untold story," what happened next, and so forth. You could even have two characters interviewing each other! Your imagination is the only limit. Because of the difficulty level of this challenge, it is worth two entries.

I'm going to keep this one as an open option and when the right book comes by for this review, I'll do it then.

Challenge 11: All in the Family
The writing gene often runs in the family. For this challenge, you need to find two authors from the same family (either by blood or by marriage) and read a book by each of the authors and then write about both books. Because of the research involved and having to read two books, this challenge is worth two entries.

I've changed plans and now am planning on reading Boy, Roald Dahl's first childhood memoir, and Playing With the Grown-ups, his granddaughter Sophie Dahl's fictionalized childhood memoir.
review 6/14/10

Challenge 12: Author Anthology Pick
Find an anthology of your choice. Read at least 5 entries in the anthology. Of the 5 entries you've read, pick your favorite one and then find a book by that writer and read it. (If your first choice doesn't have a book, then pick your next favorite until you find a writer that has a book.) Write about the anthology, your favorite pick from the anthology, and the book you read by your favorite pick. Because of having to obtain and read two books, this challenge is worth two entries. Thanks to J.T. Oldfield at Bibliofreak who partially inspired this challenge.

I have The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunnits that I bought this past summer so I will read it and hopefully find a great new author in there!

I'm excited about this challenge! I'm definitely going to have to space out the tasks through the year to keep up with it but I think it will make a nice break in my reading and I'm going to aim for completing all twelve tasks. Thanks for the challenge, Jenners!

Preparing for another year of risky reading,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Release: Death in the Stocks

Sourcebooks continues to re-release Georgette Heyer's mysteries and the most recent one to cross my path is Death in the Stocks. Thankfully, this one does not take place in an English manor house which was a refreshing change!

Wealthy businessman Arnold Vereker is found dead in the town near his country home, stabbed in the back with his feet in the stocks. When it emerges that his family and business associates all felt at least a mild dislike for him, everyone becomes a suspect. When a missing family member returns from the dead, the plot thickens even more.

I really liked this mystery. Superintendent Hannasyde is a pleasant and smart detective and the characters, though flawed, were not quite as over-the-top as in other Heyer mysteries. The London setting was interesting and a nice change of pace. Written in 1935, I think this book holds up very well. I hope to find more like this in the Heyer catalogue.

At least I won't be killed for my fortune,

Support our site and buy Death in the Stocks on Amazon or find it at your local library. We got our copy from the publisher.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Starred Saturdays: week of December 6

Thirteen days until Christmas and boy are we excited! I have all but one item bought, everything shipped that needs to be and now I can devote time to baking and decorating. Between parents, siblings, secret santa and our own family, I did my part in helping out the publishing industry by purchasing around thirty books! But that's not all I'm about so here are some things I found interesting this week ...

Techland reports that Time Inc., News Corp., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp., and Meredith Corp. are going to create a rival format to the proprietary Amazon Kindle offering that uses a full-color screen to enhance the presentation and reading of their magazines. This would be one of my key uses for an e-reader as I feel guilty getting magazines and then putting them straight in the recycle bin after I read them. I would probably subscribe to more magazines if I could lower my ecological footprint.

This week we have Best Last Lines from Novels (via The Millions) and Greatest Opening Sentences (also via The Millions).

It appears to be national news that our Seattle landmark bookstore, Elliott Bay Book Company is relocating from the homeless-ridden and parking-space-deficient Pioneer Square to the hip and happening Capitol Hill. To be honest, I've only been once and felt a bit claustrophobic so I'm glad that they are moving to a slightly bigger space! (via Jacket Copy)

Jacket Copy also shows a novel use for old books. I'm tempted to do this with some old biology text books!

And I'll leave you with my favorite image of the week (and perhaps the year) -- the failed Russian missile launch as seen from Norway. (via io9)

Looking forward to a bit of a Pacific Northwest warming trend,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Poe Fridays: Ligeia

This week's Poe Fridays short story is the difficult-to-spell Ligeia. You can read it here.

This story begins with a beautifully romantic passage --
I CANNOT, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where, I first became acquainted with the lady Ligeia. Long years have since elapsed, and my memory is feeble through much suffering. Or, perhaps, I cannot now bring these points to mind, because, in truth, the character of my beloved, her rare learning, her singular yet placid cast of beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of her low musical language, made their way into my heart by paces so steadily and stealthily progressive that they have been unnoticed and unknown.

But then of course --
Ligeia grew ill. The wild eyes blazed with a too --too glorious effulgence; the pale fingers became of the transparent waxen hue of the grave, and the blue veins upon the lofty forehead swelled and sank impetuously with the tides of the gentle emotion. I saw that she must die --and I struggled desperately in spirit with the grim Azrael. And the struggles of the passionate wife were, to my astonishment, even more energetic than my own. There had been much in her stern nature to impress me with the belief that, to her, death would have come without its terrors; --but not so. Words are impotent to convey any just idea of the fierceness of resistance with which she wrestled with the Shadow.

When the lady dies, the narrator goes to England and buys an old, rundown abbey. He begins using opium and decorates the inside of the abbey in an opulent manner. He also adds to the abbey a second wife, Lady Rowena Trevanion. Because of his undying love for the departed Ligeia, he has little love to spare for his new wife and she, in turn, has little for him. Then Lady Rowena begins to have violent illnesses of an unknown origin. During one of her fits, she confesses feeling an unnatural presence in the room and the narrator also experiences some unexplainable phenomena. Shortly after, the poor woman dies and, while sitting with the body, the narrator starts noticing signs of life that come and go. But when the woman finally stirs, she is no longer Rowena.

This is an extremely creepy story! The beginning is full of gushing love, followed by the deepest sorrow, the most vivid hatred and then ending with sheer astonishment. This story certainly stirs the emotions of the reader. I wish the story continued past the point where Poe ends it. From the first paragraph, it seems that the narrator may have lost his mind.

Our short story for next week will be the humorous X-ing a Paragrab.

Glad to be the first wife,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

451 Challenge Book List

Elizabeth of As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves is hosting her first challenge -- the 451 Challenge. This ties in with her 451 Fridays -- a feature where readers share which books they would save if books became endangered and which one they would choose to "become" or memorize to save. I participated last May and had a great time choosing my books and might even participate again!
Here is how it will work: between January 1, 2010 and November 30, 2010, participants are challenged to read books on the 451 master list. There will be several levels of participation:

Spark - read 1-2 books from the master list
Ember - read 3-4 books from the master list
Flame - read 5-6 books from the master list
Blaze - read 7 or more books from the master list

Re-reading is acceptable, as are crossovers with other challenges. Audio, print, and e-books are all acceptable. Each month, participants will be encouraged to post their reviews on the challenge blog, and each review posted will be an entry into a grand prize drawing for a $25 gift card to the online bookseller of the winner's choice.

The list of books is in the sidebar of the challenge blog. At this point, the books that I am considering reading are these:
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens -- this one will be a re-read and will overlap with the Flashback Challenge.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery -- I've actually never read this one.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien -- I'm hoping to participate in the Lord of the Rings Readalong so I will read all three of these and The Hobbit.

Since these three choices are actually five books, it puts me at the Flame level. I will update this post with review links and any added books that I choose during the eleven months of this challenge.

Saving as many books as possible,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Release: Mysterious Benedict Society

It's incredibly difficult to review series books. The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner's Dilemma is the third in a youth series by Trenton Lee Stewart. I read the first book last October and the second one in January. Of course there are things revealed in the first story that are taken for granted in the remaining books but I can't reveal them without spoiling the series for newcomers. I'm going to do my best to do a mostly spoiler-free review but if you are considering the series, you may choose not to continue.

Our four Society children--Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance--are continuing to grow and develop, each honing their own particular skills. They are spending most of their time being taught by Mr. Benedict and his staff. However, there is no peace and quiet for this group while the children are being targeted for their knowledge of past occurrences. Eventually, their sanctuary is attacked and the group must fight a crafty adversary in order to save Stonetown.

This is just a great series about growing children. In this book, they are maturing and starting to break out of the narrow confines of their youthful personalities. For example, it's not easy for one of the kids to try being the brave one when he has always been nervous and timid. But he realizes that for the sake of his friends, he needs to take advantage of an opportunity that only he has thought of. This is a great lesson for any child.

Hoping Z also grows up to be brave and resourceful,

Support our site and buy The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma on Amazon or find it at your local library. We borrowed our copy from the library.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Flashback Challenge Book List

I'm co-host of the Flashback Challenge with Aarti of BOOKLUST. Since we started talking about the challenge, I have been thinking about the books I would like to re-read next year. It turns out that I am having a hard time narrowing it down so I will just make a big list here and probably edit it over the next few weeks and into the new year!

First, I really need to re-read Wicked and Son of a Witch (Gregory Maguire). I have A Lion Among Men in my TBR pile but it's been a while since I was in that world and I could use a refresher before starting in on the third novel.

I also want to re-read my Josephine Tey collection. I believe I have all that she ever wrote (eight books) and it's been a few years since I read them. With the Nicola Upson books out (the ones that feature Tey as a character), it would be nice to reacquaint myself with her style and characters.

I really want to participate in the Lord of the Rings Readalong with Eva and Teresa. It's been long enough since I last read them that I think I will get something new out of these fantastic books.

I think the rest of my re-read ideas are just single books so here's the list:
My Antonia - Willa Cather (read a few times when I was younger)
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke (read once before)
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (read once in high school)
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (read once before)
The Island of the Day Before - Umberto Eco (read once before)
The Chess Garden - Brooks Hansen (read once before)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce (read at least once)
The Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux (read a few times)
The Lighthouse at the End of the World - Stephen Marlowe (read at least once)
The Poe Shadow - Matthew Pearl (read once before)
The Portrait - Iain Pears (read once before)

Well, that's only twenty five books! But since I'm probably going to end this year at about 150 books read, I should be able to get through most of these next year as long as I don't accept too many review books and postpone some of my ninety book TBR pile here at home. And if I have any spare reading time, I am dying to re-read my Oz books. I only own sixteen of them.

Amused by my own optimism,

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Release: Holiday Grind

I'm usually a stickler for reading a series in order but when I saw Cleo Coyle's eighth Coffee House Mystery, Holiday Grind, listed for review, I thought it sounded like a fun read for the holidays. To my satisfaction, it was almost as pleasant as the many peppermint mochas I've already enjoyed.

Clare Cosi is the proprietor of Village Blend -- a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. She is divorced and yet keeps a working relationship with her ex-husband who imports the coffee beans for the shop and is the father of her just-grown daughter. In what appears to be a common occurrence for Clare, she becomes entangled in a murder -- this time it's a local charity Santa whose daughter once worked as a barista at the shop. Clare feels the need to investigate the murder when the detectives assigned don't seem to believe that it wasn't a common mugging. With the help of her boyfriend, Detective Mike Quinn, she searches for clues in the murder and of course, finds her own danger.

This was a satisfying cozy mystery. When the story started, they were in the coffee shop about to begin a taste test of holiday drink flavors and I really didn't want the story to turn to murder! But of course it did and I got sucked in and enjoyed the ride. I wouldn't mind going back to read the other books in the series. Some things were hinted at that would be interesting to read about and I came to like some of the characters. The coffee details were especially interesting for a Seattle gal like me.

Hoping for a holiday full of caffeine and foam,

Support our site and buy Holiday Grind on Amazon or find it at your local library. We received a proof from the author through Library Thing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"In an easy-chair of the spacious and handsome library of his town-house, sat William, Earl of Mount Severn."

I had heard of Ellen Wood (a.k.a. Mrs. Henry Wood) and her novel East Lynne but it took the prompting of Simon of Savidge Reads and his Sensational Sundays to get me to commit to reading it this fall. Oh, how perfect this book was! I have been in a bit of a reading funk lately -- reading too many books that I didn't love and in some cases barely even liked. But then East Lynne came into my life and reminded me that I love sensational Victorian novels!

East Lynne is the name of the estate just outside the town of West Lynne -- some miles from London. It is one of a few properties owned by Lord Mount Severn and one he must part with as he has run through all of his funds and needs the ready cash. He makes the sale in complete secrecy, even keeping his teenage daughter in the dark as to his financial woes. He sells the home to a respectable attorney, Archibald Carlyle, from West Lynne. Lord Mount Severn and his daughter, Lady Isabel Vane, return for a visit and Carlyle, in his generosity, allows them to stay at East Lynne to continue the protective secrecy of their agreement. Unfortunately, while they are there, Lord Mount Severn's gout gets the best of him and he dies, leaving his beautiful and gentle daughter with not a cent to her name. Carlyle is thoughtful enough to send her off with one hundred pounds to live with her uncle, the new Lord Mount Severn, and his dreadful wife. From this point on, Lady Isabel is ruled by inexperience and makes many decisions -- some that are fortunately in her best interests and others that are woefully bad.

Simon frequently called East Lynne "the mother of all sensation novels" and I will only dispute that to suggest that it is perhaps tied in that distinction by Wilkie Collins' Armadale. Any story with villains so despicable that it turns your stomach in knots and tragedies so painful that they bring tears to your eyes is a satisfying sensational read. This book is already on my "must read again" list and I hope that any of you who love Victorian novels will pick this one up.

Rediscovering the joy in reading,

Support our site and buy East Lynne on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Starred Saturdays: week of November 29

Happy first bit of December! We're a few days into three advent calendars and this appears to be the first year that Z is really looking forward to Christmas. He talks about it non-stop and keeps asking each day if "today" is Christmas Eve. This is going to be a long month!

Is anyone else looking forward to SyFy's Alice miniseries? Techland and io9 definitely are and from what they are saying, it looks like it could be awesome.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is going to be a miniseries. Oh wait, it's not. But it might become a film ...

Looking for an end-of-the-year book list? Here's my list of lists:
L.A. Times 2009 Favorite Fiction (includes links to non-fiction, sci-fi, mystery, flashback and myths & legends lists)
The TLS Books of the Year 2009 (via The Millions)
A list of books for friends who enjoy form over function (via The Millions)
Some children's book wish lists at Booklights
Lev Grossman's list of The Six Greatest Fantasy Novels of All Time (via io9)
And a dozen or so other lists from The Inkwell Bookstore blog

The Good Books Inc. Etsy shop has been launched! You can support fellow book bloggers Padfoot and Prongs and get some cool bookish gifts at the same time.

The most awesome set of photos ever are from Empire Magazine who brought in actors in street clothes to re-enact their famous movie scenes. The best ones are from Silence of the Lambs, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Shaun of the Dead and Jurassic Park. (via io9)

Here's a very strange but oddly functional bookish gift featured at The Inkwell Bookstore Blog.

And yes, I am a BIG fan of holiday cookies and Joy the Baker has provided me with a possible yearly recipe.

Celebrating a season of lists and cookies,