Saturday, January 26, 2013

What we've been reading the past little while . . . (January 2013)

Family Read Aloud:

We just started Girl of then Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter as a family. I listened to Freckles last year, and Laddie before that. I love this author. The first chapter refers to Freckles, but I don't think it is imperative to the story. So far, we have met Elnora Comstock, who is determined to go to school, despite poverty and a non-supportive mother. She has kind neighbors who are willing to help her, sheer determination to make it work, and a bright and inquisitive mind. (and a bit of a temper, but that isn't always a bad thing . . . ) So far, a 5/5 book . . . but we are only two chapters in. I have really enjoyed all of of Ms. Porter's other books though, well-written, inspiring, happy-ending classics . . . I'm positive I will like this. (And the 15 year old down to the six year old are enjoying it, too, so that's a good sign.)
We recently finished Remarkable by Lizzie Foley (3/5 rating . . . a fun, light read)
It was funny and fun, but it took us forever to read over Christmas break. The kids liked it in a goofy, spoofy sort of way, but it didn't hold a candle to the book Daddy was reading . . . Nanny Piggins and the Rival Ringmaster (brought over from Australia by one of Daddy's students.) If we had a chance to read, everyone requested Nanny Piggins and would pile up like puppies in whoever Daddy deemed had the cleanest room and read a chapter or two or three!

With Dancegirl:

I read about this book on . . . Emma is a reviewer I really enjoy, she likes a bit of fluff, but also reads classics and has similar taste to mine. She highly recommended this book. I read it with Dancegirl, and she was itching to get to the 100th page so she could read it on her own. The day I got to page 100, Dancegirl disappeared under the giant couch pillows and finished the book. I finished it a day later. Creepy, but not too scary. I don't want to give anything away. A Jack the Ripper copycat killer is lose in London.  Rory, an American from Louisiana staying at an English boarding school, is quite literally caught up in the craze. I wasn't expecting the ending, and I probably won't read the next book in the series, but it was a captivating read. (4/5 stars as far as teen reads go . . . not the same 4/5 stars that say Pride and Prejudice would get . . .) 

Cupcake and I just finished reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is a fabulous book. I want all of my children and friends to read it. 
August was born with severe facial deformities, but the rest of him is a normal kid with a great family. His parents decide to stop homeschooling him and send him to a nearby private school. The story is told from several different viewpoints, and it was very interesting to read the different perspectives of the same event. The author has a GREAT blog . . . highly recommended! My favorite part of the book is a simple act of courage. Because of his facial deformities, the school kids have been playing "The Plague"  . . . basically an elaborate form of cooties. If you touch August, you get the Plague. August notices this, but is forgiving and kind about it. But at one part in the book, he puts up his hand for a high five, not knowing if anyone will actually touch him. It was so courageous and beautiful. LOVED this book. (5/5 stars  . . . maybe more!)
Cupcake and I just started reading Fire Spell . . . which is funny because it's the English title of the book Splendors and Glooms (which I gave to Coconut for Christmas). So Coconut has been reading Splendors and Glooms and we've been reading Fire Spell, and it's all the same book. I bought it twice by mistake. (The covers are very different and the blurbs I read about each were quite different. I knew it was by the same author, but just thought that they were different stories, and was excited to get a book from England that no one here had read.)
Both Wonder and Splendors and Glooms are seeing some Newbery buzz . . . I'm excited to see what happens on Monday when the awards are set to be announced! 

Coconut and I are reading Enchantment by Alethea Kontis. Dancegirl picked this book for her pick in our homeschool English class arrangement. It is packed full of fractured fairy tales . . . Rapunzel, the Frog Prince, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and has pirates to boot. It has been a very fun read. It is billed as a young adult book, but my nine year old Coconut is really liking it.

Lala and I just finished Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones. (5/5 stars for reading aloud to little girls!) 
I adored this book. This is a little known classic, and I'm so glad I found it. It wasn't very expensive for the Kindle, and Lala has been reading it again and again. Twig is the story of a poor little girl called Twig, who lives in an apartment building with a grassless, unappealing backyard, but who uses her imagination and shares a delightful afternoon with the reader. She uses a tomato can and a dandelion to create a fairy house, and then is surprised by a visits from fairies and elves. The delightful juxtaposition of her make believe world and her real world was thrilling for Lala as she pointed out the cross over of names and doings among the various characters. Lala and I are now reading The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, a delightful and better-known children's classic. It's a the story of the Melendy children who decide to create a club, ISAAC . . . The Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club. The children take turns giving all of their allowance to one child, and that child goes on an adventure, then shares the adventure with the other children. Each chapter is a different Saturday  adventure. Set in a safer time, when girls wore gloves and hats and dresses, the adventures are both simple and thrilling. I could never condone my children going off on unsupervised (and unprotected!) adventures as these children do, but we have enjoyed seeing the adventure in a simple visit to the museum, the humor in rescuing a stray dog, and the excitement but fear in getting a makeover. We still have several Saturday adventures left to enjoy. I think we will continue reading the other Melendy family adventures in Elizabeth Enright's other novels.  

I'm plugging through Les Miserables for my TJed Book Club.  I'm really enjoying it, but it is quite long. I feel like I've been reading it forever. 
I've also been reading Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar by James Bach (son of the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull). Fascinating stories of self education and success. It's an interesting read. I have always played the "grade game" and have a couple of advanced degrees, so his approach is completely different than my educational experience. But it worked for him. He is excited about life and learning. 
My mom gave me this book for Christmas. It's really interesting, kind of a self help book for thirty something women . . . with really interesting perspective on Jane Austen characters. I'm not a thirty something woman looking for love, but I am living in my own personal happily ever after, and I enjoy Jane Austen, and my mommy gave me this book, so I'm reading it bit by bit. (It's my current bathtub book). 
I'm listening and reading A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. It's so long. I'm glad I have the Boy who is a Wheel of Time guru . . . it's been so long since I read the other book I have trouble remembering who is who and what is important . . . but the Boy fills me in. He has read the other books in the series five or six times, and finished Memory of Light (all 42 HOURS of it) within the first week or so that we got it. I'm only nine hours in right now. Mr. BookDiva and I have been reading this series for fifteen years, and I get really tempted to read the end . . . but so far I've resisted! I've been told by many readers (at the launch party and in my own home) that the ending is satisfying.  So, I'm trusting them and trying to enjoy the reader's journey and not just race to the end. 

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Dancegirl picked this book. At the beginning of the school year, for her homeschool English with me, she picked three books, I picked three books, and we picked three classics together. This was one of her picks. 

Dancegirl read it the first week it came in the mail in early October. She said it was good. I finally got to it this weekend, and read it in a day. It's a fun read, kind of a non-violent Hunger Games meets Miss America. (And kind of like I imagine the TV show the Bachelor would be . . . but I've never seen it.)

America Singer lives in Illea, a country that has recently recovered from war, and still subject to terrorist attacks. There is a well defined caste system, and America, although in a fairly low (artist/musician) caste, she is illegally in love with a boy from an even lower caste. She wins the opportunity to go to the castle and compete with 35 girls for the heart and hand of Prince Maxom (who lives a secluded life due to the terrorist threat). She agrees to "compete", thinking that she can benefit her family, raise her own caste, and then marry her real love. But, she and Prince Maxom hit it off (as friends), and suddenly she isn't sure about which is the best path for her.

3/5 stars . . . fun "teen" read. There is opportunity for discussion on the role of government, leadership, friendship, and love. It was a perfect book for my young adult daughter looking for light reading that ended up having some good (and potentially deep) discussion points! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

What I Hope to Read in 2013

Here's my list of books that have been rattling around my head and my bookshelf to be read . . . I'm starting with the books in blue (I already own them) . . . and we will see what happens with the other books. I haven't even included my book club books, so this list may change over time.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Northanger Abby (or Persuasion) by Jane Austen
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Count of Monte Cristo by Aleander Dumas
Girl of the Limberlost (with the family) by Gene Stratton Porter

Killer Angels by Michael Sharra
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Ireland by Frank Delaney
Way of Kings (Book 2) by Brandon Sanderson (if it comes out in 2013!)
Cold Sassy Tree by Olivia Ann Burns
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Ford
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Newbery or Newbery Honor Awards
Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon
Trumpeter of Krakow
Missing May
Heart of a Samurai
Moon Over Manifest
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P Figg
Evolution of Calpurina Tate
The River Between Us
Inside Out and Back Again
Whatever wins in 2013

Young Adult or Childrens
The Fault in Our Stars
Palace of Stone
Tiger Lilly
Bloody Jack
Love, Ruby Lavender
Let the Circle by Unbroken
Fly Trap (Fly by Night Book 2)
The Runaway King (the False Prince 2 coming out in March 2013)

Messenger (The Giver)
the Dragonfly Pool

Peter and the Starcatchers (to get ready for the Shakespeare Performance this summer)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Pride and Prejudice (with my scholar lit class) 

How'd I Do?

So, at the end of last year I posted some books I wanted to read this year. Here is a snapshot at how I did: (Chapter Books only . . . picture books would be to too hard to keep an accurate record.)

My favorite reads in 2013:

 I listened to this, then recommended it to my children. They listened, and then listened again. Then we bought the book, and read it again. Aerie had a book club party, and we got to meet the author at a CLAU (Children's Literature Association of Utah) event.
The Betsy-Tacy stories are absolutely delightful. I'm just sad that I didn't read these with my older daughters when they were young. The series starts when Betsy and Tacy meet and become friends at age five. The semi-autographical series continues until Betsy grows up and becomes a writer. Betsy, Tacy and their friend Tib have become true friends for Lala. These are stories that I will read with my grandchildren someday, too. 
I really like Brandon Sanderson. I listened to this book (which is quite long, so it took in the neighborhood of 40 hours.) I liked the storytelling, I liked the characters, I liked the values expressed, I liked the discussions on leadership. But, I especially liked talking to The Boy about the characters. It took me several months to complete the listening and sometimes I would forget parts of the story. The Boy (also a big Brandon Sanderson fan) has listened to this book multiple times and could answer any of my questions . . . and pleas for additional information and spoilers later on in the book. Then when I finished the book, we talked often about the different characters and story lines.  (Which would make any book seem delightful!)

The Utah County Homeschool Book Club (TJED)
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (5/5 stars) 
Plutarch's Lives (a selection of lives still TBD) (3/5: This takes some pretty serious brain power!) 
The Law by Bastiat and The Proper Role of Government by Ezra Taft Benson 
Do Hard Things (3/5)
The Fourth Turning (4/5 . . . this is my 3rd reading. It's starting stick in my mind more.)
Legendary Learners (4/5)
The Element (3.5/5)
Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire (3.5/5)
Deconstructing Penguins (5/5)
LOLIPOP by Amy Edwards (2.5/5)

Happy Valley Homeschooler Mom's Night Out (another fantastic group!)
The Walk by Richard Paul Evans (3/5)
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (4/5)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (4/5)
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth (4/5)
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (4/5)
The Robe by Lloyd Douglas, (my pick!) (2.5/5)
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (3/5)
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (3/5)

Neighborhood Book Group: 
A Northern Light (My pick!) (4/5)
Divergent (3.5/5)
These Is My Words by Nancy Turner (4/5)
(There are lots more . . . I can't remember what we read, though, since I didn't write it down!)

From the list of books I wanted to read this is what I actually read: 
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (4/5)
Emma by Jane Austen (3.5/5)
Mort by Terry Pratchett (3/5)
Wyrd Systers by Terry Pratchett (4/5)
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (3.5/5)
Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett (3.5/5)  
Other Books I read this year (That I can remember!)
Ruby Red and Sapphire Blue Kerstin Geir (3/5)
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (3/5)
Remarkable by Lizzie Foley (3/5)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (4/5)
Write Like This Kelly Gallagher (5/5)
The Selection by Kiera Cass (4/5)
Night by Elie Wiesel (4/5)
Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher (5/5)
Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle (4/5)
In the Middle by Nancy Atwell (4/5)
Strategies That Work by Harvey and Goudvis (3/5)
Legion by Brandon Sanderson (3.5/5 . . . fun short story)
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (4/5)
Mistress Wilding by Raphael Sabatini (I love him! 3.5/5)
Leadership Education by Oliver DeMille (3.5/5)
The Doctrine and Covenants (5/5!)
The Cleansing of America (1.5/5)
Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge (4/5)
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter (4/5)

Wow! That's a ton of books . . .and I'm pretty sure there are more, but I'm not remembering all them. I'll have to get better at keeping a thorough list. I really like the idea of making a list of books "to read" in 2013. I have a bookshelf  of books I want to get around to reading, but I think a written list (I love to check off boxes!) will better inspire me read through that list. 

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