Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Timeless Christmas Classics

For the children, we have the usual family-favorites;

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
The Night Before Christmas

All wonderful and read many times during the Christmas season.

These books have become as traditional as their television counterparts, I still adore those as well.

Our newest addition to the Christmas Book Treasury is The Polar Express.

Chris Van Allsburg is one of my favorite children's authors. he wrote 16 books, including The Polar Express, Zathura and Jumanji.

According to an interview in 2004, Chris Van Allsburg said his Caldecott Medal-winning book The Polar Express originated with the image of a train standing alone in the woods. He then asked himself, What if a boy gets on the train? What does he do, and where does he go? 

The story is about Christmas and Santa Claus but, ultimately, it has become a story of Faith.

Chris Van Allsburg defined Faith as believing in things that makes us feel differently about the world we live in.

We can believe that extraordinary things can happen. We can believe fantastic things that might happen. Or we can believe that what we see is what we get.

For a child who has believed in someone like Santa in a way that was absolutely fabulous for seven or eight or nine or ten years of his/her life, the fact that that Santa may not be real, not only changes how he/she feels about Santa, but it also changes how he/she feels about the world. Everything that was not absolute and rational and factual goes away. If all that I believe in is what I can see, then the world is a smaller, less interesting place. It's like your imagination only is indulged with daydreams that cannot inform your real world.

I Did It!

Final word count: 57,726.
Now onto editing.
I do not yet know what will become of this month's work, but I feel very happy to say that I actually did it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eek. The Things My Kids Bring Home From the Library

The Munchkin has been given library privileges at school, As in, they are allowed to check out their own books, without any suggestion from the teacher.

Yes, Dinosaur Dinners. The latest acquisition.

Eek, indeed.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Book Hoarding, er.....Collecting

keeps growing.

I find cool ones. Old ones. Weird ones.

Some I sell, like the Victor Hugo. But others I just keep for myself. I have decided to build a library.

Not sure exactly where this library will go, but I am building it nonetheless.

My recent obsession has been pulp fiction. Mostly because of the covers.

The other current book lust is just that. Horribly cheesy romance novels. Which probably stems from the pulp fiction collecting. The racy covers. I am not into reading them, but I do scour the pages for the naughty bits. (Which is never hard to find.) I love the verbiage in describing sex. Heaving bosoms and throbbing < insert quirky penile anachronism here. >

I found a few at the recycling center. Some at Goodwill. eBay.

A couple from my stash;

Not Only Do I Read

but I like to write too.

The altering part you may already have noticed.

This month I am attempting to write a novel. It is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) after all.

So, it's official.

Wish me luck.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lee Child

I am hooked on Lee Child's Reacher series.

Jack Reacher is a former military policeman. He would basically be considered a drifter. Reacher does not own anything and buys what he needs as he goes along, the epitome of the light traveler.

Reacher always ends up in these crazy situations. Although I recommend reading the books in order, the every story is different and based in a new location. So, should you go out of order you will not be completely lost.

I am currently on the waiting list at the library for the newest; The Affair.

1. Killing Floor
2. Die Trying
3. Tripwire
4. Running Blind
5. Echo Burning
6. Without Fail
7. Persuader
8. The Enemy
9. One Shot
10. The Hard Way
11. Bad Luck and Trouble
12. Nothing To Lose
13. Gone Tomorrow
14. 61 Hours
15. Worth Dying For

I also just stumbled across a short story entitled Second Son. About when Reacher was just a kid. Get your copy HERE.

Every single one of the Jack Reacher books has been optioned for a movie. Lee Child once said that they didn't have an actor of the appropriate size and demeanor. Jack Reacher is tall and well-built. Sandy-haired.

So I was rather dismayed to read that Tom Cruise has been cast as Reacher in One Shot

Christopher McQuarrie, who won the 1996 best screenwriting Oscar for The Usual Suspects, is directing.

"People think we should have had an actor that looks more like [how] Reacher is described in the books," admitted Child recently. "There aren't any such actors, so it's much more a question of which actor has the talent and screen presence to create what Reacher does on the screen."
One Shot will start filming in Pittsburgh in September and is scheduled for a 2013 release.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


apparently have always been my preferred reading as a child or to read to my children.

As Halloween approaches, I find I have had these kind of books on my mind and my reading list for the Munchkin. Some of these I read as a child and some I read to the Spawn as a child.

My top 3 favorite Monster books;

A funny monster book. I read The Monster at the End of This Book to the Munchkin's class. They were howling with laughter at this book, and I had to read it twice.

A rhyming counting monster book. One Hungry Monster.

And of course, Where The Wild Things Are.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jamie and Claire....Le Sigh.

I adore Diana Gabaldon. My stepmother introduced me to her first novel, Outlander somewhere near the end of 2000.

I tend to get lost in good books, and want to immediately read another as soon as I am finished with the first. As this was the case here, I was glad I had not read her books before then. It is one of those series that you want to run out and get the next installment of. These are huge books and take Gabaldan years to write. Which is good and bad. Luckily for me, I was able to read all they way through book number 4 and only had to wait a few months before the 5th came out. However, the 6th was 4 years later...and the 7th four years after that and now I am awaiting the arrival of book number 8. 

I just reread the series when I hear the new one is about to come out. As I stated, I am at the age where I can recall the main story, but little details elude me after a certain amount of time. 

I love her view on the series;

The OUTLANDER series started by accident, when I decided to write a novel for practice, in order a) to learn what it took to write a novel, and b) to decide whether I really wanted to do that for real.  I did, and I did–and here we all are, still trying to figure out what the heck you call books that nobody can describe, but that fortunately most people seem to enjoy.
In essence, these novels are Big, Fat, Historical Fiction, ala James Clavell and James Michener.  However, owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they  include…
history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships,
the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses,
gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…
you know, the usual stuff of literature.
How could I not love her? 
This series includes;

Dragonfly in Amber
Drums of Autumn
The Fiery Cross
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone
*still being written* Written in My Own Hearts Blood (just named, according to her blog) 

In a few months we will know if the 8th book is the last book. I hope not, but as we know...all good things must come to an end. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Reader's Companion

I found this book at the Recycling Center. It is meant to journalize your reading.

I think it is a great idea, as I am getting to the age where forgetting is becoming more common.

I used to laugh at my mother for buying the same book twice. Or giggle at her for reading a book and not realizing that she had already read it until she was halfway through.

I have now done both of those things. Dang Karma.

I only like to reread a book, or a series, by choice. Not forgetfulness.

As there are so many books on my to read list, I do not have the time to keep making that mistake. And that I am collecting the books I want for my own personal library, I do not want to buy them multiple times.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lady Emily

I am in love with this series by Tasha Alexander.

Set in Victorian England, these historical suspense novels involve stolen antiquities, betrayal, and murder. Complete with a twisty plot, this is the kind of book I love. 

I found book number one of the series at the Recycling Center. The cover almost deterred me, as I figured it was just another romance. However, I had promised someone a few novels and she does read romance, so I grabbed it for her.

However, one day I was reaching for a quick read. And Only to Deceive was at arm's length. Prepared to be irritated with a sappy love tale, I began reading. I honestly was not expecting much from this book, but it became a book I didn't want to put down. After I finished it, I went and requested the rest of the series from the library. 

The series (in order);

And Only to Deceive
A Poisoned Season
A Fatal Waltz
Tears of Pearl
Dangerous to Know
A Crimson Warning (due to be released October 25, 2011)

I was pleased to discover that there is a bridge piece, Emily and Colin's Wedding: A Tears of Pearl PrequelRead it here. This is a little novella to go between numbers 3 and 4.

Perfect timing for this discovery, as I am currently awaiting the arrival of the fourth book from the library. I am, literally, right between novels 3 and 4. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Emily and Einstein

by Linda Frances Lee

He was a man who didn’t deserve a second chance. But he needed one…

Emily and her husband, Sandy Portman, seemed to live a gracious if busy life in an old-world, Upper West Side apartment in the famous Dakota building.  But one night on the way to meet Emily, Sandy dies in a tragic accident.  The funeral isn't even over before Emily learns she is on the verge of being evicted from their apartment.  But worse than the possibility of losing her home, Emily is stunned when she discovers that her marriage was made up of lies. 

Suddenly Emily is forced on a journey to find out who her husband really was . . . all the while feeling that somehow he isn't really gone.  Angry, hurt, and sometimes betrayed by loving memories of the man she lost, Emily finds comfort in a scruffy dog named Einstein.  But is Einstein's seemingly odd determination that she save herself enough to make Emily confront her own past?  Can he help her find a future—even after she meets a new man? 

Note to readers: I do not read romance novels, and even many books with highly emphasized romantic subplots. Those I ditched in my 20's. Linda Frances Lee is labeled as a romance author, and many of her books look to be in exactly that genre. I giggle at the heaving bosoms, bodice-ripping and silly euphemisms for sex, but I will no longer read any.

I would never have read this book had I bought it instead of checking it out from my library. It was in the New Books section of our library. And honestly the cover sucked me in. I decided to give it a try.

And I am so glad I did.

Once I started it, I did not want to put it down. Second chances. Redemption. Loss. Love. And happily, not a single bodice-ripping. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Annual Visit to France

Like everyone, I have traditions. Even in reading.

There are books I like to read at Christmas time. Childhood favorites that I share with my own children.

Then there is my favorite favorite. The one I reread at least once a year.

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo.

I love this book.

Nothing discernable to the eye of the spirit is more brilliant or obscure than man; nothing is more formidible, complex, mysterious, and infinite. There is a prospect greater than the sea, and it is the sky; there is a prospect greater than the sky, and it is the human soul.

And because of this book, I went to see the musical. (Where I then fell in love with musicals, but that is an entirely different story.)

The best review I ever read for this book came from Amazon. It is not mine, but it could be.  Paul Lehmann (Dallas) plucked the words right from my brain;

Here's my story about how I came to love this book.

If you're an average schmuck, with a job (not in academia), a life, and some curiosity, this review is for you.

If you're a literary blueblood, this review isnt for you. If your sworn enemy in life used to be your closest friend until they disagreed with you about whether Beowulf was a real person, be offended by my apathy and go away. If you had to turn off the TV newscasts on 9/11 because they were getting in the way of your arguments of whether sonnets devalue prose, just move on down to the next review.

I'm not a Literature buff. I tolerated English in high school and college because I had to, skipping what I could, skimming what I could get away with, and bluffing where needed. The thought picking up a stack of books and being dictated a marathon schedule to read them by still makes me bristle with quiet rebellion.

After school I ended up with a job with lots of down time between bursts of madness. I decided to make use of slow time going back and leisurely reading some of the 'classics' that I probably should have read before. Twain, Tolstoy, Dickens, Stowe and others pulled from the titles of Cliff's Notes (Hey, if Cliff says they're important....) Funny, but classics are much more palatable when they are read on a leisurely timeframe. Some I liked, some I couldn't care less about, but Les Miserables was, literally, a life-changing text.

I fell into Les Mis completely by accident. On day I forgot to pack whatever book I was working on that day and dug around looking for something other than Harlequins and Clancys. I picked up Hugo's Hunchback more by default than choice, liked the book, and in the closing commentary a writer mentioned that Hunchback was merely a prelude to his greatest work, Les Mis.

But starting Les Mis was a trial. French words scattered in the text were stumbling blocks. Hugo's text is a jealous mistress- it demands your full attention while reading. Les Mis is not in the genre of modern novels...grab the reader's attention in the first pages or lose them forever. I got bored reading about a bishop's daily routine. It takes 100 pages for the story to kick in. I stopped reading it twice, only to pick it back up a few months later and start all over.

But, as anyone who was read the novel can tell you, those first chapters are essential to the power of the story that follows.

I pushed my way through, got caught up in the current of the story once it began, and floated out the other side a better human being because of it.

Les Mis is a fantastic, detailed journey through human psychology. With 1400 pages, subplots, a cyclone of characters over decades of history, it can be difficult to distill WHAT the book is about into one word, but here's my try: Redemption.

Les Mis can be trying at times. Hugo is very detailed. He takes the reader though various side trips along the way. More than once he spends 100 pages setting up two pages of storyline. But his detail produces a work that is untouched in its ability to reveal the characters.

We see the difficulty in Valjean weighing wealth and praise from the multitudes against "one voice cursing in the darkness."

We see a character in Fantine pulled from innocence with a slow cruelty found nowhere else in lit: being turned for more misery (in surprising ways)like a pig on a split...with a reader helpless to intervene.

I see the police detective Javert as an embodiment of 'the system,'not necessarily as evil as one reviewer suggests. Hugo's penchant for overly-through descriptions adds multiple dimensions to what would otherwise be a flat character somewhere between a Napoleonic Joe Friday and Robobcop. We see Javert recite all the reasons he is right...and Hugo agrees with Javert... but we see that sometimes there is a larger truth than being 'right.'

Writing this a decade later I still see in my mind one of the most powerful images in the story: a middle-aged man and a small girl, both written off by the society around them, each with little in common with the other,walking down a deserted rural road, both clinging to each other because the other is all they have in the world.

For those who are used to watching all the loose ends coming together at the end of every hour of television, Les Mis will be a rude shift. It ends in a way that can be described as happy in its own sense though everyone doesnt ride off into the sunset or end with a joke and everyone laughing.

Frankly, I think it is impossible to appreciate the nuance of the musical without reading the unabridged text.

I finished reading Les Mis for the first time over 10 years ago. I still remember reading the last page, closing the book, and spending hours reflecting on the immensity of what I had experienced.

Girlfriend read it on my recommendation with similar effect.

Friend decided to stick it in his reading lists on my suggestion. When he started, he came to me frustrated with the slow start. "Is all this about the Bishop necessary to the story?" I said yes and he kept reading. A decade and hundreds of classic novels later still names Les Mis as his favorite book.

Shortly after reading it the first time, he recommended the book to yet another colleague looking for something to read to pass the time. As he handed it over, he issued a challenge: "Give me 100 pages, and your life will change."

He did, it did, and I now offer my friend's challenge to you! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011


1888 Victor Hugo, in French. Notre Dame de Paris.

This was a gorgeous book and included a silk cover.

It was a  great save, I think. 

It went on to a collector and I am glad I could find a good home for it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stephanie Plum


by Janet Evanovich.

I think the Stephanie Plum series was the first series I decided to collect. I love these books. A friend of mine suggested them to me after she had read them. Howling with laughter at them, she was.

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter. A terrible bounty hunter with horrible luck and the the penchant for getting into the craziest situations. Her shenanigans do make me laugh out loud.

Worth a read, good for light reading, in my opinion. There is a little recap in every novel, especially regarding characters, so that you never feel lost.

The series;
One for the Money
Two for the Dough
Three to Get Deadly
Four to Score
High Five
Hot Six
Seven Up
Hard Eight
*Visions of Sugar Plums
To the Nines
Ten Big Ones
Eleven on Top
Twelve Sharp
*Plum Lovin'
Lean Mean Thirteen
*Plum Lucky
Fearless Fourteen
*Plum Spooky
Finger Lickin' Fifteen
Sizzling Sixteen
Smoking Seventeen
Explosive Eighteen

* In-Betweeners

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I used to buy a lot of books. I would spend hours every month prowling the shelves, reading blurbs. Checking reviews. Buying anything that I thought might be a good read.

Not anymore.

Not because I love reading any less, but because I am getting to the point where I only want to collect books that I already love. Which means, in my case, that I would like to read them again.

I still peruse the bookshelves, read the reviews and book jacket blurbs. But now I add them to a list. Books I Want to Read.

Usually I check them out from the library, I love that almost every book on my list is available from the library. Due in large part to the ILL (Inter Library Loan.)

Then there are the books from the recycling center. I read the blurb, or in many cases, as there no longer is a book jacket; the first few paragraphs. I can usually tell by the first few pages if I am going to like it or not. Not the story, the style. The story takes at least a few pages to develop, but the author's style will remain constant.

The books I get from there will either be read and donated, kept or altered. Sad, but true, for many books the recycling center is the last stop.

There are 3 types of books I have discovered at the recycling center;

  1. Library Discards: books that are just too old for the library, have a slight musty smell or they have too many copies . These are all fine, they will probably end up in someone's collection. 
  2. Personal Collections: these also are usually fine to add to a reader's collection. They may be dog-eared and doodled in, but otherwise readable.
  3. Destined for the Landfill: some are obviously damaged; warped, torn, missing covers. Foreign. Outdated, like law books or school books. Old atlases. 
I actually try to save as many of the latter as possible. The only ones I cannot save are the moldy ones. I have boxes of books in the attic earmarked for altering. I just didn't want to see them get thrown away. No wonder that one of my favorite school art projects was Trash to Treasure. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I confess......

I am an avid reader.

I devour books, I always have. A fact that used to drive my mother insane. I would spend an eon picking out my book at the bookstore and then be half-way through it by the time I got home.

Which is exactly why I am a library patron. I check out books by the box. I try new authors. New genres.

I also rescue books from the recycling center. Those discarded tomes that have been tossed out of respectable libraries. Some I read. Some I pass along to the school. Bring home to my family.

Then there are the saddest cases, the damaged ones. I can't stand to see a book thrown out. Which is why I bring these home too. These, I alter. I am a big believer in recycling. Repurposing.

So, should you see a book I have altered shown here; fear not, these are not murdered books. The ones I alter are missing pages. Were wet and are now warped. All destined to be thrown into a landfill somewhere.