August is Over, School About to Start

I have something to celebrate.   I read my 50th book of the  year!!

Of course, this is off-target for my UNofficial goal of reading 100 books for 2010 but I’m OK with it.   I’m proud of my efforts to read books for all the challenges I’ve signed up for and I’m still motivated.   woo hoo!

I read 6 books in August (and I have serious doubts I’ll be able to conclude my in-progress book by the end of the day.)

The Bell Jar / Sylvia Plath ***** 50  What’s in a Name 3
Finny / Justin Kramon **** 49
Overboard! / Michael J Tougias **** 48 NF
Zeitoun / Dave Eggers **** 47 IRL Bookclub NF
Mixed Magics / Diana Wynne Jones *** 46 DWJweek
Fingersmith / Sarah Waters **** 45 COBC

Two nonfiction, two contemporary fiction (I’m counting The Bell Jar here as well as Finny),  two published in 201o (a new phenomenon to my reading life), a thriller, and only Finny not counting for a challenge!  – and I probably could/will have it fill a slot on the Twenty in Ten Challenge.

Overall, a very satisfying and pleasurable pile of books. Although, maybe six books a pile do not make.

I’m in the middle of bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody and have to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer for my Sept 23 bookclub.    It’s all a crap shoot what else I’ll read but the top stack catching my interest includes The Likeness by Tana French, The Sea by Banville, Where the Red Fern Grows (don’t tell me anything!  I’m already mad that I was told it is a ‘sad dog tale’.   There’s probably nothing else left to add.  GRRrrrrrr) and…  maybe Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell which was acquired thru per a recommendation by a wonderful lady I’m teaching how to use the internet.   oh!  and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri!  just joined my party.

I was going to link to my goodreads tbr list but couldn’t figure out how to only show the ones that are in the house.   Guess I’ll have to take a picture…   This one is a good sample:

Happy Back to School for everyone, too!    Our district’s official first day is Sept 8 and since teachers usually don’t take off that first week, I don’t expect to sub until the middle of the month.

And, congratulations to all my favorite blogs that have been nominated for Book Blogger Appreciation Week!    🙂


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The Bell Jar

Thoughts   The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Harper Perennial Modern Classics 2006 Foreword by Frances McCullough 1996 (orig pub’d in America 1971), 266 pages

I’m trying to recall when exactly I learned who Sylvia Plath was and what she was about.    I am inclined to fess up that I didn’t know a thing* about her until book-blogging;  specifically  learning about books I *should* have already read by now.   But I don’t know.   Perhaps, I knew the sensational stuff – – that she was a poet who killed herself young, as a mother of two little ones.   But I really can’t say;  it’s fuzzy.

I’ve had The Bell Jar on my to-be-read list for years (I’ve been blogging over 4 years already?   huh.)

I knew it was a novel and that she usually wrote poetry.    (Actually, she wrote children’s books, too.)   But I didn’t realize all that I would encounter in this short book.     It was everything I hazily imagined it would be (startling thoughts by a young woman when it was not the time (1950s) to expect startling thoughts by young women) and I thought it would showcase depression.   AND THAT IS ALL I KNEW.    So it was NOTHING like what I expected!

I read this in one day.  If I had realized how fast I would devour this, I would have read it a long time ago.

Or, perhaps, it was the perfect time for me to read?   Who can question when and why some books come into our life.    I am just glad that I didn’t read this during one of my darkest days of college when I hated school, hated my major, was devoid of hope and felt like the whole concept of what I was supposed to be doing was just a crock of s%&#.

Then again.   I think this book does has hope.   I thought the ending and/or the last line brilliant!    But, it’s knowing now that Plath didn’t hold on to her hopes to quite escape her bell jar that is frightening.

A big thank you to Frances McCullough for a fantastic Foreword and thank you to the publishers for including the bit about Plath in the back of the book.    These parts book-end the heart of the novel in such a wonderful manner.

I rarely read Forewords.   This one is perfect.

Five slices of pie.

* I had never heard of Virginia Woolf, either.    What were they teaching in my high school?!

* HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

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Vacation Photo

A wonderful post over at Necromancy Never Pays had me thinking about a favorite photo that I snapped on vacation last month.   My husband even asked me, “What are you seeing?”   I thought it lovely; the photo puts me in a happy mood.


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Me (at the Author’s Booksigning at Baker Books a few weeks ago):  “SO, what’s up with the feather?”

JK:  “You’ll have to read to find out.”

Me:   “Yea, I kinda figured you’d say that.”




Me (to myself on about page 350):  “Oh crap!  I haven’t thought about that darn feather!   It has GOT to show up soon!!!”

Thoughts   Finny by Justin Kramon, Random House Trade paperbacks 2010, 366 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:     I met Justin Kramon at the Book Blogger Convention 201o New York City.   He was unassuming, charming, non-pushy;  like he didn’t have a care in the world.    He took my card and I accepted his.   Within a week, I received a very nice email inviting me to let him know if I would like a copy of his book due out in July (keep in mind, the email was first week of June.)  I said, “Yes.”    When I got the book, I also got a feather.   I wondered…  “What’s up with the feather?”

I still can’t decide if the feather is hugely significant or just a charming feature.  But regardless and nevertheless, the book is CHARMING.   Actually, the more I think back on it, the book has its share of angst, too.

I really did want to read this ever since meeting the author.   When I realized that he would be visiting my favorite local impressive independent bookseller Baker Books, I grabbed my friend Holly and made her attend with me.     She’s reading it right now, too.  IN FACT!   and if that doesn’t prove how much I’m a fan of cool authors and cool Indie booksellers, I gave Holly the copy that Justin Kramon sent me (I kept the feather) and I bought a copy from Baker’s at the signing.    Woo HOO.

FIRST SENTENCE:  “She started life as Delphine, named by her father for the city where the Greek oracle was from, but she’d always had an independent mind about  things like names, so she’d gone by Finny ever since she was old enough to choose.”

I really like this first sentence.   I love a finely crafted first sentence.     I’m impressed before I even get to the 50th word.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:     This book is a coming of age and then some for a young lady named Finny.   She experiences first love and…   And then some.    Let’s break down a coming of age story:    young kid has ideas and frustrations about life, meets some interesting characters, questions all of it, and realizes some good stuff arises up and out of pain and we all have to deal with pain in life.

Finny is so likable even if she has different illusions and questions about what life and how her life is supposed to be or might be.     I loved how Kramon describes time moving by in Finny’s life.    I was charmed by her affection for her brother and her friends.   I admired the quirky characters that orbit her world and how she appreciates them.     I felt COMFORTABLE in this book.      I enjoyed it and enjoyed how it moseyed along.     I’ll admit, I didn’t read this fast.   But I enjoyed every moment I was in Finny’s world – and it did get a bit crazy here and there.

WHAT’s GOOD/not:     Somewhere I heard this was to be a some kind of ‘Dickensian’ novel  – –   aka of/like Charles Dickens?    I can’t tell you how long ago I read a Chuck book or what that might mean so I can’t answer to this.    What I did love was the last question asked of Mr.Kramon during the Baker Books event:   “How and why did you write this book with a female protagonist?”  or something like that.   And the answer was wonderful!  It was one of those cool answers when an author admits something odd and yet totally authorly-like, (and I’m totally going on memory paraphrasing here and I don’t know the proper procedure to be accurate or not), “I had originally set out to follow the character of Sylvan (Finny’s brother) when this precocious red-headed opininated kid Finny, Sylvan’s little sister, piped up at the dinner table in one of the scenes.   I found her much more interesting and the story soon began to follow her.”    Something like that.      Awesome.    I love hearing about how stories and characters come alive and it’s like the author just has to pay attention and write it all down.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS:   I liked this book a lot;  I’m still not sure how to describe it or classify it, but I enjoyed and really liked Finny as a character.     I look forward to reading what Mr. Kramon does next and wish him a successful career as a writer.

Oh!  The feather!   So.  The feather is the fleeting soft almost-missable moments of our life, the momentos that fall from the important things (wings?  power of lift?!)  that mean something important if we only hold on to what we KNOW is important.     (heckadoodle, I don’t know!!)    

RATING:   Four slices of pie – some kind of chocolate with a cup of coffee from a silver server in honor of Mr. Henckel, one of the many charming characters.

OTHER REVIEWS:   So many!!    Read Sophisticated Dork’s review, also posted today.


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Copley’s Connections

I have been toying with an idea of how to incorporate my mascot, Copley the Lobster, into my blog on a more regular basis.

Meet Copley:  

He is a stuffed animal that a friend sent me all the way from across the pond and told me that he wants to see the world.     Nymeth, of book blog, is one of the most gracious and inspiring bloggers I know.   THANK YOU again Nymeth, for treating me so.

He was given the name Copley because his first excursion was to Copley Square in Boston to attend the Boston Book Festival October 2009.  

He has also traveled to New York City for the Book Blogger Convention.   He made many friends there, including Billy the Goat and Baby Death (traveling incognito.)   Photos here are thanks to

Anyway, COPLEY CONNECTIONS… I am going to highlight those random connections that thread through books I’m reading, linking them in some odd obscure way and remarking on the coincidences…  or not.    Sometimes they have obvious linkability but I was caught unaware of any shared characteristic.  For example, when I read Fingersmith, I realized that the publisher was Riverhead – the same publisher of A Thousand Splendid Suns read just prior.

DO YOU HAVE ANY odd linkings between books that don’t seem to be related in any way?    My last two books (Zeitoun and Overboard) were both nonfiction, both about weather storms in May 2005 so they perhaps are easy to link.   But it wasn’t planned.

However, on a very random note, one of my books before Overboard was Suite Scarlett which was nominated for a SAKURA Medal for High School Books award.     And in Overboard, one of the ships involved with rescuing two men lost at sea was the SAKURA Express.

I love these cool connections.    Can you think of any links between the last few books you’ve read?

*  ‘Stuffed lobster’ seems to imply he is food.  He is not.

For more “why lobsters” posts, click away here, here, here, here, here, here

For HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

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For Rhonda

I have a friend who likes to read and she asked me to recommend some books from my bookshelves (ie LOAN something to her!) and this is what I’m bringing when I see her tonight:

Daphne DuMaurier’s Jamaica Inn (love love love lurve DuMaurier)

The Apostle by Brad Thor (This was my hub’s summer read and he just finished.  I’m still trying to talk him into reviewing it here but so far, no go.)

Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow (Pearl’s second.  His debut, The Dante Club, was tremendous, imo)

Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book (a gift from BeastMomma!  Thank you – I’m excited to read this — hopefully soon but I have a few more challenge reads to get out of the way first.)

Stewart O’Nan’s Songs for the Missing (somehow, I acquired two copies of this.)

Anita Shreve’s Resistance (She really liked Sarah’s Key. Though these books may not be comparable (?), they do share the WWII setting.)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown (I love saying the title out loud.   This is a BEA/BBC book.)

Cat in a Diamond Dazzle by Carole Nelson Douglas (mystery – she likes mysteries;  I rescued this from the Nursing Home library where its non-LargePrint-ness put it on the discard shelf.)

I’ve not read any of these;  I rarely keep books I’ve already read.    Have you read any? My friend and I have dissimilar tastes in books, unfortunately.   She loves books I can’t get into and vice versa, but we agreed that Overboard was riveting and that Tana French writes thrilling crime novels.     I am surprised and delighted that she trusts that I have something/anything she might enjoy!

Here’s betting that she’ll take the Brooks and the Shreve.     I’ll let you know…


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Thoughts   Overboard! A True Blue-Water Odyssey of Disaster and Survival by Michael J Tougias, Scribner 2010, 210 pages

BACK of BOOK BLURB:   “I was frightened or astonished by every page of this beautifully told story of raging elements and human survival.  And then the tale is ultimately and heartrendingly inspirational.  You will not be able to put this book down.”  – Dodge Morgan, first American to sail solo, nonstop, around the globe

MOTIVATION for READING:    One of my boat neighbors loaned this to me after another boat neighbor read and raved.    I think it is moving its way down the dock in some kind of boat-book-club.   (I do not wish to imply that only boaters would be interested in this!    It’s written well for a wide audience.)

FIRST SENTENCE: “The Gulf Stream is a moving mass of seawater that flows in a north-northeast trajectory off the eastern coast of the United States.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:   In early May of 2005, two unrelated sailboats – one from Connecticut headed for Bermuda and the other off the coast of North Carolina – tangle with some extremely rough weather.

page 24:   “Cummings had been preparing for this voyage for several weeks, and he now knows that he let ‘the plan’ obscure his judgment.  He was aware that strong winds and heavy seas could be expected, but the conditions he and McCarthy are now trying to ride out are far worse than were forecast.”

WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so GOOD:     The setup is excellent, the pacing is perfect.   The details are astounding.   The sailors are experienced and the boats are sound, but the ocean is bigger.    I understand that some criticism* exists for how things may have been handled but these are not gone into explicitly.     I admire how and why Tougias explains that it is an unknown how others may have responded and the decisions that could have/should have been taken since only the players involved were THERE.    And yet, Tougias is able to share the sensations that the reader IS there sharing the experience; the crazy scary awful AWE-full experience of being thrown off a small boat in 50+ foot seas hundreds of miles away from anywhere.

page 35:  “Emergency procedures are written in blood.” How true.

FINAL THOUGHTS:   Oh, is this TENSE!    I was unsure if I would be able to handle all the tension, fear and dread I was experiencing only a few pages in.   But I just had to find out what happens and was tumbled along with the crazy waves and rain and pain and cheers as rescues are attempted.     Hurray for the Coast Guard and the determination of the human spirit to survive.

I was sitting at my breakfast table early last Sunday when I turned the last pages of this book.  I was crying, tears streaming down my face, exhausted by the ordeals I had just read about.    AND THEN, I look at the TV and see that Perfect Storm the movie was just beginning; the Andrea Gale slips out of the harbor under beautiful sunny skies.    I can’t look away,  I know how that one ends even if I haven’t read the book or ever (NEVER) been interested in watching (despite Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney being in the cast).     The weather gets worse, and I can stand it no longer.   I shut off the TV and quickly start reading my next FICTION book, Finny by Justin Kramon.   Get me off the ocean now please.

page 198: “… Loch stares at the people scurrying around the fast food restaurants.  The pace of civilization, and the seemingly meaningless rushing, makes Loch think that if these people thought about how fragile life is, they’d all slow down and enjoy it more.”

RATING:     I just changed my rating from 4 to FIVE slices of pie.    I’m still shaking.


* I am a relatively new powerboater not a sailor and have no experience nor knowledge of what it takes to handle a sailboat in any weather.    Tougias does a great job of making this readable for any reader and it is not too technically geared to the sailboat crowd.


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Thoughts Zeitoun by Dave Eggers*, McSweeney’s Books 2009, 335 pages. Nonfiction.

MOTIVATION for READING: Our August pick for my In Real Life book club, the Bookies.   We meet Thursday, August 19th.   [Library book.]

FIRST SENTENCE**: “On moonless nights the men and boys of Jableh, a dusty fishing town on the coast of Syria, would gather their lanterns and set out in their quietest boats.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT: This book is about one particular American family living in New Orleans and their experiences with Hurricane Katrina 2005. That’s all I knew going into it and that’s all I will tell you here.

WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so good: Even knowing (safely, only from watching TV!) how devastating Hurricane Katrina was, I had no idea how far the pendulum of response swung to deal with all that was needing to be addressed. I was shocked and saddened and appalled. I was caught up in wondering the hows and whys. I still find myself having the pendulum of reaction swinging back and forth, pro and con to what I really think about this book. Well written, but …. what?    It was presented as this family’s experiences and so I cannot accuse it of being one-sided.  In fact, Eggers’ notes at the end discuss his fact-checking and cross-interviewing so we are not sold going in that it would be more –  it IS accurate for Zeitoun as he shares it.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS:      One more reminder that the world is full of good and bad and the range of perspective is all over the map.  We can all see the same thing but the interpretation can vary wildly.  What I take away from this is how uncommon common decency can be and how I personally desire to be more kind, considerate, respectful and calm in the face of situations out of my control or understanding.

RATING: My initial reaction was to rate this a four slice of pie: and I think I’ll stand by that for now. I admire Eggers and wish the Zeitoun family all the best.  What a horrific ordeal.

OTHER REVIEWS: I was quite impressed by Asylum’s review. Both Eyes Book Blog listed this in her top 500 but sadly, no review. From a blogger who wouldn’t/couldn’t finish the book: Citizen Reader. For a questioning look at the stories told and how: One Minute Book Reviews. For all the rest and more: Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search Engine Results.

* I’ll admit that I have attempted and failed to get through Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.   I’m baffled, really, why I didn’t love AHWOSG a because I thought it sounded awesome.    I’m a Gemini – I always blame these crazy misunderstandings with myself on the fact that I was born in June.

** I love coming back to the first sentences when I write these THOUGHTS posts because sometimes they really tie a theme together:    In this instance, the quietness of paddling a canoe allows Zeitoun to hear calls of people requiring assistance that would never have been heard by powerboats…

*** Again, I love the random connections that link books I read. This one features a captain of large international ships, our main character Abulrahman Zeitoun’s older brother Ahmad Zeton and the most recent book I read also features a non-American tanker ship captain who helps rescue a man lost at sea in a crazy storm in 2005.


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Mixed Magics

Thoughts   Mixed Magics:  Four Tales of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones, Harper Trophy 2000, 193 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:  Diana Wynne Jones Week is was the First Week of August!    Thank you to Jenny of Jenny’s Books for her contagious enthusiasm and encouragement.

When the announcement of DWJ Week broke and I had never heard of the author, I asked for a recommendation.   I liked the suggestion of Eight Days of Luke being an influencer of Neil Gaiman (rock star) to write American Gods.   Unfortunately, I was asleep at the wheel when I was IN the library, the book was waiting for me, I failed to realize it!   I also didn’t have my library card* with me and it’s a fiasco to attempt to check out anything without it.   So the book was returned to wherever and I didn’t have it in time to participate in DWJ Week.   (*sniff*)

So, in the very middle of DWJ Week and I’m hyperventilating because I don’t have a DWJ book in hand and my brother and SIL are visiting (very rude, you know, to say, um-we have to go to the library and I really need to be reading…), I realize that my town’s library IS a TOURIST ATTRACTION!!!!     Hurray!   So I shove my Bro and SIL into the library to admire the paintings of General Tom Thumb and his lovely wife Minnie Bump as I scour the shelves for the shortest DWJ book:   Mixed Magics wins.    A collection; a variety of short stories with a range of subject manner all featuring Chrestomanci (doh.)

Have I bored you yet?   Oh well, that’s how I came to this book.

It’s charming.  If I had to choose one word to describe this collection, I would say ‘lively’.   It’s got beautifully drawn characters; from bad guys to kids with magic talents to the revered Chrestomanci.    I loved the humor and intelligence.    And now I need to read more Diana Wynne Jones and will likely buy for a few of my N&Ns.**

Please go to Jenny’s blog and see how successful her campaign was to get so many to read Ms Jones!   and I also must call attention to Villa Negativa’s excellent essay, The Hotties of Diana Wynne Jones, or Why Are All These Grown Women Reading Children’s Books?

“Very well. Thasper, son of Imperion, I reluctantly give you my blessing to go forth and preach Dissolution.  Go in peace.” (golly, I hope that isn’t a spoiler.)

RATING:    Three slices of pie.   Only because they were too short and I wanted a bit more.

* How do I go to the library without my card!??!   I don’t know.  #hangsheadinshame

** N&Ns = Nieces and Nephews


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Suite Scarlett

Thoughts   Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, AUDIO (print version pub’d by Point 2008)

MOTIVATION for READING:    I was familiar with Ms. Johnson through her association with John Green (famous ‘rock star’ author – if you don’t know who he is, I’m stunned) AND I have been following her amusing Twitter tweets for quite awhile.   When she was announced as the guest speaker for the opening of the NYC Book Blogger Convention in May, I was thrilled!   I was even more thrilled to get the Suite Scarlett audio in the BBC swag bag and then triply excited when her speech was delivered – she’s awesome.    Bummed as I was when I realized I couldn’t pop this into my car’s CD player to listen, I was totally psyched that my new iPad would give me an opportunity to listen.    YIPPEE!   Combine all this fervor with Audio Week way back when (yep, I’m a tad late…) …  Whew, I’m exhausted.   FINALLY, I am writing up a post.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    Scarlett turns fifteen and her hotel-owning parents ‘gift’ her a room to care for.    Along comes a new customer for this guestroom and Scarlett is swept into the adventure that is working for Ms. Ambrose.     A little drama – no, really, this book has actors trying to put on a play – some love interest, more than a few shenanigans, and wa la!   A nice little story about a girl trying to figure out her place in the world.

WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so good:    I adored the setting!   New York City plays a big part;  I was charmed by the hotel and it’s surroundings.    Johnson does a great job of setting a scene.    And for someone like me who isn’t all that familiar with New York, I felt like I was there without the assumptions that I knew where I was.   (Does that make any sense?!)   And the reader!   I thought Jeannie Stith did a fabulous job with the voices.

I must admit, however, that I did feel older than the intended audience, and I’m sure that’s acceptable since this is YA for a YA reader, right?   I ended gifting the audio to my nieces (sisters) who ARE in their late teens, early twenties.   I have yet to hear from them if they’ve given it a listen.   But I hope they like it.

I did.   It was sweet.    I’m still getting into audios so I love being able to listen while cooking and cleaning up the house.   But I would forget that I had this to listen to and so I strung it out over too much time.

RATING:   Three slices of pie.    Probably Peach Pie.

* This is my first ‘book’ to read from my haul of books from BEA/BBC – pathetic!    Although, I just started my next one: Finny by Justin Kramon.

**  When I looked up the publisher info, I discovered this is the first in a series!   I ask myself, “Self, will you read the next?”  and my bookish inner self who wants to read everything but usually NOT series books, actually answers, “Yes, I think I just might.”

***  This book was nominated for some prizes:  the Sakura Medal Nominee for High School Book (2010) and the Florida Teens Read (2009).   NOW what to me is REALLY cool, is that I just finished a totally unrelated nonfiction book about a disaster-at-sea rescue and one of the ships instrumental in the recovery was called SAKURA EXPRESS!!!     Things like this delight me.


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