cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Reading”

Reader Quotes


One of my daily subscriptions is Dictionary.com. I’m a confessed word nerd. I enjoy learning a new word as much as some people get that thrill from a new tasty food item. Hmm, words are nourishing in a way, aren’t they?

Recently Dictionary.com sent out a list of quotes all about reading books. How could I resist? Here are the favorites gleaned:

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“The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.” 
        Harper Lee

“If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
                                                                                 Jane Austen

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Hope one of these inspired you to grab a book or sit down and write something simple or even profound.

And now it’s back to editing my own writing instead of veering off chasing my email distractions like a rabbit chasing a dog around the yard.

 

Review Round Up: June


My Goodreads barometer blithely informed me of being 8 books behind schedule. The feeling was akin to having the ATM receipt indicating my miscalculation of my debit card ledger, which activated my overdraft. In other words–I was embarrassed. Embarrassed because I am always, always ahead of schedule by a couple of books and feel rather proud of that, thank you very much. Just as I cautiously enter and reconcile my debit transactions in my little brown bank book. I blew it both ways: book and bank account. But no real damage was done. I deposited a goodly amount back into my Goodreads account and my bank account. Whew–budgeting reading and bank accounts, both must be tended to judiciously.

While in Hawaii, I knew I would be sight seeing more than reading. Yet, I couldn’t wait to focus on reading what I wanted, when I wanted with school being out. Books are heavy to pack and wanting to pack light, I only took along three: one for the plane, one for the beach, and one for the flight home. I ran out of books on the third day. One reason is because my husband started in on my beach read, and what I can read in two days, he will read in a week. I’m a gulper and he’s a savorer. However, it’s amazing to me how much reading I can actually fit into the day when I don’t have to grade essays or create lesson plans.

No thank you. I don’t do e-books. But thanks for the suggestion.

Not having enough books to read created a wee bit of consternation. Fortunately, being resourceful, I located the hotel’s freebie library in the lobby. Unfortunately, the collection consisted primarily of romances and mysteries. I succumbed to reading one of the romances. The story wasn’t too awful. Okay, it was way awful. I skimmed much of the plot. I felt desperation set in and I didn’t want to bug the hubs too much ( “aren’t you done with that book yet?”). I think I began having withdrawals because I started devouring all the tourist magazines my husband had been bringing back to the room from the various stores and restaurants we visited. He consulted these as a general would plan an assault, carefully laying out our daily excursion menu. I didn’t mind seeing the sights as long as we included beaches. I got a temporary fix for my reading on our second day. While he explored the Princeville Shopping Center I explored its library. I scored a mystery about a library director who solves a murder(I kid you not) and he found a grocery store. We both made out well.

Overall, June’s Reader Round Up is a bit eclectic. Here are the top three picks. The rest of my choices are found, as always, at my Goodreads site.

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image: Goodreads

Bauer’s informative, approachable method of reading various subjects–history to novels to plays to poetry–makes sense. She presents a method to take reading, the means of furthering one’s education to a deeper level. It’s rated four stars merely due to being somewhat incomplete in its works list. The updated revised edition should remedy this.

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image: Goodreads

A reread–and I appreciated the story even more this time, having read most, if not all, of the books Mattie had devoured in her quest to further educate herself. As Mattie discovers for herself that life is not what books present. She learns that life is complicated, messy, unfair, and happy endings aren’t a given. Mattie also learns that sometimes truth and opportunities can become both a burden and freedom.

Found in the YA section, it’s one that is so riveting and so well-written, it should be read by anyone who seeks a well-researched historical novel that is a story within a story. A definite five star.

 

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image: Goodreads

I have read and appreciated Robert Whitlow’s books in the past and when I spied this on the giveaway shelf at the hometown library I grabbed it for the trip. This is the book I had looked forward to reading while sunning, the one I loaned out to my husband. The one I didn’t get to read until we got on the plane going home. At least I converted my only-reads-nonfiction hubby to expand his horizons.

Many people compare Whitlow’s writing to Grisham’s, in that he mainly writes legal thrillers, yet his plots have more faith-based aspects than Grisham’s, and Whitlow sometimes selects difficult, uncomfortable topics. For instance,  I almost didn’t read The Sacrifice since it is about someone planning a school shooting, which is  misleading. It centers more on a young attorney who is in the process how he handles relationships with family, friends, and faith, while he defends a troubled youth. Whitlow weaves in a couple of subplots that kept me guessing in terms of the identity of the school bomber. Fast-paced, excellent characterization, The Sacrifice is a legal mystery that provides a strong faith message without being preachy. I will be on the lookout for more Whitlows at the library. Five stars.

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image: Goodreads

The perfect summer vacation read. It kept me intrigued during the six hour flight to Kauai and helped me get through the early morning jet lag adjustment as I read it under the covers while the hubs snoozed. Heitzmann effortlessly weaves a tale of interpersonal drama that is laced with deep secrets that are need of airing so healing can begin. Faith, grace, and salvation are woven into the plot in a way that the message is a natural part of the story and not a tacked on sermon. Only a couple of plot holes or questions about Rese obtaining the villa and how the inn seems to function sufficiently with only a couple of intermittent guests, Yet it’s not enough to detract from such a well-developed story, one with plausible authenticity. The hallmark is that each featured character is developed fully. I look forward to the rest of the series. And I confess this is a reread, but isn’t summer the best time for reacquainting old friends while finding new ones? Four stars.

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image: Goodreads

A review book from BookLook Bloggers. An upbeat contemporary YA retelling of the Cinderella theme: good girl, harsh stepmother, stepsister rivalry, unfair favoritism, a prince of a fellow, a happy ending. Christina June saves the plot from being sappy with some snappy twists such as a spunky, creative protagonist by the name of Tatum who makes her dreams come true instead of waiting for a fairy godmother to change the situation. The fairy godmother in this case is a lively abuelita who plays bunco and watches reruns of The Golden Girls. As for the stepmother, she’s definitely harsh, but not evil. And the stepsisters? Only one–and she’s working out her own issues with her mother. The prince is a half Irish cello-playing musician who is almost too good to be true. Lots of plausible humor and drama with a healthy dose of life lessons worth noting. Four stars.

 

Author Spotlight: Sir Conan Doyle


While on vacation I picked up a Dover Thrift Edition of four Sherlock Holmes stories–a bargain at 35 cents at the corner library. Ages ago I read through all the Sherlock Holmes books and stories I could find. Or I thought I did. I did not recognize one of the stories, which was a bonus treat.

While I do relish a good Holmes story, I have been a fan of most of the Sherlock Holmes adaptations–Basil Rathbone was a bit over the top, Benedict Cumberbatch is a bit too loose with creative license for my tastes–I’m a bit of a purist, which is why while Robert Downey Jr. is entertaining, he is not Sherlock (he even admitted in an interview the series was for the “kiddies). Jeremy Brett of the BBC series is by far the epitome of Holmes. He interpreted Doyle’s detective as being an intelligent, if not a genius, English gentlemen whose inductive reasoning skills profited him many an adventure with his faithful friend and partner in sleuthing, Watson.

Holmes and Watson remain favorites of literature and film, which is evidenced by the myriad forms of satire and pastiche that abounds. That is a post for another day.

Unfortunately, as most fans know, Doyle was not keen on Holmes, stating that he could not move forward with other writing since the public only wanted more of Holmes. This is why Holmes was tossed over the waterfall in his battle with the Professor. This didn’t work out so well for Doyle. The fans went mad, magazine subscriptions were cancelled, and Doyle had no choice–Holmes once again appeared in print.

Holmes is not the first literary detective, even Doyle points to Poe’s stories for inspiration. There is also Christie’s Poirot, among other famous detectives. Yet, what makes Doyle’s detective stories so memorable?

First of all, Holmes is a dynamic, unique character possessing an air of mystery while he conducts the sleuthing of mysteries. Websites and fan bases are set up to explore his parentage, siblings, relationships, and personal preferences. Then there is Watson, who adds reality to the idiosyncratic nature of our Baker Street hero. Watson is a soldier, a gentleman, a doctor, a husband, a friend, but he is not a bumbling doofus, as he is so often presented to be. I do like Jude Law’s take on Watson.

Doyle’s stories are full of intrigue and strange situations. He plays with clues, creates plot twists, and red herrings while providing an assortment of interesting characters such as Lestrade, Moriarty, Mary, Mrs. Hudson, and his Baker Street Irregulars. There is no formulaic approach. Each story is unique in its formation, even though the reader knows there is a mystery to be solved, it’s the getting there that makes Sherlock Holmes stories so worthwhile.

And to think Doyle wasn’t content with having created such a memorable literary icon. Holmes almost fell out of circulation by becoming a washed up sleuth.

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.jpg

So–do you prefer to read Sherlock Holmes through his many stories or do you watch him through film or television series?

Who is your favorite interpretation of Sherlock?
Basil Rathbone?
Jeremy Brett?
Benedict Cumberbatch?
Robert Downey Jr?

 

 

 

 

Reading Round Up: May


I’m still seven books behind my Goodreads goal. Drat and double drat. I had hopes of finding an engaging series and get involved in some serie-ous reading. My hopes were dashed *sniffle*.

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Feeling a bit snookered after investing some time in the first two Mary Russell books by Laurie King. After avoiding The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for several years,(Sherlock mentors a teenage girl?!?) I relented and read it and begrudgingly liked it. Moving on to book two, the title should have warned me off.
What a disappointment. Hardly any Holmes, Mary is some kind of savant who is six feet tall, can best Sherlock at chess (not often), solve mysteries, and is an heiress attending Oxford for theological studies yet is a burgeoning feminist in the days of Victoria. She wears pants and has has martial arts skills. This girl is busy. Oh, she does wear glasses–I guess she is a sort of Wonder Woman/Clark Kent,

While the first book held my attention when Mary was merely Sherlock’s protegee, I lost interest through major parts of book two as she came into her own at 21. Way too much speech making about feminism–it was monstrous, indeed. The ending nearly had me throwing the book across the room. Sherlockian purists be warned.

I would definitely appreciate a series that is Sherlock and not schlock. A mystery-solving detective not focused on blood, broads, and bad language. Or is that too tall an order? Open to suggestions…

 

187977An overlooked book that combines several genres: fantasy, science, adventure, maybe even a smudge of magic. A group of genius teens are awarded the privilege of spending their summer at a science camp with an esteemed scientist. They discover his true reason for selecting them is they each possess a talent that will help unravel the mystery of lost mammoths.
Lots of adventure contained in a well-crafted book, published by Perceval Press. The reader audience is difficult to suggest as it’s sporadically illustrated, something elementary students like, yet the vocabulary tends toward YA; however, the plot is so engaging I didn’t feel like I was reading a kid’s book.

BtW–Perceval Press was founded by Viggo Mortensen, who is said to oversee each of the twelve books that the company publishes each year. The book I read had been donated to our high school by Viggo. In fact, it’s one of two books that were given to the graduating class of 2006. Here’s the why:

One day, in a small barbershop, in a small town, Viggo Mortensen struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to him, who didn’t have a clue who he was talking to. The guy was the outgoing high school principal. Interested, Viggo asked him what he thought was the biggest problem facing the school. The principal said, “reading.”
It’s not clear what aspect of reading the principal thought to be the problem, but out of that conversation the principal received a phone call from Walter Mortensen, who represented Perceval Press. He said Viggo wanted to donate two books to each of the 350 graduating seniors. Each senior received two books written by Mike Davis: Land of the Mammoths and Pirates, Bats and Dragons. In addition, they received two bookmarks and a handwritten copy of a note from Viggo wishing the students well.

One of those seniors was my son, and I thought it time to read at least one of those books.

Some day I’ll relate the part two of the story, in which my sons met Viggo at one of his art shows and discussed books, if only briefly.

 

Review Round Up: March 


Nothing like Spring Break to throw off a blogging routine! Take a little R&R and the regiment of writing piffles away. The excellent part of R&R is the time to read instead of time spent grading essays. While I didn’t get down to business on my own writing as planned, I did get into quite a few great books. Here are the top picks for March.


image: Margaret Atwood.ca

There is a slew of Shakespeare retellings out there, and my request for Margaret Atwood’s Hagseed, her version of The Tempest, finally came through at the library. The basic plot is Felix, a well-known director, whose overly creative approaches to theatre, is ousted by his protege. Seeking exile in a dilapidated farm house, our hero has a rough time of it until he takes a gig at a prison to bring Shakespeare to the inmates. 

While it was difficult to get into the story at first, Atwood’s version of The Tempest won me over once the inmates began acting out the play. Their fresh approach made The Tempest stand up and become more relevant to present day concerns.

All the new revisionments of Shakespeare’s plays tend to be hit or miss in their approach. More misses than hits. Yet, Atwood, being the maestro of imaginative tales herself, gamely applied her own brand of magic to Prospero’s tale and conjured up an agreeable story within a play which plays upon the story.

The best part of her adaptation was having Felix, the artsy, exiled director, explain the play to the inmates. Valuable education stuff. Should I ever choose to teach The Tempest I shall delve into Ms. Atwood’s classroom references.


image: Goodreads.com

I’m not sure how this book got on my TBR list as I shy away from tragedy stories, especially ones about 9/11. And this story had yet another tragedy story woven throughout–the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911. I got over my initial “read or not to read moment” and found myself involved in an amazing story that speaks well towards the gifts of grace, forgiveness, and redemption.

The parallel stories of lost love due to horrendous circumstances is skillfully and eloquently written. Susan Meissner infuses her stories with rich prose and an underlayment of faith that provides a richly satisfying read. The characters transcend their paper boundary and imprint. I looked forward to my reading time and spent most of one Saturday intrigued by Clara’s choices and Taryn’s painful healing. I cried. And laughed. It’s been a while since that’s happened with a book. 

My second book by Meissner. I’ve now loaded her other books on my TBR list. I can take a bit of tragedy in my reading when the story had such a powerful message attached.
image: Goodreads.com
As a sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer, the story continues in following the historical fiction of Shakespeare’s acting troupe. While the action is not as lively as the first book, there is still plenty of intrigue as readers follow Widge’s determination to find his place as a player in the Chamberlin’s Men. The primary audience is middle readers or even young adult, yet I’m always game for a Shakespeare story.

The black plague is a definite presence throughout the story and Blackwood’s attention to detail creates an engaging insightful look into the times of England’s Renaissance.

Reader Roundup: February


Achieving last year’s goal of 101 books I’m game enough to try again this year, which means I need to keep to my quota of reading around 8 books a month. I definitely read more in January while still on Christmas Break. Grading essays, unfortunately takes precedence over my own reading choices. Good news being I’m not behind schedule. I’m just managing so far two months into my new reading year. Maybe I can get to those books languishing on my TBR list when Spring Break pops up next month and even get ahead.  Here’s February’s top picks:

 Will’s Words by Jane Sutcliffe/illustrated by John Shelley 

image:janesutcliffe.com
Absolutely delightful. A fine feast for Shakespeare aficionados, blending facts about the Bard with Where’s Waldo-like illustrations reflecting life in Renaissance London. Readers learn about the theatre, actors, acting, and a bit about the playwright. A great read for all ages.

Sense and Sensibility
by Joanna Trollope


image:Good Reads

So far, I haven’t been enthralled with any of the Shakespeare or Austen projects. The authors usually try too hard to parallel the plot with awkward adjustments or they try too hard to shake things up that it becomes teeth gritting to turn the pages there is such a disregard for the original story.

Not so with Trollope’s rendition of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. The first few pages were a bit teeth gritting as I found Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor transported into the 21st century complete with smartphones and potty mouths. So unlike Austen. But then Trollope puts her own spin on it all and it begins to stand on its own having echoes of Austen instead of mimicking her commentary on money/marriage society. Trollope even sticks in a meta-comment about women who hanker after meddling into people’s lives, suggesting things haven’t changed much. I suppose not. Except gossip in the culture circles is made faster with texting and Facebook updates.

Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty 


image: Good Reads

Maybe I started out with greater expectations in reading my first Eudora Welty novel. I chose the slim Delta Wedding as a tryout and found it difficult to connect with in terms of following a plotline. The story blurb explains that a young girl travels to her relatives house during the week before her older cousin’s wedding. Set in the 1930’s in Mississippi ‘s delta country, I looked forward to the relationship tangles and intricacies of a Southern family. Instead, the story has no firm point of view and is a kaleidoscope of images, thoughts, flashbacks all jumbled together in fits and starts. No smooth reading, and it became a chore to get through it. Hearing much about Welty, I’m looking for another of her novels in hopes of a better experience.

The snows February are still lingering which means little chance of going outside. Spring is supposed to be just ahead. And I will be glad to leave winter behind and get outside once again.

Review Round Up: January


I began a new Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2017 in January. I made my goal of 101 books (with a couple to spare) for 2016, so I thought “why not?” let’s see if I can achieve it again–maybe I’m pushing it. After all, to hit my goal I need to read at least eight books a month. So far so good. Of the eight books read in January here are my top picks:

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

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The main problem with patterning a storyline after Hamlet is the knowledge there will be no happy ending. This is especially true when the main idea is about a boy and his dog–Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows–case in point.
However, I plunged ahead because I am always open to a Shakespeare retelling, especially if it’s Hamlet.
As a debut novel, it’s ambitious, to say the least. First of all, it takes on Hamlet. Secondly, it weaves the story around the complicated business of dog breeding. Then there is the unique physical attribute that Edgar (the story’s Hamlet) was born without a voice. What he saw he could not easily tell. Pun or a deep metaphor? I haven’t decided.
The story also provides unusual omniscient point of view chapters. We even hear what the dogs are thinking.
It works. (four stars)

 

Rory's Promise

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A fascinating insight into another historical aspect of the Orphan Train. The Foundling Society of New York administered by Catholic sisters provided a clean, safe environment for orphans, a much different perspective than the more widely known Children’s Aid Society who ran the Orphan Trains that went out West.

The protagonist, Rory, refuses to be separated from her sister and risks her life to keep her promise that she would watch over her.

Based on historical fact, and the meticulous research is evident in the story. (four star)

 

 

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A throwback to the days of Greyhound travels and 1950s culture and values, Last Bus to Wisdom is a coming of age novel busting with wry mirth. Seemingly a combination of Little Britches and Mark Twain adventuring, Ivan Doig’s last novel truly is a wise choice of reading. (four star)

 

These three novels got me through the bleak days of January’s wintry blah days of icy cold and snow. A good book (three–score!), a cup of cocoa, and a crackling fire. Hmm, that’s what I call Book Booster happiness.

Reading Challenge Update


I nearly doubled my Good Reads Challenge goal and with the year starting to approach closer to the  deadline I have been wondering if I overreached my ability to meet it. A bit of hubris snuck in with my page turning, I suppose.

Well, those good folks at Good Reads have been quietly watching my progress and sent me an encouragrment:

 

2016 Reading Challenge

Hi Cricket,

The end of the year is fast approaching—let’s check in on your 2016 Reading Challenge.Congrats, you’re ahead of schedule!

You’ve read 86 of 101 books. (85% complete)

22,871

Pages Read

1

Audiobook

3.89

Average Rating


Surprise!
I just might make my 2016 Reading Challenge after all. With some quick calculations and the Good Reads Count Down calendar, I have 15 more books to go in 77 days. Can she really and truly make it?

Anyone rooting for me?

Hey–I’m open to suggestions. Click on the link above and check out my titles. See one missing you think I just absolutely must have? I actually get most of my reading suggestions from my blogster Book Boosters.

Anyone else in the midst of a reading challenge ?

Paper or Plastic?


“I would rather have a hard copy, if that’s okay.” This is from a new AP recruit wanting the summer reading text How to read Literature Like a Professor in book format rather than the PDF version I found on-line. Curious, I asked why. Her response? She had difficulty connecting with the on-screen type. Not what I expected from eyes way younger than mine. I, of course spout off about how much I prefer hard copies to e-copies as well because of my need to connect sensory-wise and as I’m talking, I’m flipping pages and smelling them and listening to them and when I finally notice my student nodding and edging toward the door, like she’d really like to leave because I’m a looney lady (more than one student has commented on me being a bit crazy), I hand over the book and wish her a great summer.

I am a looney lady when it comes to books–hence the Book Booster thing I do. Books aren’t just a pasttime or a channel of information, they are an introduction. Ahem, a new quote from moi:

A book in hand is a friendship in the making.

Beyond making a new friend, there is joy, a celebration of the senses holding a book in hand. I’m talking honest to goodness REAL paper-in-hand book. I do so enjoy paper, maybe that’s why I always answer “paper” instead of “plastic” at the store. Perhaps it’s because paper comes from trees and trees come from the earth and holding a book bound in paper produces more connection to the world around me.  I have little or no sensory connection to my plastic e-reader even though it’s a book in hand.  Oh oh–I feel the looney lady coming on and before I go on about trees, books and their connection to the world and mankind, here is my list of reasons for preferring a book of paper when reading:

1. Smell: that inky pungency stimulates my imagination to anticipation

2. Hearing: the flip-swish of pages signifies my involvement and commitment and helps me to further escape

3. Taste: no, I don’t lick the book, but reading a paper book whets my appetite for setting aside time to open up the pages to fall into another time, another place, another person’s story

4. Touch: there has got to be a study out there concerning the connection between the tactile aspect of reading and brain synapse when communing with a book–I am so much more involved when I am holding the book instead of just listening to it by audio or thumbing up a new screen. Think about this: glass does not conduct electricity, which means no synapse boost. Plus, when I see my book lying on the bed, table, chair it beckons me to pick it up, so there must be a some kind of magnetism involved.

5. Visual: perhaps the most notable because of the cover has all those colors and interesting bits to feed my eyes and mind, and then, of course, there all those illustrations and photographs and drawings sometimes waiting inside.

I’ve shown this video before, yet it definitely illustrates the visual appeal of books.

Reading is definitely a sensory experience for me.  What about you?  Paper or plastic?

September Reading Round Up


Now that school is up and running my life, I’ve noticed a downturn in my reading. It’s difficult to cozy up with a book when a set of papers is calling from down in the depths of my carry all: “Grade me.” Guilt has a persistent voice.

Here are the slim highlights of last month:

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend 


I had hopes of really liking it and saved it for my last hurrah Labor Day weekend read. It began with great promise with its unusual beginning of naïve Swedish tourist, a funeral, and a quirky smalltown. The premise that a good book solves a multitude of problems sweetened the deal. All went well until mushy middle syndrome overtook the plot. I finished it, but my amore had definitely lessened by the last chapter.

Running out of means to find DE Stevenson novels, which are not as readily available as hoped, I’ve turned to another former favorite: Mary Stewart. Our library has several of her titles. They are quite the study in character, red herrings, and setting. Here’s one title I especially enjoyed:

My Brother Michael

                               

Reminiscent of her Moon Spinners, which also is a Disney movie with Haley Mills–highly recommend.

Greek scenery, really bad guys, wonderful good guys, lots of action, hints of romance. Perfect weekend read.

I Capture the Castle

                          

 Smith of 101 Dalmations fame has quite a following for this little gem. It quietly sneaks up and embraces the reader with his odd litttle charm.  A family  comprised of distinctly creative individuals have fallen from a once prosperous lifestyle into despairing poverty. This seems like an juxtaposed statement since they do live in a castle, after all. Their surroundings reflect their wealth of spirit, not their income.

Odd, lovable family, hilarious hijinks, misunderstandings, memorable characters, the perfect ending. A book which sets my faith into the fact that some of the really good reads come from another era.

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