April 2017 Reading Review

spring_Flowers_rev

So April fairly whipped by pretty speedily due to a general busy-ness of life and work. It was a pretty good reading month at the same time, but lower numbers than is traditional. (This would be due to a big mix of things, including my vision still having problems. Reading with one eye tends to slow things down, I’ve found.)

(To clarify: I still have my other eye, but the dodgy one doesn’t see very well a lot of the time. Thus the “one eye” comment. I didn’t mean that I was now Cyclops [although I might feel like that sometimes!]. I had no idea how much my reading would slow down due to this.  :-} )

The reads for April included:

So to the numbers:

Total number of books read in April: 5

Total number of pages read: 1,507 pages (av. 301).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 fiction / 1 non-fiction; 0 play.

Diversity: 0 POC (that’s a bit yikes for me.) 2 books by women.

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 1 library book, 4 owned books and 0 e-books. (Yeah. Good on working on the TBR pile.)

Plans for May is to read, read, read. How glorious is that?

October 2016 Reading Review

fall-leaf

October went well for reading. Just as in other recent years, it signaled the end of my summer reading slump which means that I now have some interesting titles on my list of completed books.

I hope that I am back into reading now. The slump seems to have become quite regular in the hot months over the past few years – perhaps it’s due to the really long summers that occur in Texas and I just get fed up with the high temperatures? You’d think if that was the case that I’d retreat into the air conditioning and read, but apparently I’m retreating into the AC and doing something else. No worries. I don’t live and die by the stats, so this is just me pondering…

Planning ahead, I’m off to England soon so I’m expecting bookie-related things around that visit. I’m sure we’ll find a bookshop or two, perhaps buy a title or two, and get some reading done (I hope). I’m still contemplating which titles to take, both on my Kindle and in RL. I’m thinking that I could leave any physical books that I complete in England, and then free up some packing space that way. We’ll see. Sometimes the best laid plans…. 🙂

November also signals the start of the U.S. Holiday Season (capitalized because it’s a months-long event), and I just saw Christmas stuff out at Barnes and Noble last weekend. Crikey. It gets earlier every year (or perhaps it’s just me.) The holidays (here in the US) always mean some time off from work for me, so I am looking forward to that. We get a break for Thanksgiving, and then we also get a healthy break from work over the Christmas holidays. I work for a large state university and the general campus shuts down completely between Christmas and New Year’s, so that’s a great present from the State of Texas. Yee-haw. Last year, I had brain surgery during that break. Not planning for that to happen this year, so should be a bit more fun for all involved!

So – to the books:

I read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):

Total number of books read in October: 6

Total number of pages read: 1725 pages (av. 246).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 fiction / 1 non-fiction (including 1 graphic novel)

Diversity: 0 POC (Whoops. This will be addressed during November.)

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 1 library book and 6 owned book. 0 ILL and 0 e-book.

My favorite book, by far, was the Dayton Duncan NF about the American contemporary frontier. Totes a good read.

January 2015 Reading Wrap Up

januaryFor January 2015, I read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):

Devoted Ladies – Molly Keane (post to come)

The Victorian Hospital – Lavinia Mitton (post to come)

Like One of the Family – Alice Childress

Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley (post to come)

The Fifties: A Women’s Oral History – Brett Harvey

The Diary of a Nobody – George and Weedon Grossmith

The Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield

March: Book One – John Lewis (post to come)

Merle and Other Stories – Paule Marshall

___________________

Total number of books read in January: 9

Total number of pages read: 1977 pages (av. 220 pages)

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 5 F and 4 NF

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 3 library books and 6 owned books. 0 e-book this month (although one in progress). (Total of 6 books off TBR pile this year. We’ll just quietly brush under the rug what have come in so far… )

(And guess who finally found the tool bar on WordPress which means colored text and other jazzy things…I give you my word that I won’t over do it.) 🙂

Catch-Up Time for a Cool November

catch_upLife has been great lately, most notably for its normal day-ness and just going smoothly along. It’s not that life has been hard, but it’s just noticeably going without any large unexpected bumps so that’s nice. Work has evened out a bit more and I seem to have broken my dreadful reader’s block which has been hindering me over the last few months. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to work around a reader’s block, and I had forgotten how it felt – Blargh. I was adrift in a sea of book pages, but couldn’t get anywhere. Frustrating, but after a while, I started to embrace the experience and did some other things for a while. (One new interest is that I have learned that I really enjoy editing doctoral dissertation work. Go figure.)

But now, for whatever reason, that block is now over and I’m back to enjoying reading loads of books and being interested in loads of things. Yippee. Recent reads which are good, but just don’t trigger a great deal of deep and meaningful discussion are as follows:

Dishes – Shax Rielger (2013) book320

This was a fun coffee table-type book (although very small in size, presumably for a very small coffee table :-)), and it featured lots of lovely photographs of lots of lovely dishes. More of a superficial worship of dish design than an in-depth investigation, this was packed with well composed photographs featuring both new and old dish graphic art, and although it wasn’t a particularly deep read, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. (Great graphics and good photography are always a good combination in books.) So – nothing too deep and meaningful, but it does just what it says on the tin: looks at dishes. Nothing that I can’t live without, but a nice taste of something very outside my normal interests.

One of my favorite reads at the moment is a large collection of book-review columns by Nick Hornby. (He would be a fantastic dinner party guest, along with Robert Lacey. Still working on the rest of the guest list for that event, but would definitely invite those two.) The book is called Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books and is a compilation of Hornby’s book-related columns in The Believer magazine. (I’ve never seen this on the newsstands around here, but have heard about it.) Hornby is also the author of several other good novels (such as High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch et al.) and his blog is pretty entertaining. (Lots more Believer columns as well. <rubs hands with glee>) Plus – he has a new book (Funny Girl) out in the UK with a US release next year.

sailingNon-fiction, I’m coasting along with a travel memoir by Jonathan Raban (with whom I’ve only had good reading experience). Called Coasting (see what I did there? No? DIdn’t miss much. 🙂 ), it’s a description of the time Raban took to sail solo around the edges of Britain down the west side and up the east. It’s a mix of personal reminiscence along with some sailing and UK history bits popping up now and then, and although the book got off to a bit of a rough start (not enough wind), it’s good now and I’m enjoying it. (If you like travel journalism, you’ll probably like Raban’s works. The only other one by Raban that I’ve read is called Bad Land and describes his driving across the open land of North Dakota etc. It’s a very good read if you’re interested.) This is another title that’s been on my TBR shelf for far too long. What’s cool is that I happened to come upon a small paperback edition in a recent book sale which meant that I could ditch the HUGE imposing Scary Big Book that I had which meant that I actually picked it up to read. Score!

And it’s been all super-cold here that last few days which is FAB as I have had enough high temperatures (thank you). Yeah for cold weather (without the snow difficulties). cold_temps

April 2014 Reading Wrap-Up

mayI read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):

Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie (1937) (no blog post)

Wesley the Owl – Stacey O-Brien (2008)

Duct Tape Marketing – John Jantsch (2006) (no blog post)

A Fine Romance – Susan Branch (2012) (no blog post)

Sister Carrie – Theodore Dreiser (1900)

The Thirty Nine Steps – John Buchan (1915)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kwamwamba (2009)

The President’s Hat – Antoine Laurent (2012)

I Could Pee on This (cat poems) – Francesco Marcuiliano (2012)

Big House – Susan Susanka (2007)

Total number of books read in April: 10

Total number of pages read: 2723 pages (av.272)

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 F and 5 NF (plus 1x poems)

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 3 library books and 6 owned books, 1 e-book. (That’s a nice little total for the outgoing books. Let’s not mention the incoming books, shall we?…)

 

Lubbock Home and Family October Book Review

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Each month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, thought it might be fun to read here. So – here you go:

YOpne This Book book coverOUNGEST: Open This Little Book – Jesse Klaumeier/Suzy Lee
This is a kid’s book that definitely improves with multiple readings. My first take was “meh”, but reading it again yielded details unseen and not appreciated before which added to the experience. The first thing you notice once you open the book is that the actual physical pages get smaller and smaller as the story progresses – the bigger the characters are on those pages, the smaller the actual size of the pages – which makes things rather fun. How does a giant open her tiny book with her huge hands? With lots of color and rhythm, this story has lovely detailed drawings to draw the little book reader in and the varying page size helps to keep it interesting. Not too much of a story, but it’s just right for little fidgets. Overall, a fun read for all involved.

MIDDLE: The Girls’ Book of Glamour – A Guide to Being a Goddess – Sally Jeffrie Girls' Book of Glamor book cover
A handbook designed to teach young girls and tweens how to be “glamorous” – be prepared to have your kitchen cabinets raided as this book details how to make your own soap and lotion using everyday ingredients. It also covers other areas such as how to walk in high heels (I can’t do that!), how to host a spa party with friends, and how to make sure your skin looks great. This is not a book focused on self-esteem or the importance of school, but it might help a young self-conscious person feel a little more confident in the world of elementary and middle school. (Warning: This book encourages (very light) make-up. Just FYI.) This would be ideal if you have a child who is *dying* to play with make-up and all that jazz. The one weakness to this book is that it’s not particularly multi-cultural, but quite a few of the ideas would work with any young person. A fun and light-hearted read for curious minds.

Tangles book coverADULT: Tangles – Sarah Leavitt
Subtitled: A Story About Alzheimer’s, my Mother and Me, this is a poignant graphic novel (sort of serious comic book and not for kids) about one family’s journey into becoming the caregiver for their mother. A person who was very independent, smart and who “loved ferociously”, this chronicle invites the reader to experience some of the family’s thoughts and feelings as Alzheimer’s affects the health of their mum. This is not the easiest reading experience, but it is very well done and effectively portrays how the disease took their mother’s bright personality away and replaced her with an unpredictable stranger who happened to look like their mum. This is sad, but it handles a real-life situation with grace and class without giving the impression of a perfect family (because who is?) After reading this book, I really feel for families who have to care for someone with this disease. A poignant and powerful read.

Lubbock Home and Family Book Review for September 2013

LHF_logoEach month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, thought it might be fun to read here. So – here you go:

what_makes_a_rainbow_coverYOUNGEST:
What Makes a Rainbow? – Betty Ann Schwartz
A baby rabbit asks its mommy what makes a rainbow and as you read the story, there is a charming surprise – a brightly colored ribbon threads through each page. Each real ribbon is a different color and as you read through the book, more and colored ribbons are added until, on the very last page, we have a lovely complete rainbow to look at. This is such a charming and gentle book which is fun to look at and fun to read. Just loved those ribbons! Apparently, there are several of these ribbon books in the series so there may be one that is just right for your youngest reader.
level_upMIDDLE:
Level Up – Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham
A graphic novel about a young Asian-American man who is struggling to fulfill what he believes his parents’ dream for him: going to medical school. However, the character would much rather play computer games and is really very good at them. In trying to do what he feels he has to do (by going to med school despite his doubts), he learns about the power and the importance of being true to yourself as well as the value of respecting others. He also learns how unreliable one’s memory can be at times. It’s a quick read with a story that almost every person can relate to at some point in their life – the importance of sticking with your dreams while trying to please others at the same time. Great water-color illustrations bring it all together. Keep in mind that this is a graphic novel (not a comic book a la superhero) and so covers some more mature themes.

in-the-sanctuary-of-outcastsADULT:
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts – Neil White
A non-fiction book about a man who was convicted of kiting multiple business checks and then assigned to a prison in Louisiana which was a former leprosarium, or care facility for people who had had leprosy (or Hansen’s disease). The authorities were in the middle of a transition from hospital to federal prison so when White entered as a prisoner, there was a mix of both felons and patients living on the same campus. It’s an interesting story. I found White himself to be a bit annoying in that he was not particularly contrite about his criminal behavior (he’s more annoyed that he got caught), but aside from that, the actual history of the hospital/prison and the stories of both the prisoners and the patients make for a fascinating read. This was written in the 1990’s, when leprosy was rarely mentioned in typical conversation and most people think it’s a disease that’s belongs in the Olden Times. So it was fascinating to see the histories of the patients who had chosen to stay in the hospital grounds despite the official gradual transition to being a federal prison. It brings up the question of “who was the prisoner” in the end? Short chapters make it a fast read, and it will give you lots to think about. This would be a good choice for book groups, I would think.

Lubbock Home and Family Book Review for June 2013

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Each month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, thought it might be fun to read here. So – here you go:

YOUNGEST:

how-do-dinosaurs-say-goodnightHow do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? – Jane Yolen/Mark Teague

A sweet how-to-go-to-bed-nicely book using friendly baby dinosaurs to show the way.  As the book asks “how do dinosaurs go to bed?”, the pictures show different kinds of dinos doing exactly the wrong thing when their parents say it’s bed-time: crying, pouting, running around and general misbehavior at the end of the day.  But then the book asks “Do dinosaurs do that?” when the answer is a hearty NO. Most dinosaurs go to sleep quickly and quietly without a big fuss. A calmly rhyming story with lots to look at in each picture. And then – nicely hidden in each picture somewhere is the real name of each dinosaur which adds another fun aspect to the experience. One of my favorite go-to-bed books and good for all small dinosaur fans.

MIDDLE:

Always Plenty to Do – Pamela Riney-KehrbergalwaysPlenty

This title covers some of life as it was for kids of all ages who grew up on farms in the Midwest and Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. The history of this region is so rich, and I think it’s important for West Texas kids to have an understanding of how life was for the pioneers and for those who followed. Using excerpts from diaries and letters from kids around the 1900’s, the author clearly shows the ups and downs of farm life before electricity, machinery and other inventions were commonplace. It’s not all work – there is time for play, but families are dependent upon kids for their labor, so there is always work for them to do. Discussion questions and a glossary are included at the end for further study, and a visit to the National Ranching Heritage Center would be a great way to complement this read and bring it to life.

ADULT:

my-life-in-franceMy Life in France – Julia Child

American chef Julia Child has co-written her autobiography in this book, and even if you’re not that big into Food (with a capital “F”), this is an interesting take on ex-pat life in France. Aside from the cooking history, Child is one of the most optimistic happy authors that I have ever read (backed up by a quick internet search of her 1960’s cooking shows which are sweet and hilarious at the same time).  She starts from scratch learning about expert cooking at the prestigious Cordon Blue cooking school in France, and is the only female in her class. She makes mistakes, learns from them and then, in collaboration with two French cooking experts, ends up writing the book that introduced 1960’s America to French cooking. A quick and fun read about a hilarious woman who just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer with what she wanted to do with her life-long passion. Bon Appétit!

So there you go. More next month! Happy reading.

Book Micro-Reviews for May

microscopeSome reads elicit a long response and lots of thinking about them, and some reads don’t. These are a few of those who didn’t get lots of thinking after their read. (They’re still good and enjoyable. Just not that thought-provoking in the end.)

Lucia’s Progress – E. F. Benson  (#4 in the Mapp and Lucia series) book215

“One man hits the ball away and another throws it back and all the rest eat daisies…” – Georgie about cricket.

Another tale of the adventures of Mapp and Lucia in their kingdom of Tilling – very funny in places, and I think Benson had a good time writing these books. He certainly has a very sly sense of humor which is much appreciated. Only one more Benson book in the series, and then..? I might look at some of the spin-offs to see if they continue his brilliance in this world.

book211Fashion: A Definitive History of Clothing – Smithsonian Museum (2012)

Lots of pretty pictures along with a ton of details about how clothing has evolved over the past 3,000 years, this was the book that I was searching for when I accidentally picked up Tim Gunn’s apology of a title the other day. This is a hefty book (10 pounds on the  bathroom scale!) and *packed* with details about clothing and textile history, so after a while, I was a little bogged down in it,  but once I had worked out how I wanted to read it, it was a lovely book to pick up and put down and it made a nice change of pace for me. (I’m not really a big fashionista preferring casual for the most part. I do appreciate good design and good photography, both of which this book had in enormous amounts.)

Here are some random notes along the way:

  • Armor (as in chain mail and knights and jousting) could weigh as much as 81 pounds when it was all put on.
  • The zipper was invented in 1913 (and I can only imagine how much more quickly people could get dressed in the morning when it came out).
  • There was a WRINS in India that I had not heard anything about: Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service, and their uniform was identical to that of the WRENS except it included a sari.
  • And then, found this hilarious photo of motorbike racing driver and champion Oscar Godfrey during the British Motorcycle Race Club trials of 1911:
Source: Gettyimages.com

Source: Gettyimages.com

(If you’ll look closely at the top of his hat…. He looks rather like a Teletubby to me. :-))

Lubbock Home and Family Book Review for May 2013

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Each month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, thought it might be fun to read here. So – here you go:

YOUNGEST:

Mister Seahorse – Eric Carle seahorse

This is the story of Mr. Seahorse who is busy looking after Mrs. Seahorse’s eggs as he travels around the sea bed. His neighbors range from tilapia to trumpet fish, most of whom are also fathers to-be looking after their eggs. I loved this book for its fantastic color pictures (done using tissue paper), but also because it clearly shows that fathers can play an important role in looking after families (without any judgment). It’s not anti-mother, by any means – just very supportive of males playing a large part of looking after kids. Another fun twist was the insertion of printed plastic panels behind which various characters hide – so fun to look at (and behind!) It’s difficult to go wrong with an Eric Carle book.

MIDDLE:

kidwhonamedplutoThe Kid Who Named Pluto and the Stories of Other Extraordinary Young People in Science – Marc McCutcheon

A marvelously upbeat and encouraging book about young people (including kids) who have achieved huge milestones in science. With science and technology becoming more important, this quick read narrates the true stories of both girls and boys who have named planets, invented cryptic codes, and enabled people with poor vision to read and other breakthroughs – sometimes starting with only a simple sketch. The books also include lots of fun facts of further details about the kid scientists and a list of books for further reading at the end. A really good way to encourage kids into the scientific world. (And parents– it’s written so you will get it as well!)

ADULT:

My Stroke of Insight – Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.  

strokeA science-focused book with a personal view of how a fairly young woman deals when she has a stroke unexpectedly one day. A true story, the author is a neuroscientist who has been studying the brain, and so as she recounts the morning (and each moment) she had her stroke, she remembers details that bring the whole experience clearly to the reader. It’s a fascinating portrayal of her long recovery process – how she needed to relearn how to talk, walk, speak, eat – and also how her caretakers looked after her and what was helpful (from a patient perspective). It was tough for the author to remember that just because she had had a stroke, she wasn’t “less than…” she was before. She was different.  If you know anyone who has had a stroke, I would highly recommend reading this book to get a deeper understanding of how life can be for one person with a similar situation. (My father had a stroke, and this would have been very helpful at the time.) The author is mostly very down-to-earth about things, but she can wander off on digressions sometimes. Still, overall, a very good read.

So – there you go. More next month!