Saturday, October 13, 2012

More reading, more good books

"The Evolution of Faith" by Philip Gulley was one of the most challenging books I have ever read. I loved Gulley's fiction novels about the kind and good Quaker minister who struggles to do his best with his family and congregation in a small town in Indiana. However, Gulley's non-fiction shows just how far his faith has evolved from that of his novels' protagonist. I would only suggest this book to those who are really strong in their faith or those who are so far removed from "the church" and its teachings that they will not be devastated by Gulley's theology. "The Male Brain" is written by Louann Brizendine, a scientist/psychologist. I certainly wish I had known all this before I raised two sons! I sent copies to both of my daughters-in-law so they will have a heads-up on what their sons are thinking - subconsciously and consciously. Many thanks to my friend Pat Graham, who recommended this to me. Whoa! What the he(double hockey sticks)! Gail Collins has written "As Texas Goes", a non-fiction account of the dealings (underhanded and political) that have been going on for the past few decades and are creating policies that affect every one of us in the U.S.A. I was flabbergasted and frankly am very worried about our future. Those crazy under-educated rednecks are undermining our democracy and our education system and more! Let's stop them.

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Better late than never... I hope

It has been months since my last post. I've been so busy and this is the first Saturday for months that I have either not been at work or on the road somewhere. So I'll post this list of books I've read since the last post and hope that I can do a better job of keeping up with some book reviews and reactions from now on. One of my favorite reads was "The Fitzosbornes in Exile" by Michelle Cooper, the second in the series about a WWII era royal family from the island of Montmaray. I love the feisty heroines and the handsome young men whom they encounter. Chick-lit with a feminist touch and a bit of history. My hubby and I listened to the audiobook for "V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton while on our road trip to Florida... Good, gritty murder detective adventures. Then we listened to "My Lucky Life" by Dick Van Dyke on the road trip home. We always liked DvD and all his wonderful shows and now we know why. If they ever make a movie from this book my son David should play the lead. He bears a resemblance to Mr. VanDyke and is also a talented singer/actor/dancer. My book club read and discussed "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skoot. It was fascinating and troubling at the same time. It recounts the incredible gift to science and to all humanity that has come through the cells taken from the body of Henrietta Lacks. It also describes the prejudice and injustice done to minorities by scientists and doctors who did not think it necessary to ask blacks (and other minorities or handicapped persons) for permission before taking tissue samples. There was much to provide fodder for the discussion of this book. Then I read "Naftali the Storyteller" by Isaac Singer. I can't remember anything about it now, so I guess it didn't make much of an impression on me. "Blasphemy" by Douglas Preston did make and impression. When you want to get involved in a discussion about God and the creation of the universe, this is an interesting novel that centers around that theme. It gets a little crazy - or rather the people get crazy wild and violent. Our book club tried something new and different in August as everyone was told to pick any book from the library in the 300's (Dewey Decimal) section. I read "County: Life, Death & Politics at Chicago's Public Hospital" by David Ansell, M.D. I grew up in Illinois and have often heard stories about Cook County Hospital. Ansell provides a direct, unromantic view of the factors that caused controversy over the three decades in which he worked at the hospital. He also makes a strong point which supports Obama's health care plan and the need for universal health insurance.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Twelve Books

It has been over three months since my last posting! Blame it on a new library being built around me and all the changes at work and other aspects of life. I have had time for a little reading so here is a listing and then I'll tell about my favorites. Harry Potter: Page To Screen - this was a birthday gift from my husband (after I suggested how much I would love to own it); The World of Downton Abbey; Death of a Kingfisher - M. C. Beaton; If You Ask Me... and you won't - Betty White; Take Big Bites - Linda Ellerbee; The Rivalry - John Feinstein; Ties that Bind, Ties that Break - Namioka; The Back Porch and Other Stories - Jerry Apps; Storyteller - Edward Myers; Chime - Billingsley; Calico Joe - John Grisham; A Brief History of Mantmaray - Michelle Cooper; Fiction favorites were the mystery Death of a Kingfisher and hisorical fiction A Brief History of Mantmaray; I loved perusing the glorious photos and drawings of Harry Potter: Page to Screen and The World of Downton Abbey; The books by Betty White and LInda Ellerbee were both memoirs of a sort and very enjoyable. I have greater respect for both those women now.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

“So many books… so little time” they say! Taking time for reading is not the big problem, though; finding time to blog about them seems to be much harder! So here – quickly – is a synopsis of my latest reads.
Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show – by Frank Delaney: This was wonderful! I love Frank Delaney’s narrative about the colorful characters of his native Ireland. And listening to his voice reading the book is heavenly. I sure hope they come up with an audio version of the next two books in the series soon (with him reading).
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – by Ransom Riggs: I had read quite a few favorable reviews about this book and expected it to be better. Not only was the fantasy a bit too far-fetched, but the protagonists just weren’t compelling enough.
The Search Committee – by Tim Owens: I knew I had to read this book when I found out that it was about a Presbyterian church committee who were assigned to search for a new pastor for their congregation. I know something about that situation! Anyway, the book was about the people and their lives and it was humorous and warm and I thoroughly enjoyed it and will recommend it to all my Presbyterian friends. (Those of other denominations will likely enjoy it, too!)

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I have been a reading slacker for the past few weeks while things have been extra busy at the Hartland Library. In March we had a several special events starting with a birthday party honoring Dr. Seuss, a St. Patrick’s Day party and a Hunger Games Competitive event that coincided with the opening of the movie based on the very popular book by Suzanne Collins.
I also just attended a two-day NASA Space Science Workshop for youth librarians, held in Madison on the University of Wisconsin campus. I met several wonderful, motivated librarians who were there to learn about Mars and the NASA rover, Curiosity, which is scheduled to land on Mars in August . Now I will be spending time planning programs for kids to teach them what we learned!
At the request of some of my fellow participants, I am going to explain in more detail the way we conducted our Hunger Games event on March 23rd.
Participants were required to be between 12-19 years old – just like the tributes in the book. They pre-registered so we would know how many to expect. As they arrived we gave them a mockingjay tattoo made using waterslide temporary tattoo paper. They sat down in groups of four or five per table and began to work on the 86-question quiz over the Hunger Games book. They collaborated and all seemed to know the book by heart! There was one adult gamemaker for each of the five tables of tributes who kept track of the point totals for each youth. We went over the answers with the groups at our tables and added up their scores. Then the tributes’ costumes were examined and points were awarded for details (the more detailed their costumes, the more points they were given). We took photos of all of them (see our Facebook page) and then led them into the arena. We had a large area to use with six large posts that made for a natural separation between the “safe” outer area and the “cornucopia” inner area. In the cornucopia we had placed several items on the floor and covered them with sheets, blankets, and bags. Each tribute was given a bag in which to gather any items they could retrieve from the cornucopia; they were also given label stickers upon which were typed up a variety of wounds they could inflict upon others while inside the cornucopia. When we blew a whistle they were allowed to enter the cornucopia to pick up supplies and attach sticker-wounds to the other tributes. There are two short videos showing of a portion of the chaos on our Facebook page. After the dust settled, the gamemakers made note of points lost by those with wounds and then we read through the scenarios and gave or removed points according to the items that the tributes in our groups had grabbed.
After points were added up we served cake and water and gave out “Tribute Guide” books and Hunger Games READ posters to the top six winners. (They didn’t get both – they selected which they wanted).
If you would like to have me email you copies of the questions, answers, stickers labels, and list of the items in our cornucopia, send me an email request at:
“May the odds be ever in your favor”


Monday, February 27, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
This novel won the 2012 Michael Printz award for Young Adult Literature – a very big award in case you didn’t know. I enjoyed it and think it will truly resonate with any adolescent female (maybe also adult females) who have fallen head over heals for a good-looking, popular, athletic boy who breaks their heart. Handler is the true name of the author who penned the very popular “Series of Unfortunate Events” under the name Lemony Snicket. He knows how to write for young people, but I haven’t heard much buzz from teens about this book… probably because it is realistic fiction and not fantasy/ sci-fi/steampunk or filled with vampires and such.
Now that it won a big award it will most likely be shunned by teens and only read by older women (teachers and librarians) who are glad to be past this stage of life!

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Friday, February 10, 2012

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
This is our book club selection for February 2012. I knew very little about it when we chose it for discussion. Now that I have finished it, I can see that it will provide a great deal of meat for thoughtful chewing. The stories of the people who handle the Haggadah (the text recited at the Seder on the first two nights of the Jewish Passover, including a narrative of the Exodus) are full of human anguish.
It demonstrates the sinfulness of human nature when we allow our differences to become reason enough for disrespect, hatred, and even murder. The fact that any particular religion or faith is the instrument by which one People or culture feels justified in its domination over another People or culture is so opposite of the loving God I have come to know personally. Those who are so “certain” of their righteousness have time after time acted cruelly and sinfully. It has to stop. But the only way I know to make it stop is by trying to live out my own belief that God loves all People, no matter their color, race, gender, ability, sexuality, or faith. What else will we as sinful humans find about each other so that we may denigrate them rather than lift them up? I hope that we have seen the last.
Back to the book – read it … and please think and act in the ways that will make this world a more loving and peaceful place.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

So many books, so little time! Since the last posting I have read "Mockingjay" by Suzanne collins, "Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick, "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, and "Dead End in Norvelt" by Jack Gantos.
My recommendations: skip 'Heaven is for Real', read "Wonderstruck" if you liked "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", read "Mockingjay" if you've read the previous two books in the series to find out what happens to Katniss and her world; and DEFINITELY get hold of "Dead end in Norvelt" - I really agree with the committee who picked this as the 2012 Newbery Award winner!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

American Girl fan that I am, I recognized the name Kathleen Ernst from the many historical fiction novels she has written about Molly, Kirsten, Josefina, Kaya, Kit and others. Ms. Ernst is a Wisconsin resident and has now begun a series about a young woman who is hired as the curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin. The new series is called the “Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series”. Old World Wisconsin is an actual place – a settlement reconstructed from historic houses, barns and sheds brought from Norwegian, German, Swedish, Polish, Danish, & Irish farms. Historical interpreters make history come to life throughout the 600 acre site – which is the largest outdoor museum of rural life in the United States.
(Enough of touting OWW – click this link to learn more after you read the rest of this post:
Kathleen Ernst knows history… and she obviously has some insights into historical preservation as well. I was enthralled with the setting and the details of the first in the series, “Old World Murder”. Chloe Ellefson, the protagonist, isn’t a perfect person nor does she have anything close to Hercule Poirot’s “little gray cells”, but the mystery moves along and she is swept up in the need for closure on the missing historical artifact that is the catalyst for two deaths. There is also a romance brewing as well as clues about someone in her past. I’ll look forward to reading Chloe’s second mystery: “Heirloom Murders” as soon as possible.
If you are a Wisconsinite, enjoy history and love mysteries, keep your antennae tuned to Kathleen Ernst!

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