Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This is the second book of the Hunger Games Trilogy. I didn't realize this when I put this on my list, so I read Hunger Games in a day and picked Catching Fire the next day and finished it that night. I was a bit hesitant with this trilogy because of fear of the descriptive writing.  But, I was surprised that it wasn't that bad. I mean, there was some pretty gruesome parts, but they were never forced or overboard. It seemed to concentrate more on the relationships and the "Big Picture" problem of the Capitol controlling then the actual "games".

Here is the summary from Goodreads.
"Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol. Catching Fire maintains the adrenaline rush of Suzanne Collin's series launch."

Can't wait to get my hands on Mockingjay, the final book of the Hunger Games Trilogy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

I've never seen Girl, Interrupted but it's one of those movies you hear about from time to time. I do enjoy reading the book before I see the movie if I can help it.
Girl, Interrupted is the memoir of Kaysen's time in McLean Hospital, a famous psychiatric hospital. Kaysen's story is interesting. Spoiler alert: I spent a lot of time trying to understand why Kaysen was in the hospital only to figure out at the end that Kaysen herself was never really sure. But Kaysen's writing wasn't as fascinating as her characters. The stories aren't linear and sometimes I had trouble figuring out when something happened as she talks about the time in the hospital, before she was in the hospital and after she was released.
The overall story made me sad. Rather than trying to trying to help these young women, it was acceptable to lock them away. I don't believe anyone was cured according to Kaysen's account, but either learned to suppress those feelings or outgrew them.
Interesting memoir. Despite being a short book (168 pages), it took some time to read and process.


Fill in the Gaps Project

"June Bug" by Chris Fabry
Product Description(
June Bug believed everything her daddy told her. That is, until she walked into Wal-Mart and saw her face on a list of missing children. The discovery begins a quest for the truth about her father, the mother he rarely speaks about, and ultimately herself. A modern interpretation of Les Miserables, the story follows a dilapidated RV rambling cross-country with June Bug and her father, a man running from a haunted past. Forces beyond their control draw them back to Dogwood, West Virginia, down a winding path that will change their lives forever.
# Paperback: 336 pages
# Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 9, 2009)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 1414319568
# ISBN-13: 978-1414319568

MY THOUGHTS: This was a very good book. I loved all the characters. Following June Bugs story to find herself was very enjoyable. As June Bug hunts for all the info she can find, she is also searching for her roots. Where did she come from? Who is her mother? Does she have brothers and sisters?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's Always Something by Gilda Radner

I've always loved Gilda Radner. Her time on Saturday Night Live produced some of my favorite sketches. I choose to read her autobiography to learn more about her life. Radner started writing this book after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer so much of the book is about her dealing with the cancer. It was really hard to read at times. I knew the ending to the story but Radner was so upbeat about getting better and living 50 more years that it sometimes was too much.
Radner is not the best writer. Most of the time the stories were more like long letters to a far away friend. I enjoyed some of the stories about her childhood and when she first came to New York, but most of them wound up relating to cancer somehow. It was much more the autobiography of Gilda's struggle with cancer than about Gilda's life. It was a bittersweet story. She was such a bright comedic actress and she left a wonderful legacy with her characters and with Gilda's Club. Her story definitely had me crying at times. Her strength and her commitment to beating cancer so others could too was so touching. I'd recommend this to Gilda fans as well as those who's lives cancer has touched.

Friday, December 24, 2010


"Confederates in the Attic" by Tony Horwitz

Confederates in the Attic

This book has been on my list of TBR books for ages. I love reading about history, especially the Civil War. I don't really know what the fascination is with the period, but I've always loved reading about it since I was a young girl. Mr. Horwitz did a remarkable job with this book. I found out lots of things I didn't know and lots of things I did know, but needed a refresher on it. Many people think the Civil War was about Slavery. It wasn't. It was about states rights. As Horwitz takes you through the south and you hear what everyone there thinks about the Civil War and some keep it alive and some don't care one way or the other. But some take it to extreme. If you like to read about the Civil War you should really read this book. I highly recommend it. You can see my full review at my book blog, Just Books.

Monday, December 20, 2010

IndianaJane's 100

My list is mostly books that I think I should read, filled in with a few that have been on my shelves for a while  a few that friends have suggested, and a few added by my daughter. I'll change the color of the books as I read them.

  1. Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (2/13/2012)
  3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  4. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  5. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  6. North and South by Gaskell
  7. Dune by Frank Herbert (3/19/2011)
  8. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
  9. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
  10. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
  11. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  12. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (3/16/2012)
  13. Law and Gospel by CFW Walther
  14. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (3/17/2013)
  15. Beach Music by Pat Conroy (3/22/2012)
  16. The Children of Hurin JRR Tolkien
  17. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  18. The Frontiersmen by Allen Eckert
  19. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
  20. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (12/5/2011)
  21. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2/21/2012)
  22. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  23. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling (1/27/2012)
  24. The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov (2/5/2013)
  25. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (4/29/2011)
  26. Death Comes for the Archbishop  by Willa Cather
  27. Churchill by Paul Johnson
  28. The Conquest of Gaul  by Julius Caesar
  29. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  30. The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
  31. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (11/4/2012)
  32. Summerland by Michael Chabon (6/25/2012)
  33. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  34. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
  35. The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier (5/19/2011)
  36. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (6/28/2012)
  37. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  38. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller (2/9/2011)
  39. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  40. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  41. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (4/12/2011)
  42. A Life Worth Living by John Holt
  43. Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536 by Reston
  44. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  45. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois (12/13/2012)
  46. Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple (3/20/2011)
  47. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (1/7/2011)
  48. Desolation Road by Ian McDonald (7/10/2012)
  49. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (9/25/2012)
  50. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (4/3/2012)
  51. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  52. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  53. Faust by Goethe
  54. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (5/29/2013)
  55. Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington (4/7/2013)
  56. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (4/24/2012)
  57. Redwall by Brian Jacques
  58. The Guns of August by Barabara Tuchman
  59. Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  60. Life of Pi by Yann Mertel
  61. Aeneid by Virgil
  62. The Complete Poetry of  John Donne
  63. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot (4/23/2012)
  64. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  65.  My Antonia by Willa Cather (1/15/2013)
  66. Dead Souls by Gogol
  67. The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek
  68. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (9/28/2011)
  69. East Lynne by Ellen Wood (6/18/2011)
  70. Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
  71. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (1/6/2012)
  72. The Hobbit JRR Tolkien
  73. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (12/26/2010)
  74. Robinson Crusoe (9/9/2013)
  75. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  76. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (7/18/2011)
  77. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  78. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  79. Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (3/25/2013)
  80. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  81. The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton
  82. Introducing Father Brown by GK Chesterton (10/6/2011)
  83. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (5/2/11)
  84. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper
  85. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  86. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  87. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (5/6/2013)
  88. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (7/2/2012)
  89. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1/20/2013)
  90. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  91. Foundation by Isaac Asimov (3/6/2011)
  92. The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes (12/30/2012)
  93. The Warden by Anthony Trollope (1/28/2013)
  94. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  95. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  96. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  97. Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
  98. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  99. Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
  100. The Histories by Herodotus

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Matilda by Roald Dahl

    What a fun read. Right from the start I was hooked. I loved how his voice was directed at the reader.  How he sarcastically reflected what many teacher's think about students whose parents dote on them way to much.
    Two of my favorite passages are what the narrator would want to write on end-of-term reports to doting parents if he had been a teacher.
    "Your son Maximilian", I would write, "is a total wash-out. I hope you have a family business you can push him into when he leaves school because he sure as heck won't get a job anywhere else."
    Or if I were feeling lyrical that day, I might write, "It is a curious truth that grasshoppers have their hearing-organs in the sides of the abdomen. Your daughter Vanessa, judging by what she's learnt this term, has no hearing-organs at all."

    But, Matilda's parents are not those types of parents. No she has a different type. The type that doesn't think she is anything, when in fact she is brilliant. 
    Here's an excerpt from the bookcover.
    Who put superglue in Dad's hat? Was it really a ghost that made Mom tear out of the house? Matilda is a genius with idiot parents - and she's having a great time driving them crazy. But at school things are different. At school there's Miss Trunchbull, two hundred menacing pounds of kid-hating headmistress. Get rid of the Trunchbull and Matilda would be a hero. But that would take a superhuman genius, wouldn't it?

    I liked the book. I found the word choice to be strong, which is always good for vocabulary for upper elementary kids.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

    I enjoyed the first half of this book. I don't usually read vampire novels (literary snob that I am), but with Fill-in-the-Gaps Project I've been trying to read outside my comfort zone. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I initially found myself interested in the plot and characters of Vampire Academy (the first book in a series of six). Of course, reading it felt a lot like watching an HBO drama, but there's a time and place for HBO dramas, and I guess I was in the mood to be entertained.

    I thought author Richelle Mead's twist on classic vampires was interesting. She has a good group (the Moroi), a bad group (the Strigoi), and then vampire guardians who aren't vampires (the dhampirs). Main character, Rose, is a dhampir. She is best friends with Lissa, a Moroi princess, and works as her protector.

    Mead found a pretty sneaky way to show two characters' thoughts and feelings without switching back and forth between points of view. She gave Rose the gift of getting inside Lissa's head and seeing through Lissa's eyes, basically whenever she wanted to. When Rose started doing this all the time, however, the story crumbled for me. I felt like Mead cheated, using Rose's ability to spoon-feed us Lissa's emotions. The end was especially disappointing. There was so much telling about how Lissa was feeling, the conclusion felt scrambled and rushed.

    Also, by the end I was totally bored with all the intrigues of the Vampire Academy. There was so much gossip and back-stabbing and not a single character to redeem it.

    Needless to say, I've read outside my comfort zone with this one and tried to do so with an open mind, but I won't be continuing with the series. And I haven't checked my FitG list for more vampire novels, but I'm kind of hoping this is the last one I have to read. I've done my due diligence by reading Twilight and this book. Sorry all you vampire fans out there!

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Becky's Progress: 44

    These are the books I've read from my list since my last progress post.

    Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
    The First Part Last. Angela Johnson.
    He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
    Shamela by Henry Fielding

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

    After a short hiatus to read several non-Fill-in-the-Gaps books I had on my shelf, I jumped back on the bandwagon with the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

    I laughed out loud many times reading this book. My seven-year-old son wanted to know what I was laughing about, so I ended up reading most of the book aloud to him. He wanted to read the cartoons by himself. And then we had to re-read the really funny parts to my husband when he got home.

    Wimpy Kid is an easy read and the MC, Greg, is hilarious. He's so incredibly flawed, but you can't help but laugh at him and love him anyway. Oh dear ... just thinking about some of his exploits still makes me giggle.

    This is light reading fare at its lightest, but I'd definitely recommend Wimpy Kid to anyone. And it was fun to have a book on my list I could share with my kids.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

    I'm not a fan of horror. At. All.  I have learned that I cannot watch or read that genre. I have nightmares for weeks. I still shudder when I think about those movies from the eighties. You know Freddie and Jason. Ugh!  I'm a wimp, I know. So, when I heard that this book was about vampires and such I didn't pay attention to it until a friend of mine told me that I could handle it. It wasn't bad in the scary department.  So, that is why I put Twilight on my list to read.

    Here is Goodread's description of the book:
         Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear.  The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife - between desire and danger. Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.

    I liked the book more than I thought I would. I can see why the series has become a huge hit.  I was reading it every spare minute I had. But, there was a part that I had to put down the book because it was late at night and my mind does crazy things at that time. I had to do something else to get my mind cleared from the scary thoughts and then go to bed. But, the next day I had the book and continued reading.  I'm not sure if I'll read the other books in the series, though.  I've heard that the other books are even better, which makes me want to read them. But, I've also heard that they are a bit more graphic, which makes me not want to read them.  So, for now I think I'll stick to my 100 list and maybe later I'll change my mind.

    Abandoned in 2010

    I posted early on about Acceptable Gaps—now I'm adding to that list of rejections with my list of books I started but abandoned in 2010.

    Jose Saramago, Death with Interruptions. This one was on my Gaps list—but the writing style was so unwieldy that I couldn't stick with it. One sentence had 78 commas, and a later sentence had 101 commas—I only made it about 35 pages. I'm sorry, but that's letting the form get in the way of the function.

    Friedrich Durrenmatt, The Assignment. Every chapter is a single sentence, running over multiple pages. Oddly more readable than the Saramago, but still difficult. I got through about four chapters. Not on Gaps list.

    Mary Roach, Stiff. I got about halfway through, but it just dragged on way too long. It was less entertaining to me than Bonk, which I finished earlier in the year. I have Spook but won't pull that off the shelf for another year or two. Not on Gaps list.

    Howard Dully, My Lobotomy. I would rather have a lobotomy than finish this horribly-written book, no matter how compelling the actual story may be. It reads as if it was dictated and transcribed, and this guy talks about every single memory he has of his entire childhood. He lost me for good when he said that he really liked bananas—sometimes he would even take a banana up to his room and eat it there. Seriously? This is the irrelevant minutia you're writing about, in a book about icepick lobotomies?!? Editor, you failed. Not on Gaps list—my book group meets tonight about this, and I'm sorry to not finish a book group pick, but I just couldn't do it. (I learned after putting it down that this guy got his book deal after being featured on NPR—this was better left as a short oral history.)

    In defense, I'm not a total flake: I am reading books from my list, and am in the middle of Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan right now.

    What books have you abandoned this year, and why?

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    I'm back with some Calvino

    The Nonexistent Knight (1959)


    The Cloven Viscount (1952)

    By Italo Calvino (1923-1985)

    Finally, I finished a book that’s on my list. Now I know why this list built up on my shelf in the first place. Writers keep writing and publishers keep publishing and some books on my shelf just don’t hold my interest. (Sorry, Don Quixote, but once your story deviates from you as the central figure, it tires me.) After many sidetracks, I managed to pick a book of the shelf that’s on the list, and I stuck with it.

    I’ve read Calvino before, first If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (which a friend recommended and I liked so-so, but enough to try another), then Invisible Cities (which I loved far more).

    These are two novellas (I’d call them) collected in one volume. The Nonexistent Knight features a crusading armor powered solely by the will that lives within it and the people affected by this will. Fun story.

    Favorite quote (because I an relate to it and because it’s good):

    One starts off writing with a certain zest, but a time comes when the pen merely grates in dusty ink, and not a drop of life flows, and all life is outside, outside the window, outside oneself, and it seems that never more can one escape into a page one is writing, open out another world, leap the gap. Maybe it’s better so. Maybe the time when one wrote with delight was neither a miracle nor grace but a sin, of idolatry, of pride.

    The Cloven Viscount (does not rhyme with “discount” but you knew that) treats a character split in half by cannon fire, one half turning excessively bad, the other (initially thought lost, sorry to spoil a bit of it as much as the back cover spoils it) excessively good.

    Neither story was as light as I had hoped, but both are inventive and playfully thought-provoking, so I consider them both winners.

    Still, if you’ve never read Calvino, I’d recommend you start with Invisible Cities.

    Monday, December 6, 2010


    MY THOUGHTS: I went into this book knowing full well what was going to happen. But I really enjoyed reading about the Grogan family and all their misadventures with Marley. How could you not love him. He enjoyed life to the fullest, a bit energetic, true, but happy most of the time. I think my favorite "Marley" story is him getting kicked out of Obedience school. And then going back and trying it again and getting is degree and eating it! Whatever you say about Marley he truly loved his family and they loved him very deeply even with all his so called "problems". Now on to the movie. Which I'm sure I'll need some tissues to see this one. You can see my full review at my place, Just Books.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    The New Kid at School by Kate McMullan

    I liked this book okay for an early chapter book. I didn't like how the ending left me with more questions. But, I guess that is because it is the first book in a series and if you want to find out the answers you have read the other books.

    My nine year old son loved it, so I'd recommend it if you have a young reader at home. But, note that there is a palm reading in the first chapter. It's not huge, but some people are very cautious about these things.

    Wiglaf is an odd child in his family. He is little and doesn't like to hurt living things.  But, when he is told that he will one day be a hero he leaves home to attend DSA, Dragon Slayers' Academy. He decides that he will slay a dragon and bring back the gold to his family.  His first day of school turns out very different than planned. He doesn't just learn about slaying dragons, but he gets the opportunity to fight a real fire breathing dragon.

    Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

    Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a great "Cinderella" story with a twist. I've always liked the story of Cinderella, I mean, what girl doesn't?
    But, I loved how we step back and look at her life before she enters the home of her step-family. And the twist of the enchanted spell given to her at birth.

    That obedience spell made me think deeper about the act of obedience verses the attitude of obedience. You can see it played out in Ella so well. She has to obey, but she finds ways to make the act a little bit mischievous or she resents the person making the request.
    With raising my own kids, I am aware of the times they are obedient in attitude or not.  I want them to obey, not just in their action, but also in their attitude. I don't want them to be resentful because they "have to do" something. Not every child is the same, so this makes parenting even more of a challenge at times, ya think?

    Anyway, back to the review. I've not watched the movie, but now want to. I'm sure it's not as good as the book....they never are, are they? But, just the same I think it would be fun to see all the dresses and to watch the story all fold out once again. To see the girl live "happily ever after" with her prince.  I'm still a young romantic at heart.