Sunday, May 30, 2010

Discussion: How Do You Remember Children's Books?

Instead of reviewing a 52 year old children's book that I just read for the first time (Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce -- I really liked it and sobbed at the end), I thought I would put to you a question that came to mind as I was thinking about this book.

How do you remember children's books?  Not meaning your technique for remembering the books but rather do you remember them (in general) as being funny?  Exciting?  Touching on taboo topics?  Escapist or just like your own life?

I am wondering because a few of the children's books I've been reading for the first time lately seem awfully dull compared to what I remember this level of chapter books to be when I read them as a child.  They may be magical but they aren't incredibly adventurous.  Have I just built things up in my mind?  Were they more exciting when I was young and didn't have the world experience that I do now?  Am I just picking up boring British children's books now?  (Just kidding!  I love these books!)  Is Beverly Cleary that much more exciting than L.M. Boston?  Or would I be surprised if I went back and read Judy Blume's Superfudge now?  I'm truly perplexed and would love to hear what you think!

Looking through rose-colored reading glasses,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Starred Saturdays: week of May 23

As I said yesterday, I've been quite sick this week with an exhausting cold.  I haven't been online much so let me just share these fantastic photos with you from National Geographic's International Photography Contest.  I love the one of an elephant swimming -- that's always a feat that I find amazing.  (via io9)

Appreciating the timing of the four day weekend,

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Release: Captivity

I have not been feeling very witty or wise this week due to a terrible cold (in fact, I've been asleep most of the time since Monday morning) but I've just finished Captivity by Deborah Noyes and I want to write about it sooner than later.  Novels like these remind me of why I really don't want to transport through time and live in the Victorian world.  The difficulties women faced and the constraints of propriety are enough to keep me happy in the modern world.

This novel has two interlaced stories -- one about the emergence of The Fox Sisters (non-fictional characters), famed spiritualists in New England, and the other about Clara Gill (a fictional woman), past her "prime" and paralyzed by her painful past.  Their paths intersect when the two younger Fox Sisters, Maggie and Kate, are moved to their older sister Leah's house in Rochester, New York.  This is where Clara lives with her father and Maggie temporarily cleans house and makes tea for them.  Though she never knows the truth about Clara's past, she may be the only one to help Clara come to terms with it.  The Fox Sisters' story is one of opportunity -- taking advantage of a unique talent to create the spiritualist movement and direct their own destinies.  Clara's story is one of repression, both internal and external, as she closes in on herself after succumbing to the effects of the Victorian constraints on females, youth and love.

I know that sounds a bit vague but I don't want to spoil the unfolding of these tales.  The book takes a bit of time to settle in with because Noyes also doesn't seem to want to unfold the stories too quickly, instead starting with a flighty back-and-forth between the two narratives.  But when both stories settle into their rhythms and eventually connect, this book is hard to put down.  I was bothered a bit by Noyes' refusal to reveal whether the Fox Sisters were charlatans or not (Maggie confessed later in life to faking the "rappings" of the spirits during their sittings but then recanted the confession a year later), but I understand why she chose to keep this ambiguous because this book was more about searching for what to believe in rather than finding truth.

Always searching,

Support our site and buy Captivity on Amazon or find it at your local library. We received a review copy from the publisher.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Book List Meme: Three Books I Thought I Would Hate

Rebecca has really made me think with this week's Book List.  I rarely pick up books that I think I will hate.  I'm a reading chicken of sorts.  So let's see what I can come up with for Three Books I Thought I Would Hate But Ended Up Loving.

1. The first has to be The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  I actually read The Brothers K by David James Duncan first (a Vietnam era re-telling of the story) and knew the general structure of the plot first but was still wary about the Russian classic.  I shouldn't have been.  I ended up loving it and hope to re-read it soon as it's been over a decade since I read it.

2. I hate to admit this but for my second selection I'm going to choose The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  I first saw the book in the junior high library and couldn't believe how nerdy it looked.  Then, not at all a surprise, I noticed all of the GATE (honors) boys reading it and I wrote it off seemingly forever.  But, of course, life intervened and I ended up one day at college with nothing to read and this book staring at me from my boyfriend's book collection.  I decided "what the hay" and picked it up.  Now I think I've read it at least three times (not to mention the rest of the series) and I own the recent movie version.  Now I'm a junior high nerd boy.

3. I think the third book has to be The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.  If this had been a year or so ago, it would have been on last week's list of books that have been sitting on my shelves the longest.  I put off reading it for as long as I could.  And then I read it ... and liked it.  I'll admit that it's still not an uber-favorite but it certainly ranks higher in my estimation than I ever thought it would.  I was really intimidated by it because I thought I didn't have enough background knowledge to understand the connections that Rushdie was making.  I'm sure I missed a lot but I made it through and kept it on the shelf for the next time I read it.

If this was a longer list, I would include Bridget Jones's Diary and Warbreaker, recent out of my comfort genre reads that I surprisingly liked.  What books would be on your list of surprisingly good reads?

Giving books a chance,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Guest Post -- New Release: Stormrage

I received a request to review this book a few months ago and was about to decline it since it's not my type of book.  But then my brother offered to help out and review this one.  So, without further ado, please welcome my guest reviewer, Brian.

When reading a book that’s based on a predefined universe such as Star Wars or Dragonlance, it’s inherent that there will be two perspectives to be gleaned from the reading. The first is that of a reader; the second from that of a fanboy. To wit: the fanboy will always forgive writing quality for universe lore. I attempted to keep this in mind as I approached Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak, based on Blizzard Entertainment’s popular Warcraft history.
I love fantasy stories of all types, from high fantasy to modern fantasy. I play World of Warcraft a lot. I play *all* of Blizzard’s games a lot. I am interested in the storylines and the lore behind the games. I enjoy immersing myself in a world that has such a rich history. I am truly a Blizzard fanboy.

I have struggled for months (Three months. Three whole mind-numbingly wasted months.) to read my way through this book, picking it up and setting it down repeatedly. The language is stilted. The dialogue is bland, uninviting, and nested in a faux “fantasy” old English which slips into modern vernacular at will. Events were foreshadowed that never took place, and the author enjoyed hinting at things which he never explained. The reader would be told the character had a plan only to be left in the dark forever on what the plan was. And without a perfect knowledge of the universe, neither the characters nor the events within the book made any sense. I found myself looking up events and characters on wikis just to understand the story.

There is a light at the end of this review! While hiding the book behind my bookshelf, I remembered watching a series on SciFi a few years back (before they changed their name to the new insipid moniker simply for copyright reasons) called The Dresden Files, starring Paul Blackthorn. I remembered enjoying the idea of a wizard acting as a private detective in modern Chicago. I re-watched the series for nostalgia’s sake thanks to Netflix, followed by a little online research to find out why it was cancelled. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was based on a series of books. Two weeks later, (during finals no less!) and I’ve consumed 8 books so far. If you want bubblegum fantasy reading, pick up Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books. Avoid Knaak like the plague.

Well, I have to say that I'm glad I wasn't the one to suffer through that book!  Have any of you read a book based on somewhere or someone you already know, hoping for the best but finding that it wasn't even readable?

Moving on to better reads,
K and B

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Lucy Armitage wheeled her bicycle round to the yard at the back of Rosewood Antiques ..."

I've been trying to choose more books from my own unread piles recently and the other day I was in the mood to grab Rookhurst Hall by Elizabeth Jeffrey.  Set in both 1960s England and flashbacks to the World Wars, this is a brief novel about love and loss.

Lucy Armitage is a secretary in 1960, coping with the recent departure of her less than affectionate mother who has gone to Australia with her new husband.  Lucy is finding joy in her independence but also struggling with building meaningful and trusting relationships.  She lives above an antique shop run by the kind Alec Manton and his son Ben.  When Alec returns a writing bureau to Lucy that he has just finished restoring for her, he also hands over two photos that he found in a hidden compartment.  Much to her surprise, Ben recognizes one of the photos as Rookhurst Hall, a place he has been invited more than once to appraise antiques.  Even stranger though is what they recognize in the early twentieth century photograph of three sisters -- Lucy's own face.  Lucy then sets out on a journey to the past where she will find out more about her own family and also the one that lived in Rookhurst Hall.

Though I barely liked Lucy at the best times, the first-person narration of the past by a woman named Alice was a heartbreaking and compelling story that made reading this book really worth it.  The discussions of the serving class, the World Wars and the flu epidemic were interesting and well-researched.

Has anyone else read any novels by Elizabeth Jeffrey?  This one doesn't appear to have much visibility and her other ones don't seem to be regularly available in the U.S. but I'm going to make an effort to find some of her other novels because they look interesting as well.

Expanding my grasp on history through fiction,

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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Club Read: Fledgling

The final read in this round of the NTTVBG was chosen by Kim of Reading Matters and was Octavia Butler's Fledgling.  All I knew going in was that it was a vampire book.  I decided to read it since I've been curious about Butler for a few years but hadn't picked up any of her books on my own.  She was considered a master of her genre and something of an anomaly in the science fiction/fantasy world because she was an African-American woman.  This was a very interesting choice for this particular book group and I'm interested to join in the discussion with everyone today.

Briefly, this is the story of a young member of a vampiric race, the Ina, that co-exists with humans.  They do not change anyone into vampires when they bite them but, instead, give pleasure to humans with their bites and become attached to them in a symbiotic relationship.  This young Ina has survived an attack on her colony but has lost her memory of anything before the attack.  She must re-learn what it means to be Ina, how to interact with her symbionts and why she is unique among her people.  Her exploration gains a sense of urgency as she realizes that her family was targeted because of her existence and many more will die if she doesn't find out why she is so strongly disliked.

Though this isn't my sort of story, I got through it.  The most distracting thing was the ridiculous number of typos in my version of the book.  The most compelling parts were the politics of this supposedly advanced race and how they still have some weaknesses similar to humans.  The symbiont/Ina relationships were strange and I was creeped out by the eroticism/violence connection -- but then again, that's what you expect with a true vampire story.  I'm not sure if I will explore this author more but supposedly her other novels are quite different from this one except for the similar discussions about race and gender issues.

Moving on to something lighter with less bloodsucking,

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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Starred Saturdays: week of May 16

I'm sorry to have missed last week's Starred Saturday post.  I love putting these together and revisiting all of the fun things I've seen over the week.  But we had a beautiful day last Friday with a total of fourteen kids in the front yard for Z's birthday party and needed a recovery day!  Now it is rainy and dark here again and a perfect day to sit inside with a good book or some fun internet links.

Don't miss Penguin's 75th Anniversary celebration if they're in your neighborhood!  Unfortunately, they aren't coming to Seattle.  (via Jacket Copy)

Would these learning transformers be as cool if they were our alphabet letters?  There's something inherently cooler about kanji.  (via io9)

You haven't seen it all until you've seen bread shoes.  (via Design for Mankind)

Looking for a unique coffee table book?  How about this one -- Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers. (via io9)

Wired Science has collected weird cloud pictures.  I love the "wave clouds".

Z and I actually got to see a bald eagle on the Hornby Island bald eagle nest cam the other day!  Of course, we live in an area where we see them in the wild a few times a month but it's still cool to see them up close.  (via Atlas Obscura)

And I couldn't resist this video -- the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull paired with my favorite Icelandic artist, Jónsi (of Sigur Rós) --

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

Looking to the skies,

Friday, May 21, 2010

New Release: A Whole Nother Story

Have you been wanting to get in early on the next big series?  Do you love Lemony Snicket or The Mysterious Benedict Society?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, you should definitely read A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup.  It's smart, witty and full of adventure -- and set up nicely to continue in another book.

The focus of this story is the Cheeseman family -- father, two sons and daughter.  And don't forget Steve -- he's a sock puppet.  And I better mention Pinky, the now hairless fox terrier, who is able to save the family from danger more than once.  And the Cheesemans (Cheesemen?  ::wink::) are not just the focus of the story, but also the focus of three different searches by nefarious government agent/corporate heavy types who are trying to get their hands on an amazing device that Dr. Cheeseman is inventing.  So the Cheesemans are on the run, constantly changing homes and their names and hoping to complete the device in the hopes of reversing something tragic that happened in their lives.

Except for a few spots where the humor was a bit forced, I loved this book.  Not only do these children have a healthy relationship with their father but they are also kind to new friends that they meet -- friends who aren't the most popular kids but have their own strengths.  The plot is compelling and even heartbreaking in parts.  I really hope that this becomes a successful series!

And for the first time ever I'm going to send my readers to go watch a book trailer -- this one made me laugh out loud!  There's even a "New Identity Customizer" (click on "NIC names" on the same page) that will give you a new name for when you need to go on the run -- mine is Jambalaya Raisinham.  They'll never find me now.

Trying to get hired at Dr. Soup's National Center for Unsolicited Advice,
J (for Jambalaya)

Support our site and buy A Whole Nother Story on Amazon or find it at your local library. We borrowed our copy from the library but will probably buy our own copy soon!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Book List Meme: Three Books That Have Been On My TBR List the Longest

Oh no ... Rebecca is making us confess in this week's Book List.  Which are the Three Books That Have Been On My TBR List the Longest?  Let me see ...

Well, besides Doctor Zhivago, Ulysses, and Don Quixote which I have admitted to owning and not reading for far too long due to intimidation, I think it might be these four (synopses from Powell's website) --

The Pope's Rhinoceros -- Lawrence Norfolk
Norfolk's rollicking, picaresque novel is based on one of history's most bizarre chapters: the attempt in the sixteenth century to procure a rhinoceros as a bribe for Pope Leo X. With an epic cast of characters, The Pope's Rhinoceros is both a fabulous adventure tale and a portrait of an age rushing headlong into crisis.
The Autumn of the Patriarch -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
From charity to deceit, benevolence to violence, fear of God to extreme cruelty, the dictator of The Autumn of the Patriarch embodies the best and the worst of human nature. Gabriel García Márquez, the renowned master of magical realism, vividly portrays the dying tyrant caught in the prison of his own dictator-ship. Employing an innovative, dreamlike style, and overflowing with symbolic descriptions, the novel transports the reader to a world that is at once fanciful and real.
Mason & Dixon -- Thomas Pynchon
Charles Mason (1928-1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779) were the British surveyors best remembered for running the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that we know today as the Mason-Dixon Line. Here is their story as reimagined by Thomas Pynchon, in an updated 18th-century novel featuring Native Americans and frontier folk, ripped bodices, naval warfare, conspiracies erotic and political, and major caffeine abuse. Unreflectively entangled in crimes of demarcation, Mason and Dixon take us long on a grand tour of the Enlightenment's dark hemisphere, from their first journey together to the Cape of Good Hope, to pre-Revolutionary American and back to England, into the shadowy yet redemptive turns of their later lives, through incongruities in conscience, parallaxes of personality, tales of questionable altitude told and intimated by voices clamoring not to be lost. Along the way they encounter a plentiful cast of characters, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Samuel Johnson, as well as a Chinese feng shui master, a Swedish irredentist, a talking dog, and a robot duck. The quarrelsome, daring, mismatched pair - Mason as melancholy and Gothic as Dixon is cheerful and pre-Romantic - pursue a linear narrative of irregular lives, observing, and managing to participate in, the many occasions of madness presented them by the Age of Reason.
The History of the Siege of Lisbon -- Jose Saramago
In this “ingenious” novel (New York Times) by “one of Europe’s most original and remarkable writers” (Los Angeles Times), a proofreader’s deliberate slip opens the door to romance-and confounds the facts of Portugal’s past. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
I had to choose four books this time because these have been sitting around forever!  I actually read maybe the first fifth of Mason & Dixon and the first couple chapters of The History of the Siege of Lisbon and now I don't remember why I didn't continue with either one.  I think they were both timing issues.  I really need to get through these books because they have possibly been on my nightstand for about twelve years.  Everything else on my TBR stacks seems to be relatively recent -- added within the last two or three years.

Have you enjoyed any of these?  If so, let me know and encourage me to read them soon!

Making a new goal that includes reading books in a timely manner,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NYRB Spotlight Series: The 13 Clocks

As the Spotlight Series continues this week for NYRB, I hope that you have already found something from this fantastic publishing house that piques your interest!  If you haven't yet, you can visit other reviewers for a partial look at NYRB's wide variety of novels and novellas.

Because we focus on all ages here at We Be Reading, I chose a children's book for my second read -- one that I had heard about a couple of years ago but actually had trouble finding.  Thanks to The New York Review Children's Collection, The 13 Clocks showed up in our library system a few months ago in a beautiful hardbound edition with color illustrations by Marc Simont.

With an introduction by Neil Gaiman which declares "This book, the one you are holding, The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, is probably the best book in the world", one can only go into this story with the highest of expectations.  Luckily he brings it down a notch in the next sentence with "And if it's not the best book, then it's still very much like nothing anyone has ever seen before, and, to the best of my knowledge, no one's ever really seen anything like it since."  And with that statement, I have to agree.  This is a unique book in many ways and, while it might not be a good fit for all young readers, will certainly still have the ability to expand the imaginations of a few brave youngsters.

Originally published in 1950, this is a fairy tale of sorts with a prince and princess, evil Duke and a woman who cries precious gems.  The prince is in disguise and he wants to win the hand of the princess but the Duke isn't going to make it easy.  The prince is sent on an impossible task that only becomes a bit less impossible with the help of a mysterious personage known as "the Golux".

This book is partially in verse but you hardly notice as it slips in and out.  Some of it even begs to be read aloud, like this passage --
The brambles and the thorns grew thick and thicker in a ticking thicket of bickering crickets.  Farther along and stronger, bonged the gongs of a throng of frogs, green and vivid on their lily pads.  From the sky came the crying of flies, and the pilgrims leaped over a bleating sheep creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, in which swift and slippery snakes slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets.
 There is also quite a bit of word play, especially by the Golux, which makes this book a bit more special than your average simple chapter book.  Because of the complexity of the language, I didn't fall in love immediately with The 13 Clocks but I did almost flip back to the beginning and read it again in the same sitting.  I'm now very curious to read Thurber's other children's book, The Wonderful O, also re-released by NYRB.

Unearthing hidden gems that have eternal lustre,

Support our site and buy The 13 Clocks on Amazon or find it at your local library. We borrowed our copy from the library.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"The alarm rang at 6 am, jolting me out from under my down comforter and into a pair of slippers."

The first challenge in the Take Another Chance Challenge is called 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.
This isn't the easiest thing to search but I used my initials and came up with Karen MacInerney and chose the first in her cozy Gray Whale Inn Mystery series, Murder on the Rocks.  This series takes place on an island off the coast of Maine where Natalie Barnes is starting up her own bed and breakfast.  Things turn ugly when a big-shot developer wants to purchase the adjoining land and build a mega resort -- eventually bulldozing the inn to make way for a parking lot.  The day after the town council votes to allow the resort building to proceed, the developer is found dead and Natalie is the key suspect.

This was an alright read.  The characters were interesting but I just couldn't get entirely on-board with the cliché mystery components or the predictable romance.  I'm curious about what happens next for Natalie and her niece Gwen but if the quality of the mystery isn't better, I don't think I will continue with the series (currently three books, I believe).  I will, however, try some of the breakfast recipes given in the back of the book like Wicked Blueberry Coffee Cake and Killer Cranberry Scones!  Yum!

Looking out for my next literary doppelganger,

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Z's Birthday Books

Z was very lucky to receive some fantastic books from friends and family this year!  He got a nice assortment of fiction and non-fiction and at various reading levels.

The green book is Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes.  Z is not a fan of dust jackets because they slip while he is reading so he takes them off immediately and we have a huge stack of them on top of the bookcase -- but that's a picture for another day!

Thinking bookish gifts are the best ones,
K and Z

Sunday, May 16, 2010

NYRB Spotlight Series: Great Granny Webster

This week I'm participating in the Spotlight Series and the featured publisher is NYRB (New York Review Books).  They have three labels -- Classics, Collections and Children's Collection.  From their About page ...
The NYRB Classics series is designedly and determinedly exploratory and eclectic, a mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.
The New York Review Children’s Collection began in 2003 in an attempt to reward readers who have long wished for the return of their favorite titles and to introduce those books to a new generation of readers. The line publishes picture books for preschoolers through to chapter books and novels for older children.

I decided to feature one Classics book and one Children's Collection book and I'm starting today with the novella Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood (108 pages).  It's a thinly-veiled autobiographical tale that exposes the reader to an unusual family -- beginning with the rigid and humorless Great Granny Webster.  There's little in the way of plot in this book -- merely vignettes during the life of the narrator, who remains unnamed, and the lives of her familial predecessors.  She begins the book just two years after the Second World War as a school-age girl, sent to her great-grandmother's house near Brighton to recover from an illness.  Great Granny Webster is very old and rather set in her ways and our narrator is relieved when her recovery time comes to an end and she is able to leave Granny's cold and musty home.  In fact, this is the end of her contact ever with Granny and yet she can't help but wonder about this woman for years to come.  Was she always the same strict woman as she was in her later years?  How did her behavior and attitudes affect her daughter, the narrator's grandmother?  And why did the narrator's father choose to visit this old crank during the war instead of spending time with his friends?

This was a fascinating book and I was sorry that it was so short.  And yet, it also seemed complete in its purpose -- to reveal the similarities and differences within generations of a family.  The introduction by Honor Moore was also very well written and added to my experience with the book.  It gave some brief biographical information about Blackwood and provided the context that one might have known about the socialite author at the time the book was written.  I will leave you with the strong opening paragraph of the book and hope that it sparks your interest in Great Granny Webster.
I was sent to stay with her two years after the war had ended, but in her house it seemed to be war-time.  Her blinds and curtains were often drawn even during the day as if she was still preserving some kind of conscientious "black-out".  I think she was more frightened of the sun than she had ever been of German raids.  She owned gloomy and valuable Persian carpets and it seemed to be her terror that some stray and sneaking sunbeam would creep in and make them fade.
Pondering the ties of blood,

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

Friday, May 14, 2010

Japanese Literature Read-Along: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Book 3

I've finally reached the end of my three-month journey in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.  Thank you to Tanabata for choosing this for the Japanese Literature Read-Along.  It was my first experience with Haruki Murakami and I enjoyed it for the most part and would love to continue exploring his work.  Again, here are my thoughts on Book 1 and Book 2.

The final section of this book leaves behind some characters, the sisters Kano, and introduces two new ones -- Nutmeg and Cinnamon Akasaka, a mother and son.  Toru Okada is still the focus of the story but we also read many other narratives that are seemingly unrelated to the present.  Some things are tied up in this third book but many are not.

I ended this book with a strange feeling -- neutrality.  I'm not sure if I liked or disliked this book overall.  There were certainly parts I enjoyed and others that made me uncomfortable.  I will have to let the impressions settle for a while longer.  This one might even require a re-read for me to be able to decide.  It was a unique experience and, if this is what it is like to read Murakami, I can see the appeal.  He is no ordinary author.

Silencing the wind-up bird,

Support our site and buy The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle on Amazon or find it at your local library. We received our copy from a fellow blogger.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Birthday Wishes

I have been so lucky to have this kid in my life for the past six years!  He's got a great sense of humor.  He's loving and always concerned about the welfare of others.  He is as bright as the sun and he is the center of his parents' universe and we couldn't love him any more!

Happy 6th Birthday, Z!

Baking a marvelous cake full of love,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Help Us Get Books Into Kids' Hands

We have recently discovered a fantastic website with a noble purpose., created by Penguin and The Pearson Foundation, are allowing you to read some of their classic stories online and when you click DONATE at the end of your reading, a book will be donated to the book charity of your choice.

We think this is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to give just by doing what we all love -- reading.  So please join us at our group page to help We Give Books in their goal of donating one million books worldwide.  Z and I have chosen the Room to Read charity for our donations --
Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond. 
Spreading the book love,
K and Z

Monday, May 10, 2010

Out on A Limb: Bridget Jones's Diary

I've always put off reading Bridget Jones's Diary because I thought it wasn't "my type" of book.  But Deb of Book Magic recently convinced me that I should give it a shot and since I have been in a bit of a reading rut and I needed to try something new, I grabbed this one last time I was at the library.  Helen Fielding's first Bridget Jones book turned out to be a welcome break from my reading about the past and I'm looking forward to finding out more about Bridget's future.

If you haven't read this one yet, it's a modern day Londoner's diary about trying to lose weight, avoid the pressures of an overbearing mother and find a good man.  She succeeds in one of these!  She's a bit sloppy, a terrible cook and a bad dresser.  But she's also witty, honest and a loyal friend.

I didn't entirely love Bridget but I certainly see the appeal of this book for many and I am just a bit curious about where she goes from this point in her life.  If I have to read chick lit, it's going to be about Bridget Jones!

I have decided to count this for Challenge Seven of the Take Another Chance Challenge --
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 was rather unwilling to pick up anything that was chick lit but I now feel like there is probably a subset of the genre that fits with my reading tastes.

Book reviews written 1 (v.g.),

Support our site and buy Bridget Jones's Diary on Amazon or find it at your local library. We borrowed our copy from the library.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Starred Saturdays: week of May 2

Welcome to a hectic Saturday here in WeBeReading land.  This coming week holds a festive occasion -- Z's 6th birthday!  My youngest sibling (the darling S) is flying up from California for the big day and we are having a Slip n' Slide party for up to twenty kindergarteners on Friday afternoon.  Yikes!  So if we don't comment on your blogs this week (or possibly even post), we are just busy making food, decorating and having a party!

If you haven't heard about a Seattle boy's inspiring Make-A-Wish superhero experience, go have a read.  It gives you back a bit of faith in humanity.

Tove Jansson's illustrations of Middle Earth from The Hobbit are strange and magical.  (via io9)

Torani, makers of flavored syrups usually found in coffeehouses, has come up with a new flavor. (via Techland)

Jacket Copy has gathered some of the best photos of readers around the world.  It makes me, well, want to read!

And the video of the week, via EW's Shelf Life, is Bill Murray reading poetry to construction workers --

Now wish me luck while I clean house, weed the yard and do a lot of other pointless things because six year olds won't notice anyway!

Grateful for a sunny forecast,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Coppernickel: The Invention

Recently we received a totally nerdy-awesome (my own word) picture book -- Coppernickel: The Invention by Wouter van Reek.  I opened the package and Z saw it, grabbed it from me and ran away yelling "it's for me, right?!?"   Since he was so enthusiastic about it, I decided to make him actively participate in this review!

K: Who is this book about?
Z: A bird in a red hoodie named Coppernickel and Tungsten -- he's a dog.

K: What is this book about?
Z: Inventions.

K: What are they trying to invent?
Z: A stick so that his hand doesn't get bitten and two sticks so that crocodiles don't bite Coppernickel's legs.  (Note from K: This is a description of the sketches on the end papers.)  He invents a stick that he balances on.  (Note from K: Also known as a bridge.)  He invents a roof so that his head doesn't get wet.

K: What are they trying to invent in the book?
Z: They're inventing "a machine for picking high-hanging elderberries".  (Note from K: He just read that part from the book.  Cheater.)

K: Does the invention work?
Z: Um, yeah ...

K: Really?
Z: The machine doesn't grab berries.  It grabs Coppernickel.

K: Who saves Coppernickel?
Z: Tungsten does!

K: How do they get the elderberries down from the tree?
Z: With a stick that gets them down.

K: Did you like this book?
Z: Um, yeah. Yeah, I guess so. Yeah.

K: Do you like it a lot or a little?
Z: A lot.

He's had this book out for a few days now and seems to find something new every time he looks in it.  I think it might end up being one of our go-to gift books for kindergarten age kids!

Inventing the useless interview,
K and Z

Support our site and buy Coppernickel, The Invention on Amazon or find it at your local library. We received our copy from the publisher.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Book List Meme: Three Books I've Read Over and Over

Rebecca's theme choice for this week's list is Three Books I've Read Over and Over.

Because I'm a big re-reader, this is way too short of a list for me!  But here are the first three that come to mind ...

1. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde -- Because I frequently re-read each book in a series if it's been a long time since the last book, I've read this one at least five times but probably more since I love it just on its own.

2. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams -- First introduced to this one by my now husband when we were in college, I love the smart humor and extreme oddity of this one.  I think I last read it around the end of 2007.

3. The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie -- This story of unrequited love has the colorful background of India, the rough and tumble world of rock music and the wonder of photography.  I pick it up every few years.

Of course there are many others but these I read over and over because they make me happy.  What books do you read over and over?

Feeling safe with old friends,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Prepare to Smile

I forgot to include this the other day when I wrote up my post on The Time Travelers a.k.a. Gideon the Cutpurse.  I included the artwork for the re-released title but not the original --

The cover is a cut-out with the eye showing through from the first page.  Anyway, Z found this incredibly intriguing and wanted to try his hand at peeking through the cover ...

He seems to have added a bit of creepy to the book!

Having more than the usual fun with books,
K and Z

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Last November I had a nightmare."

Continuing with my recent unwitting focus on wartime England, I recently picked up Kate Morton's The House at Riverton.  Told from the point of view of Grace Bradley, an old woman at the end of her long and fruitful life, we learn the story of Riverton House and the grandchildren who regularly came to visit.  Grace begins service in the house at the age of fourteen -- the same age as the middle child, Hannah Hartford.  Hannah's close relationship with her younger sister, Emmeline, and older brother, David, is something that Grace envies.  However, the delicate triangle is put off-balance when David brings a friend, Robbie, home from school with him -- a boy who has a strange effect on the girls.  Shortly after, the First World War breaks out and David and Robbie leave along with many of the other men.  Few of them come back and those that do are damaged -- victims of their own mental battles.  The women are also forced into a new and evolving world of independence that doesn't always mesh with the world of obligation that they grew up in.  As Grace reveals the intertwined stories of many people, we find ourselves in the midst of both heartbreaking tragedy and also true love.

One of the things I dislike about many Victorian novels is their portrayal of the serving class.  This novel was definitely an exception with a decent and normal life "below stairs".  Grace was an engaging narrator although a bit disturbing in her brief dismissal of each death that occurs throughout her story.  Most were presented with a single sentence and little emotion.  I couldn't tell if this was on purpose because the narrator herself is close to death and doesn't want to dwell or if this was a hangup for the author.  Another small disappointment for me was that this book was set up as a mystery and yet so much of it was obvious from early on.  There was one major reveal that should have been life-changing that was given barely any weight and no follow-up at all.  It was a bit unsettling.  Overall, though, I did enjoy this book and will certainly be reading Morton's second book, The Forgotten Garden, which I thought was a sequel of sorts but appears to be its own story.

Recognizing that everything should and does change,

Support our site and buy The House at Riverton on Amazon or find it at your local library.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Reading Calendar: April Edition

So, as you can see, we didn't do as well in April as in March with Z's reading.  I was going to say that we won't make excuses but I think that the excuses are important because there are times when all families run up against reasons why reading just doesn't happen.  For us there was a new iPad at the beginning of the month (Z has become a master doodler and a Netflix addict) , some ornery days where Z told me "I'm not reading today ... just looking at pictures" and some days that we just plain got caught up in other things.  We only read together on half the days this month.  At least it won't be hard to beat that in May!

Moving forward ... hopefully with a book in hand,
K and Z

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Starred Saturdays: week of April 25

It is Starred Saturday again but today is also Buy Indie Day and Free Comic Book Day!  Support your local indie and comic shops and keep these stores open in your area.  My favorite indie store happens to be having an overstock sale so you can bet I will be there!

Hopefully you all know by now that I'm a fan of good novel to movie adaptations.  The Telegraph has a 25 Best list of adaptations.  Some of them just seem like they were too easy to choose -- Wuthering Heights with Laurence Olivier, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Big Sleep -- all wonderful films.  I'm going to make an effort to watch/read the ones I haven't yet.  Perhaps the intimidating Doctor Zhivago will be next! (via Algonquin Books Blog)

Amat Libris of the blog Between the Covers discovered this amazing resource -- Chawton House Library which has put online many eighteenth century novels that are no longer available anywhere else.  Most are by women and cover a wide range of topics.

One of the Seattle Public Library's awesome blog contributors has come up with a true list of desert island books -- books that actually take place on desert islands.

I will now admit to two words that always send shivers down my spine -- operating theatre.  If you are a fan of the macabre, you can go visit this one in London that has existed since 1822.

The second funniest post I read this week was posted at The Millions by Jacob Lambert -- Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray?  Check out this blurb about one of my favorites, Caps For Sale --
The peddler balances his wares upon his head and returns to town, eager to unload caps that were just worn by monkeys. The steady spread of head lice and untold ape-mites throughout his drab little village seems a given: once again, craven business interests trump the health of unwitting consumers.  He may have reclaimed his caps, but the peddler has lost his integrity—with his own neighbors paying a tragic price.
And one of my favorite blog posts of ever is by Allie at Hyperbole and a Half and is definitely the funniest post of the week -- The Alot is Better Than You at Everything.  Not to be confused with "a lot", here is an alot --

Seriously ... read Allie's post.  Don't miss out on the funny.

Loving the wit of my fellow bloggers,