Monday, February 28, 2011

Top Ten Books I Just HAD to Buy...But Are Still Sitting on My Bookshelf

Lies My Teacher Told To Me by James W. Loewen- This was recommended by a blog friend who has similar reading taste (YF and non-fiction). I know high school History classes get it wrong, and I want to be informed.

The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian- I picked this up at the D.I. I really want to make sure I'm the best parent I can be for my boy.

The Wilderness World of John Muir edited by Edwin Way Teale- I picked this up on vacation at the Muir Woods in Northern California. This was in 2006... don't know if I will ever get to it but I still think John Muir is fascinating.

Spook and Bonk by Mary Roach- I loved her first book, Stiff. She's a great non-fiction writer and made cadavers super interesting (weird, I know) but I just haven't gotten to these two yet. They are about the science of the afterlife and the science of sex, respectively.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver- I love her writing and have had good things about this one as well, but I just haven't read it yet. I picked it up at the D.I.

Telegram!: Modern History as Told Through More than 400 Witty, Poignant, and Revealing Telegrams by Linda Rosenkrantz- Another history book. I really enjoy reading about history, though I wouldn't call myself a history buff because I suck at remembering dates and exact details.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi- True story about women fighting against literary censorship? Sounds great, and I still really want to read it. I bought it at a yard sale, which is another great place to find books.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins- This is another one I WILL read someday. I enjoy reading about the history of feminism.

A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf- Loved Mrs. Dalloway, thought Orlando was decent, but wasn't enjoying this one when I first tried to read it. I'm still going to keep it around to try again someday.

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Brayden's books of the month- February edition

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle- Brayden loves this book because he's obsessed with animal sounds right now. I love two things about it. I love the illustrations so much! The pages that show landscapes are just beautiful! I also love that it is about helping your friends out when they need it. I bought this with a B&N gift card I had last month, and we've really enjoyed it so far.

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss- Oh, how I love Dr. Seuss. And now Brayden is getting in on the party too. This is his favotire so far. Just like with Little Blue Truck, it's all about the animals and the sounds they make.

That's Not My Monster by Fiona Watt- We got this book from the library, and Brayden loves it. I thought "touch and feel" books were good for babies, but I think he likes them even more now. I also think it's a safe introduction to the idea of monsters. I had wanted to put that off for a bit longer, but these ones are not scary at all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

10 out of 10: The authors of Half the Sky make the case that the oppression of women globally has been our era's worst human rights violation, and they make that case persuasively. They focus on three things: sex trafficking and prostitution, gender-based violence (mass rape), and maternal mortality. From the beginning, it is made clear that this is not just about discrimination, this is true oppression:

"In the wealthy countries of the West, discrimination is usually a matter of unequal pay or under funded sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In contrast, in much of the world discrimination is lethal. In India, for example, mothers are less likely to take their daughters to be vaccinated than their sons- that alone counts for one fifth of India's missing females... All told, girls in India from one to five years of age are 50% more likely to die than boys the same age."

I dog-eared so many pages. They did an amazing job of putting faces and names to the horror of rapes, forced prostitution and fistulas. That was exactly their point, because they say studies have proven that individual stories carry more impact than statistics in getting people to donate their time, money or effort. Here are some of the stories than impacted me.

A female medical tech in South Africa was told by a rape victim "If only I had teeth down there." Some time later, a man came in to the hospital in pain because his penis was stuck in his zipper. Because rape is such a huge problem there, the medical tech put two and two together and made a product she calls the Rapex. It's inserted like a tampon, but is a tube with barbs inside! In response to critics, she said "A medieval device for a medieval deed." I honestly wasn't sure what to think about this story, and I'm still unsure. But it has stuck with me since I read it.

The stories of maternal mortality got to me. I know I'm an advocate for natural birth, but there is still a place for the medical community in birth. The World Health Organization's statistics are that 536,000 women died in pregnancy or childbirth in 2005, and that number is hardly different then the number thirty years ago. That means that in thirty years with all the medical advances we have come up with, about the same amount of women are dying. It's because they aren't getting the care they need, especially in the developing world (although sadly, America's maternal mortality rate is high for developed countries). An Ethiopian girl named Mahabouba is a sad, but perfect example. She was sold into slavery and became a second wife. She was raped by her "husband" and beaten by the first wife. She got pregnant and was able to run away when she was seven months along. Her uncle let her stay in a little hut by her house. She went into labor by herself, because she couldn't afford a midwife. Her labor was obstructed because her pelvis hadn't grown enough to accommodate the passing of a baby (she was 13). After a week, she fell unconscious and some finally called a birth attendant. The baby was dead, and she had developed a fistula, or a hole. She became incontinent, as many fistula sufferers do. The nerve damage was so bad she couldn't walk for some time. She was lucky and eventually made it to a fistula hospital (yes, there are so many that they have hospitals just for their treatment). She was able to learn to walk again, but will have a colostomy the last of her life.

The last part of the book is spent discussing things that have made a difference. Things like iodizing salt. I had no idea. 31% of households in the developing world don't get enough iodine. This can lead to brain damage while still in the womb, and apparently female fetuses need iodine even more so. I liked this quote: "According to one estimate, just $19 million would pay for salt iodization in poor countries that need it, This would yield economic benefits that another study found were nine times the cost. The result is that while salt iodization is one of the least glamorous forms of assistance possible, development geeks rave about it."

Another thing that has helped is paying families to keep their girls in school. Girls getting educated not only boosts the GNP of countries, but it also puts off motherhood and reduces the number of children born to the girl. And studies have found that females work harder to help pay for the education of relatives or their children.

At the end, there is a section of what you can do to help in the broader sense, and then four easier steps you can make in the next ten minutes. Some of them simply have to do with awareness, but is also mentioned, because micro loans are another simple thing that is making a big difference.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations

I found a great book blog this week- The Broke and the Bookish. They do top ten memes every Tuesday with different topics, a list of which can be found here. This week's meme is to list your favorite book to movie adaptations. Without further ado, here is my list.

To Kill A Mockingbird- This is definitely the top of my list. I love this movie just as much as I love the book.

Pride and Prejudice (BBC version)- For a 5 hour movie, this better follow the book well, right? My favorite part of this movie is when Colin Firth is coming out of the water. Swoon. Don't tell me you don't enjoy it.

Bridget Jones's Diary- What can I say? Colin Firth is in this one too and his character is named Mr. Darcy. Seriously, though, this story is so much fun.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe- I read the book for the first time right before seeing the movie. I think they did a really good job following the book, and also with casting and cinematography.

The Notebook- Better than the book.

Harry Potter- I know some people think they don't follow the book, but I think they've done okay, especially with the later ones. And I think they did an AMAZING job with casting.

Precious- This movie is based on a book called Push by Sapphire. Not many people have read it. I only have because it was required for a class I took. I wouldn't recommend it because of the graphic issues it deals with, but the movie adaptation really follows the book so I included it on my list.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- I think all three of the movies were amazing. Hollywood is doing its own version, but I doubt it will be better than the Swedish movies.

Into the Wild- I think I like the movie better than the book with this one too. The main character is so interesting (and maddening at the same time). Plus, just thinking about the movie makes me want to go to Alaska someday.

Fantastic Mr. Fox- This movie was so fun. I think it's funny how George Clooney was his voice, because it made me see the movie almost as an animated Ocean's 11.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller

7 out of 10: This book (and hopefully the rest of the series) are so fun to read. I loved it from the beginning. It starts with a letter to the reader from the narrator, Ananka Fishbein, in which she states:

By taking the time to open this book, you've become a member of a very elite group: The Curious. I can't tell you how pleased I am that we've found each other. As you must have noticed, there aren't many of us around.

How can you not love a beginning like that?

Through suspicious and interesting circumstances, Ananka is introduced to a life of adventure when she looks out her window just as a park across the street is sucked into a hole, uncovering an entrance to the Shadow City underneath NYC. She meets a mysterious girl named Kiki Strike and the plot thickens. They form a group, The Irregulars, and decide to map the underground city but end up fighting crime along the way. I love what Ananka says when she is reminiscing on her first decision to go explore the entrance underground she finds and the risk involved:

Looking back, it's hard to imagine what my life might have become if I hadn't thrown an old coat over my nightgown, shoved my bare feet into a pair of furry pink snow boots, and run outside for a closer look. I've found that such opportunities are few and far between. If you miss them- or like most people simply fail to recognize them- there's no guarantee that another chance will ever come your way.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Links

-I finished Calamity Jack and enjoyed it too, although not as much as Rapunzel's Revenge. The illustrator, Nathan Hale, designed a Valentine for readers that the author, Shannon Hale, posted on her blog here. I love all the comments begging for a third installment. I wonder what adventure they could send them off on next!

-Last year, I devoured the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The author died before publication, and his estate turned into a real mess, with his partner and family fighting. When I heard his partner might finish a fourth book with an unfinished manuscript, I was against it at first. This article changed my mind though, and I'm definitely interested in reading her memoir when it comes out in English.

-I wish Brayden were older and in a book club so he could enter this 90 second Newberry Film Festival. It seems like it would be so much fun.

-I have Tina Fey's Bossypants on hold at the library and can't wait to get it, especially after reading this sample from the New Yorker. I love her so much. She's my girl crush.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

8 out of 10: Fun, fun, fun! Rapunzel's Revenge is a grapic novel retelling Rapunzel's story. Her story is also intertwined with a certain Jack who is trying to make up for a certain bean stalk.

I may have a more positive approach to some on graphic novels. I don't agree with the idea that they are not real books, or that they are a "bad habit" for kids to get into (yes, I've heard that). I never really thought about graphic novels until the summer of 2007, when my professor included graphic novels as a literary form in our Critical Intro to Literary Forms class. He was a grad student who cancelled class for a week to go to Comic-con, and so obviously he would include graphic novels. I thought it was silly at first, but I was wrong. It was in that class I learned the importance of graphic novels as an emerging literary form. I believe that graphic novels can be one of the most powerful tools for a teacher or parent to turn a non-reader into a reader. In that class, we read Maus by Art Spiegelman, and that has to be my favorite graphic novel, but it is definitely more appropriate for adults.

Rapunzel's Revenge, however is a graphic novel I would recommend to both boys and girls. I loved the illustrations, done by Nathan Hale. I loved the story. I'm pretty much obsessed with any book with a strong female character, so of course Rapunzel is my favorite part of the story. She's so brave. Her unbelief at all of her world's injustices is inspiring. She doesn't just do the bare minimum to save her mother, she goes all out to save as many people as she can. Jack is fun, too, and the reason why boys will like this book too. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and I'm excited to read the sequel, Calamity Jack.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

5 out of 10: In honor of Valentine's Day, my review today is of a love story- The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan. Adam, Brayden and I went to Barnes and Noble on Saturday night to pick my Valentine's present. I gave Adam a stack of four books (Across the Universe, Delirium, Chasing Lincoln's Killer and The Lover's Dictionary), and he chose this one because it sounded the most romantic.

I loved the idea of this book- a love story told thru a dictionary. And I have enjoyed some of David Levithan's other works- Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, both co-written with Rachel Cohn.

I loved discovering the connection between the dictionary word and the part of the story underneath it. Here are some examples:

indelible, adj.
That first night, you took your finger and pointed to the top of my head, then traced a line between my eyes, down my nose, over my lips, my chin, my neck, to the center of my chest. It was so surprising, I knew I would never mimic it. That one gesture would be yours forever.

obstinate, adj.
Sometimes it becomes a contest: Which is more stubborn, the love or the two arguing people caught within it?

The author tells the story thru the words, so it isn't in chronological order. I found that very creative. I also loved how real this story is. Ups and downs are all over the place, just like in most relationships. The only thing I didn't like (right after finishing it) is that there was no clear ending. I was expecting that, because of how the book was laid out, but I still had hope that one of the entries would make it clear if the couple stayed together or broke up. As I think back on it, however, it was a good move. It fits in with the scattered storyline, and it's real. Endings in real-life relationships are not always cut and dry. I was still left with wanting more. Maybe not a clear ending, but more of the story. The book is a very fast read, and I feel it could have been longer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekend Links- Breathless Edition

I may have become obsessed with a group of five authors yesterday. I've already read and enjoyed two of the authors (Ally Condie and Kirsten Miller), but now I'm psyched to read the others as well. They were so down to earth, funny, and inspirational. Here are their websites, starting from the left in the picture:

Ally Condie- She was so nice. When she signed my book and noticed Brayden, she took the time to tell me how amazing boys are (she has three of her own). She has written a lot of LDS YA fiction, but has scored a national deal with her book Matched.

Beth Revis- I have to say that she was my favorite out of the group. I don't even know why, although I did find one of her answers extremely funny. All of the authors were asked about how they find names, and she told us that she uses former students' names sometimes and that she kills off the annoying ones! I love that. I think her book, Across the Universe, sounds really interesting as it is a murder mystery set in space.

Andrea Cremer- All of the authors were asked about how it felt to be on the New York Times Bestseller list. Andrea gave what I felt was an amazing response, and applicable to other things too (like being a mom). She said that some days she feels like a goddess, and the day she found out she was on the list was one of them. And then she said that there are plenty of other days where she feels like she isn't good at anything. I think that's true for everyone, especially women. She wrote Nightshade, the first book in a trilogy "that is not about werewolves."

Kirsten Miller- I haven't posted the review yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City. she is part of the tour for her other trilogy, The Eternal Ones, which I also liked. I think it's amazing that she has two trilogies she is working on at the same time!

Brenna Yovanoff- I liked her take on the typical question of "was it easy to get published?" She answered that it's easy if it's the right book written at the right time. My book club is reading The Replacement for March, and I'm so excited.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Note: Over time, I'm going to transfer the reviews from my other blog over here so all my reviews are in the same place. This was originally posted on January 23, 2011.

9 out of 10: This book has been on my to-read list since it came out. I knew it was a story of a long-term kidnapping with a child born into the situation, and that the book was written from his 5 year old perspective. Can you even imagine? I definitely couldn't and so this book was so much more than I thought. The story of Ma's kidnapping, captivity and their escape is all interesting. I got so much more than an entertaining reading session or two.

I got a look at what solo-parenting would really look like. Not just single parenting, but full on solo-parenting. No one to help you, no parenting books, nothing. I'm so glad I'll never have to do that. Before the escape, I thought to myself while reading about how hard it must have been for Ma. After the escape, I realized just how abnormal it is and how important it is to have a supportive family or community behind you as a parent.

Along those lines, Ma does some things as a parent that society doesn't agree with once they hear about it. For one, she never cuts his hair. People call him a girl as they start to venture out. The biggest things, though, were co-sleeping (except when the kidnapper came at night) and extended breastfeeding. They just can't believe he is still breastfed. Yes, he is 5. It made sense to me, though. All of these things change, slowly, after the escape. His adjustment to the world was actually heart-breaking to read. It's so hard for him that he at first just wants to go back to Room.

I read a lot. Many books are interesting while I am reading, but soon forgotten. I already know that Room will stay with me for a long time. It made me think about my parenting style and it's helping me have more empathy for Brayden and all other children.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

6.5 out of 10: I only picked The Eternal Ones up because the author, Kirsten Miller, will be at the Breathless Reads tour I'm attending this coming weekend, but I ended up enjoying it.

From Goodreads: Haven Moore can't control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother's house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was. In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves¸ before all is lost and the cycle begins again.

I'm a sucker for a love story, and that is the main reason I enjoyed this read. I did find it unique though, in that many of the popular YA romances are set in the paranormal world. This is set in our world, with the added twist of reincarnation and secret societies.

My only complaints are these: some of the plots twists were predictable, and the book got repetitive at times. Haven wavers in her decisions as she receives new information throughout the book, and that is fine. It moves the plot along and all that jazz. I think the subplot with Constance's modern day relative could have been taken out... but maybe it will come up again in the next book.

Yes, the next book. I didn't know until I got to the end, but it is obvious this is not a stand-alone book. It could have been. I don't know how I feel about that. I'll read the next book. It just seems like it's this new YA trend to do everything in trilogies. That's not a complaint on this book specifically, but in YA fiction as a whole.

Really, though, it comes back to me loving a good love story. I'm excited to read more of Haven/Constance's and Iain/Ethan's story.

P.S. I just realized Kirsten Miller is the author of another book that I have been meaning to read for a long time- Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City. I own it too, so I plan on reading and reviewing it very soon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weekend Links

-I have to start off my first set of links with a link to Goodreads, specifically a link to my Goodreads profile. Words cannot express how much I LOVE this site. I love that I can brag about how many books I've read, thanks to Goodreads. I especially love that I finally have a working system to keep track of books I want to read.

-Penguin's Breathless Reads have me so excited. So far I have read Matched by Ally Condie and I am about 50 pages away from finishing The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller. So so good! All of the authors will be here next week as part of the Breathless Reads tour, and I can't wait to go.

-An awesome list of 100 YA books for feminist readers can be found here. I've only read 13, and there are many more I want to read. One of my favorite YA books made the list- The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Lucky me, I just got my own copy of the book this weekend and I will be re-reading it and posting a review.

-Barnes and Noble does an online storytime that is pretty great. Brayden has really enjoyed it. I found out about it from this blog that has fun teaching and activity ideas.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley

7 out of 10: If you truly consider yourself to be a Harry Potter nerd, you will love Harry Potter Film Wizardry as I did. Before I even finished reading it, I told Adam I want it for my birthday. It's like the most awesome and nerdy coffee table book ever.

Anyways... this book had so many interesting tidbits and pictures. I'd like to share some of the awesomeness with you, but just a little bit. One, I don't want to take away from your experience when you read it. Two, it would take too long.

I think movie-goers forget how much work really goes into a movie. I know I do. And that task was just that much harder when that movie is Harry Potter, a story with a huge fan base and a wonderful imaginary world. It was really interesting to read about how much work they put into the sets and the costumes. For example, they had two different Hagrids. The actor that played him, and then a former British rugby player for the "large scale" of the character. That means they had to do the same thing for props and costumes on the sets. Everything in his hut had to be duplicated in two sizes.

My favorite story in the book was this:

While getting to know Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuaron asked the three actors to write essays about their characters. He was amazed to find that they responded to the task very much in the way that their respective characters would- Dan wrote a couple of pages, while Emma's essay was very long and very thorough. Perhaps the most in character, however, was Rupert's response: he forgot to do it.

Isn't that classic? If you love Harry Potter, check this book out. You won't regret it.

P.S. Guess what else I learned? Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy, originally auditioned for both Harry and Ron before he was cast as Draco. Weird, I tell you.

P.P.S. This is just one of the amazing interactive features of this book. It's the product catalogue for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

8 out of 10: A Tale Dark and Grimm takes the story of Hansel and Gretel and expands it, weaving the siblings in and out of various Grimm tales. I do have to admit that I am not well-versed in Grimm's tales as a whole. If one of Gidwitz's goals is to get more people interested in the original tales, he succeeded. I already have two collections of Grimm's stories on hold at my library.

When I read anything that would be considered juvenile fiction, I judge it by whether I end up seeing the book as one I want Brayden to read once he's at the appropriate age. I cannot wait to introduce this book to him. The most important reason is one I already mentioned. I have the faith it will get him interested in the Brothers Grimm, just like it did for me. Especially since Albert Einstein is rumored to have said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”

The second reason I want Brayden to read it is because of its subversive lessons for children. Yes, I want my child to learn to question authority, even when that authority is me. Hansel and Gretel learn the hard lesson of their parents' fallibility. And then they learn it over and over again when adult after adult fails to help and protect them. As the author/narrator writes, "It is the story of two children striving, and failing, and then not failing. It is the story of two children finding out the meaning of things."

A book where they have fun reading, learn about the amazing literature and history of the Grimm's brothers, and learn important life lessons all at the same time? I'm already sold. But if you want to know my favorite thing about this book, it's that author/narrator I just quoted. Not many authors take on the challenge of inserting themselves into the story as a narrator, but Gidwitz did it and he did it well. Children will love him too, because he makes them feel all sorts of special with quotes like this peppered throughout the book:

"Are there any small children in the room? If so, it
would be best if we just let them think this really is the end
of the story and hurried them off to bed. Because this is where
things start to get, well... awesome.
But in a horrible, bloody kind of way."

Finally, I'd like to end with the parenting lessons this book taught me. Yes, I learned about parenting from a juvenile fiction book. I've learned to trust Brayden more. I'm not going to introduce this to him until the right time, but I think after reading this book, I'll be introducing things considered classics like fairy and folk tales sooner rather than later. The author admits in his acknowledgements that he only wrote this book after learning that exact lesson from a co-worker. He was a second grade teacher and co-worker read The Seven Ravens to his class. He learned from this co-worker "to trust that children can handle it. no matter what "it" is."

I'll end with one last quote. After Hansel and Gretel return to their parents and save the kingdom, their father states that "there is a wisdom in children, a kind of knowing, a kind of believing, that we, as adults, do not have."

I'll say it again. This is exactly the sort of book I want my son to read.