Tag Archive: books

One Thousand Books

I have a bit of an obsession with books. My bookshelves are full of books that I’ve read so many times that they’re falling apart. I also have stacks of books that I’ve rescued from the trash, garage sales and thrift stores. Okay, I’ll admit it.

Not just stacks. Boxes, too. And big plastic totes. All full of books that either I think look interesting enough to read myself or I’ve saved because someone somewhere would probably like to read it and it’s a shame that they are going to be thrown out. Jeff thinks I’m crazy but I claim a big heart for books.

Our church (Ecclecia) has just launched a community library, dubbed “Christopher’s Corner” after one of the smartest and most intelligent young men I’ve ever met.  They’ve got a great space set up, shelves built and comfy seating. There are some books on the shelves, too. But many of the shelves are empty. With summer coming up, I want to stock that library so that there are books for every age, interest and reading level. I want it to be a place where kids (and adults too) can be excited about going so they can find something new to read or look at or learn from.  They’ve also launched a community foundation focused on literacy.

So here’s my goal: In the months of June and July, I want to find ONE THOUSAND BOOKS to fill those shelves. I want the library to be so stocked that if a book doesn’t make its way back, there are many others still to choose from. One thousand is a big number. A very big number.  I’ll be pulling books from my own collection. I have a friend who gave me several large boxes of amazing books that belonged to a relative of hers. I’ve already shared many of those with others, but still have quite a few to share still. Another friend gave me a big box of books that she was going to give to a thrift shop because she no longer read them. I have a lot of books, but I don’t think my own collection will equal ONE THOUSAND BOOKS (yes, it’s bold again. I hear it in my head as a radio announcer stating ONE THOUSAND BOOKS! Do it. You’ll like how it sounds!)

I’ll be spreading the word among my friends that we’re stocking a library – and asking them to go through their book collections and share some of their books with others. I’ll keep you updated here as I sort, organize and box up books! If you’re local to the area, contact me to donate!

If you’re not local to West Michigan, I encourage you to check with your local churches and community centers. If you have a community library, share the wealth!

ONE THOUSAND BOOKS! (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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I’m in a book club. This may not seem like an earth-shattering announcement to you. It’s a big deal to me, though. I’ve got fantastic friends, but very few of them are voracious readers. When I try to discuss things like plot points and point of view, I will often as not hear “I’ll just watch the movie.” It’s frustrating to revel in great books and bemoan the bad when those that are listening do not much care for the subject at hand.

That’s why a book club is so awesome. I can sit down with my new friends and discuss passive versus active voice, narrators, dialogue and flow. We speak the literary language and all understand each other. We can discuss emotions and our thoughts. It really is the neatest experience and I’m so grateful to be part of this great group.

My taste in literature tends to lean heavily towards the classics – I don’t often read current books because they often fall short of my beloved classics. Being part of this book club, it’s helping me branch out into fiction that I might not have picked up on my own.  As we go, I’ll do my best to share the books with you as well – so that perhaps you’ll pick up something new (or stay away as the case may be).

This month, we read Loving Frank. As above, it wasn’t something that I’d choose off the shelf myself.  The book is a fictional account of Frank Lloyd Wright’s affair with Mamah Cheney. There isn’t much written about the affair, just newspaper articles and some interviews – so Nancy Horan took what was known and spun a very believable story around it.

From the moment that Frank Lloyd Wright began plans for the Cheney house in Illinois, she artfully draws you into this love story that went well beyond the social norms of the time.  She writes in the third person but from Mamah’s perspective. As the story unfolds, I found myself drawn to the man as well.

(Stained glass from Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio – click the photo for more gorgeous work)

Doesn’t that stained glass just take your breath away? As I read through the book, I started looking at his work and it is all incredible and amazing. Not only for his time period but it holds as timeless work for today as well.  There is a home he designed not far from where I live and our book club is going to take a tour.

At first, I found Loving Frank rather dry. The plot moved forward slowly and in the first one hundred pages, I found myself grumbling a bit but plodding through the story because I had committed to the book.

One of the gals messaged me: “Hey, has your opinion of the book changed yet?

I shot back a quick message. “I’m only a few chapters in and it’s interesting subject material but I find the writing rather flat.” (Remember, we can talk like snooty book critics because we’re in a book club)

I got further into the book and about half-way through, something changed. I’m not sure it was the writing as that did seem rather flat and placid. I started to be drawn into the story. It went from a basic story line and turned into something more dynamic. The characters improved, the story quickened. I found myself holding my breath at points while I was reading.  At the climax, I actually gasped out loud. It was very lucky I was sitting somewhere secluded on my lunch break finishing that!

It won’t be a permanent fixture on my bookshelf, but I am glad to have read it. It was a light enough read that I didn’t have to sit and ponder through each line. I could see this thrown in a beach bag or read in your hammock while your husband brings you something cold and fruity to drink. (What? Your husband doesn’t do that? Shame!)

It did encourage me to do more research about Frank Lloyd Wright and what he accomplished. There really wasn’t any direction offered in the back of the book in case I was interested, and I would have loved a guide to good resources if I wanted to learn more. Google can be great but direction from someone who had made serious study of FLW’s work would have been helpful.

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There’s a saying about Michigan weather. “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” This week, we’ve gone from 50F during the day to over 80F yesterday.  From the furnace running one day to the AC two days later. Absolutely nuts.   P likes to be swaddled up in blankets when she’s sleeping, so I suspect the AC will be on quite a bit this summer.

Speaking of Baby P, our tradition is to read before she goes to bed. I read chapters out of novels and we both love it! Our first novel together was Mr. Popper’s Penguins
It was one of my favorites growing up, and one of the many young adult novels I’ve collected over the years. Imagine my utter delight (and trepidation) when I heard rumors that a film version was in the works.

I’ve now seen the preview, and it makes my heart sad. I won’t even link it, it’s SO bad. They basically took the delightful Popper family and turned it into a Jim Carey movie about cheesy penguins with cheesy names. Nothing about the Popper family, Admiral Drake or the intelligent penguins. I’m aghast!  If you’ve not read the book, get it right away!

We’re currently reading The Thief Lord. What are your favorite young adult novels? High quality, award winners, the book you read over and over – let me hear them all!

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Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This reminds us to pause and take stock of our life and faith. Many people make changes during the Lent season for these very reasons.

My biggest change is not one I’m doing voluntarily. Today is my first day back to work after maternity leave. I love my little life at home with my family, but bills have to be paid. Jeff will be a stay-at-home dad for now while he’s looking for work. It’s a good job, but a tiring one – and even before P was on the way, I did not do much else but sleep and work during the week. I’m apprehensive about how I’ll be able to manage everything. It’s just a season, and ideally I will eventually be home with P full-time.

(photo credit)

This year, I’m spending Lent in the Common Book of Prayer. I have a pocket-sized copy from 1945 that belonged to my great-great-aunt Verona. It is a beautiful little book and it’s been a treasure to thumb through. I love the history of this book, the history of this copy and the tradition it stands for. This year, I’ll be diving into it more fully than just a simple turning of the page.  I want to pray the same prayers that my family has prayed for generations before me.

I’m coming into this season also with a heavy heart. The grandson of one of my mother’s dear friends was diagnosed with cancer this week.  Just a child, his liver is 90% covered with a tumor and there are several spots on his lungs as well. It’s been a whirlwind of discovery for this family and my heart aches for them. I can’t imagine myself in their shoes. They did surgery to biopsy the tumor and it did not go well. As of last night, he was in ICU with a breathing tube after losing a lot of blood on the operating table. All of this has been discovered/happened since Friday.

If you have a moment today, please think of little Micah. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, that whole family could use a whole lot of loving.

For Micah, I’ll be praying the following prayers from the Common Book of Prayer today.

A prayer for recovery.

O God of heavenly powers, who, by the might of thy command, drivest away from mens’ bodies all sickness and all infirmity; Be present in thy goodness with this thy servant, that his weakness may be banished and his strength recalled; that his heath being thereupon restored, he may bless thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A prayer for healing.

O Almighty God, who art the giver of all health, and the aid of them that turn to thee for succour; We entreat thy strength and goodness in behalf of this thy servant, that he may be healed of his infirmities, to thine honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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I won a copy of Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue in a giveaway about two weeks ago. It arrived on my doorstep this week and within 24 hours, I had read the whole book.  I couldn’t put it down!

Before I had won it, I noticed that this book won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, from the Writers’ Trust of Canada. It was also shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize. That’s pretty big stuff. A couple of friends had read it before me. One really liked it, the other claimed the book was too dark for her tastes.

I’m of the same opinion as my husband – that I hate when reviews give away the whole story. So I’ll be brief in my description – the book is written from a 5 year old boy’s perspective. Jack has lived his entire life in an 11×11 room and his perspective is quite fascinating. Through his voice, we learn why he lives in the room and how he spends his days…

Emma has captured the quirky inner dialogue of a child perfectly, and it is a delight to become a part of the story. It is very dark material, and probably not for more sensitive readers – although it is presented from a 5 year old’s mind, there is no dodging around some of the darker horrors of Room.  Her unique style of storytelling drew me right into the book, and I laughed and wept with the characters. This is a book that is worth staying up till 2am because you can’t put it down!

I’m going to be going to the library and checking out her previous book, Slammerkin – I’m hoping for the same readability as I found in Room.

Because I finished it so quickly and it was passed on to me, and because it really is an incredible book – I’m going to give it away again! Jeff thinks I have too many books in the house as it is!


Mandatory Entry:

Please tell me why you’re interested in reading Room: A Novel. (Click on the link to visit Amazon’s page with a little bit more detailed review, if you’re unsure about the content.)

Bonus Entries (Since who doesn’t love a bonus?):

+1 Follow my blog on GFC
+1 Follow me on Twitter @sister_t (leave your user name in the comment)
+1 Tweet about this giveaway, tagging @sister_t (leave a link to your tweet)

Random Important Bits:

  • Giveaway will end on 03/05/2011 at 11:59PM EST.
  • I’ll use random.org to determine a winner.
  • Winner has 48hrs to respond to email, otherwise I will re-draw for a new winner.
  • Giveaway open to US/Canada only.

I hope the winner will continue to pass the book along once they’re finished! 🙂 Good luck!

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Last week I let you all know that I was going to re-read The Name of the Wind and write a review.  Some of you may be thinking, “wait he read a 600 page book in a week.”  No, that would be silly.  I finished it on Monday, I don’t read that slow.  Plus I have homework, biblical debates, thoughts on existentialism to expound upon, and researching supreme court cases as well as other cases in order to try and create loopholes within the system to allow us to attain some of our freedoms back that we have allowed the government to strip from us over the years in our failed social experiment of multiculturalism.  Anyway, with no further ado, I present my review of The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.

Like I said last week I really enjoy people going through personal growth and learning about characters so that we can grow to feel their pains and their joys.  This book is an autobiography of sorts.  It starts within a present setting and then delves into the main character’s background.  We learn where it all begins for him and how he was raised up from a child.  Let me say that this is not always necessary, in quality books.  In many books we meet people at the beginning of their actual journey and we don’t need to know their entire back story right away to get it.  We can see growth and development through that journey.  In this book Rothfuss chose to start pretty much at the beginning well before the journey.  The thing that is contrary to most stories that I usually engage in, is the lack of action.  There is very little actual battle.  Also, there is very little magic.  Even simple magic.  It is eluded to, mentioned and even performed, but not really emphasized.  They don’t make a big deal out of the little magic and we rarely see the Big magic.  So, at first glance one would think I wouldn’t like this book.  Au contraire, what makes a good book in this sense is not the grandioseness of it but the subtlety of its vastness.  We get to delve into the mind of a potentially earth shattering character.  What drives him?  What brought him to where he is?  What is or was his purpose? Did he give up his life or is he biding his time before awakening anew?

I am also a fan of the first person narrative that does not delve into the minds of other characters.  We don’t know what others are thinking, we don’t know what other plans are being setup to cause his possible downfall.  We don’t have to meddle with trying to figure out the mystery that is unraveled in several characters when we are only dealing with the mind of this one.  Within this book, though, we have both aspects of character development.  We have his narrative, but also those who interact with him outside his narrative pressuring him to tell his story to them.  What is the reason for their inquiries into him?  Why is he so special?  When looking at these characters and their interactions with him, we get a better sense of where the first person narrative within the story is going and how these are setup seamlessly.  Another thing that this book does very well is create tension.  Orson Scott Card, wrote a book called How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy in that he talks about tension being essential to a good story.  By that he meant the stretching of a character and having each scene drastically different from the next.  We tend to need that in movies more than books, because movies are so brief, but in a book exposition can help for a while, but what we want is for bad things to happen, then good things, then bad things, maybe another bad thing, and then a good thing, explaining why these things are happening isn’t as important as them happening.  The Name of the Wind does this superbly, and finishing it just made me that much more anxious for The Wise Man’s Fear.

Some of you may be asking this question, “but what’s the story about?”  I am afraid that I do not answer those kind of questions.  I hate knowing anything about a story before I read it.  So, when I give a review I will not tell you what the story is necessarily about.  I will tell you if it was executed in a way that makes it worth your time to read it.  If the elements that I set forth are something that you may enjoy then go ahead and read it.  I can expound more if somebody asks, but I will not usually give away anything from a story.  You may attempt to deduce or conclude from the fact that I said it is a narrative within a story, that it is about a hero, but it could very well be a about a villain.  And to tell you the truth I don’t know yet what ideology the protagonist may hold, but it has been a wonderful journey into his mind, thus far.

Taleah’s Note: These reviews, unless otherwise noted, are books that Jeff owns or checked out the library. As much as he’d love to get his hands on new releases of fantasy (Tor, are you listening?) – these are his books 🙂

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For those of you who don’t know me I am my wife’s husband Jeff.  I do not know what I will write or when I will write anything for the blog.  However, my wife continually is pestering me so I am writing today about a book I just finished called Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erikson.

Gardens of the Moon is considered a dark fantasy, I don’t know what that means.  All fantasy books seem the same to me unless they don’t contain any kind of magic then they are just boring stories set in a medieval times, using different names for places.  Gardens of the Moon is a boring story with magic in medieval places.  So I consider it fantasy because of the magic not because of the setting.  I’m sure fantasy aficionados would disagree with me.  (But they’re nerds, who cares what they think. 🙂  If you noticed I said boring, because holy crap was it boring, I literally fell asleep almost every time I read it until the last two books.  Oh I forgot, the novel has chapters but the chapters are broken up across seven sections called books.

The novel starts off in a world that is already fully developed with characters that are fully developed and have no need for us to go through any character development with them.  I hate it when books do that.  I feel the whole purpose of reading the genre is to see some lowly person attain a higher self-awareness along with heightened power.  Everybody that was introduced was already at their maximum potential; it felt like the story had nowhere to go.  And it didn’t go anywhere until the second book when they introduced new characters who were also already fully developed (except for one, and he was kind of annoying)  and had no real room for growth or so it seemed.  This changes in book six, but still it took way too long to get there.   We see development, not on a personal level, just revelations within the text that people aren’t who they seem to be.  Which I feel is acceptable in most books because we like finding out when people are actually villains or actually heroes.  This book does not do that however, it just solidifies goodness or solidifies not goodness.  I have to say not goodness because I didn’t have a sense of any actually evil characters (until book six), they were just characters, it didn’t matter to me if they lived, died, or did anything.  I think that is my biggest problem with a book like this.  At no time did I find myself rooting for anybody, or being against anybody.  It didn’t matter who won in any conflict because I didn’t know anybody well enough to really care if they lived or died.  I was able to finish the book, mainly because two badass characters were introduced and I wanted to see what happens with them.  I am actually going to continue reading the series only for the purpose of seeing what arises out of their potential conflict.  There are ten books currently and I have read that the series gets much better.  I will let you know.

On that note, I would like to let you know I am not starting the second one soon.  I am actually going to re-read a book I read two years ago.  The book is called The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1). It is by Patrick Rothfuss who has only the one book out and the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2)is coming out at the beginning of March.  When I read Name of the Wind before I absolutely loved it.  I will write a review of the book when I am done with it this second time.  It will allow me to be more concise as to why it is fantastic.

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I have a new friend. His name is Kensington. He is my bright and shiny new laptop! I wore my old one into the ground over the last six years, and when the battery died in a half hour and the power cable didn’t charge – I knew it was time for a change.

Kensington is a nice little business HP that I earned through a promotion at work. He’s got a webcam and microphone and Windows 7, which has a bit of a learning curve. Don’t laugh as my husband did, but there’s a very cool little screensaver that is full of bubbles! They make me happy.

What? You don’t name your computers? Well, you should. Computers and cars should always have a name, as you spend a lot of time with both. Computers are inherently male, and cars female. Those are the rules – don’t ask me why!

Back to Kensington – we spent a happy little afternoon playing with the webcam. Here’s my favorite photo of the afternoon, P and me. Note her awesome little butterfly onesie… another auntie gift! My daughter is VERY spoiled by her aunts.

That’s the “Mom, enough already!” look. This was after we had Skyped with Grandma and Uncle G, shot a video for Facebook (and the rest of the family) and played around for a while. Such a patient child!

This week, P has started to appreciate the books I’ve been reading to her. I’ve already picked out MY favorites, and some of the books I’ve tucked aside for future diaper bag travels – never to show their faces in normal rotation.  We don’t have that many books yet, as I never collected children’s books before – but my favorite was a Christmas gift, and I get such a kick out of it every time I read it. It’s called Munch! First off, it’s a Peter Rabbit book – and I’m a huge Beatrix Potter fan. Second, it’s a board book. Third, the pages get munched smaller and smaller as we go through the story. And fourth, it’s about eating vegetables! Seriously… what’s not to like!? (another Auntie gift!)

Along with the reading books, I took P to her first Story Time at the library yesterday. It’s advertised for children birth-36 months, but we were the only ones there under 24 months! There were a few grandparents and caregivers, but most of the mothers were early 20-somethings – and dressed to the nines. Fancy boots, nice clothes, jewelry, makeup, everything. I was very impressed, and also felt a little out of place. I was rocking an old pair of jeans that don’t fit and a tee-shirt – since it’s super hard to go clothes shopping with an 8 week old baby. No make-up, and my hair was just thrown back because it was due for a wash.  I guess it gives me hope for future coolness.

The Story Time was quite cute with rhymes, songs and stories. P liked a few of the rhymes with actions associated with them, but she hadn’t taken a long nap before we went – so she lost interest about half-way through the second story. We ended up walking around in back as everyone else finished up. P fell asleep, and stayed asleep long enough for me to browse the library shelves for a bit after the event. A librarian even offered to trade the books for my sleeping baby!

I know P doesn’t fully appreciate the Story Time now, but I plan on making it a ritual every week. The routine will be good, and the rhymes have been fun to do at home as well. Plus, it’s reinforcing our reading at home. I love books, and I want to pass that on to my daughter.

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