Friday, October 29, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

In 1999 a small group of people got together with an idea: write a novel in 30 days. The first year there were 21 participants. The number of participants has grown to thousands (165,000 in 2009). Last year more than 30,000 people wrote 50,000 words. This event takes place every year during the month of November.

This year I am taking the challenge. I will attempt to write a novel in 30 days. I will post on my progress weekly here on the blog. I have the beginnings of a plot developing in my mind, and I am excited to get started. It will be an interesting experiment. If you are interested in joining me on this adventure go to to find out more.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Surprising Library Resources

Most people do not use the library fully. They may not be aware of all the great resources available at the local library. Here are some of the resources available for checkout at my library:

-books, books, and more books
-music cds
-books on cd and tape
-sheet music
-playaway books, which is basically a special mp3 player loaded with just one book
-Games for Wii, playstation, and other game consoles
-movies on vcr and dvd
-tv series on dvd
-kidpacks, filled with fun things on a topic (the music one has a video, musical instruments, and books on music)

Resources at my library, not for checkout:

-internet access
-Interlibrary loan, get any book you want from the extended library system
-literacy classes
-Free presentations about community topics
-bulletin board with community information
-children's programs
-teen programs
-family game night with movie
-various animals to see in the children's area
-read to a therapy dog
-interesting displays that rotate regularly

What is the best resource you have found at your library?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Unexpectedly Milo

What if you had an uncontrollable urge to open jars of jelly? Or sing a certain song karaoke? What if you also attempted to keep these urges a secret from everyone around you, including your wife? Milo has been keeping his compulsions secret for a long time, and his life is cracking at the seams.

In his newest offering, Matthew Dicks once again allows a glimpse into the inner world of a troubled individual. Milo, the main character of this book, has compulsions that he must fulfill. He feels that he has been managing pretty well, but the dilapidated state of his marriage indicates otherwise. In his distress, an unexpected discovery leads him to re-evaluate his policy of keeping his compulsions a secret.

For an intriguing look into the world of a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, read Unexpectedly Milo. This book is also for anyone who has ever felt they couldn't be true to themselves. I found myself unable to set this book down, because it so easily showed me the world from Milo's viewpoint.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson, one of my favorite authors, has begun an epic series. The Way of Kings is the first in this series, and it is a great beginning. After reading it my first response was "wow" and my second response was "dang, now I have to wait for him to finish writing the series."

This series has a unique magic system. I have noticed an interesting trend in Brandon Sanderson's magic systems-he tends to use natural phenomena to enhance, control or create magic. It works because he not only seems to have an unlimited supply of ideas on how to do this, but it also makes sense. We, the readers, can wrap our minds around the fact that such-and-such natural phenomenon leads to such-and-such magical result.

In this new series, the magic is an integral part of the story. However, the people and their motives, relationships, and dilemmas are what make the story really great. As a reader, I came to care about the people in this book. I felt their pain, and hoped their hopes.

The great thing about an epic fantasy is that you get to follow the characters and story line over the course of a long time. Ideas are fully explored and developed. The down side to this is that it takes time. Questions are often unanswered from book to book, and the wait between books can be excruciating. I just want to be clear that this isn't a one-tome book. It is the awesome beginning of what promises to be a great series. Now we just have to wait for the rest of the books.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Borrowing

I borrow books from our library a lot. I pay fines when I am late, and have on occasion had to pay to replace a lost or damaged book. I purchase my own books too, but I rely heavily on the library for supplementation to my private book collection.

Sometimes I borrow books from friends. I work hard to keep track of them and take care of them. I think I have returned them all. But I have loaned a lot of books to other people that I never got back. I have become a bit more selective about what books I am willing to loan out. I tend to loan fiction more frequently. I don't like to loan books that were difficult to purchase or expensive to replace. (My definition of expensive is pretty low. I buy most of my books second hand.) My favorite nonfiction books tend to get opened often, so I don't really like to loan those. But overall, that still leaves a lot of books that I am willing to loan out.

The borrowing and loaning of books is an old practice. Abraham Lincoln would walk miles to borrow books from neighbors. Benjamin Franklin founded America's first lending library. Books used to be quite expensive, which encouraged lending through libraries and throughout communities. Even though books are less expensive now, libraries continue to be an excellent resource for many books.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Guinea Pig diaries: My Life as an Experiment

A couple years ago I read A.J. Jacobs first book, The Know-It-All, which I found entertaining. So, when I saw this book on the library shelf I picked it up. The first page of the Introduction drew me in and I didn't put the book down until I finished. The book is about a series of life experiments Jacobs tries out, one month at a time. He attempts Radical Honesty, outsources much of his life, and pampers his wife, among other experiments. These experiments lead to interesting interactions with other people.

One of the things I like the most about the book is Jacob's wife, Julie. She puts up with a lot of strange behavior from her husband, but she seems to pretty much roll with it. It is a lovely demonstration of a committed marriage. No roommate or girlfriend would put up with some of these experiments.

One of the experiments Jacobs attempted was to stop multitasking. He tried to limit himself to doing one thing at a time. (Ironically, I read that chapter while eating. Multitasking at work!) His willingness to take the experiments to extremes is demonstrated throughout the book.

The insights that Jacobs shares at the end of the book about how these experiments effected him long term are almost enough to convince me to try out some of the experiments. I can see how taking something to the fullest can make the big picture become clearer.

This book is a fun non-fiction read. I recommend it for adults. Be prepared for both entertaining stories and a fresh look at some of your every day behaviors.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Abstinence Teacher

I picked up this book based on its cover. The title and cover seemed interesting, and after I read the back I thought it would be good. It wasn't quite what I thought it would be from skimming the description on the back. Here's what I thought I was reading: Abstinence teacher encounters opposition, possibly adjusting her methods.

Basically, the book is about a woman who has taught health for years. She makes a comment that is misconstrued and is then forced by the school board to teach abstinence only when a religious group sues the school. She does not believe in abstinence education, and therefore fights the change all the way. There is also a character in the book who is a member of the religious group, who is struggling with living the religion. These two characters come together in an unlikely association.

This book is written from a very liberal perspective. The religious people are all shown as either fanatics, or private defectors. When the main character discovers that a family member wants to attend church, she comes close to having a panic attack. There is contempt for teaching abstinence, and an insistence on the idea that all teenagers are having sex. No middle ground is ever explored, which was surprising to me. The cover certainly seemed to indicate that middle ground would be explored.

My personal belief is that teenagers should be taught about oxytocin and its powerful bonding effects, and the impact sex will have on their emotions because of this. All people, especially teenagers with their developing selves, should be encouraged to wait longer in relationships before having sex. This idea or other similar "middle ground" ideas are what I was expecting from the book. I feel that the author does the reader a disservice by not at least exploring these ideas.

What bothered me the most about this book: the obvious agenda. Its true that part of the problem was my own expectations. But another part of the problem was the heavy hand of the author. I like to read stories that give me insights into other people's world views. I like to see a situation from a different perspective. I probably would have come away with at least a better understanding of ideas so different from my own, even if I didn't come to agree. I don't like to have another person's world view rammed down my throat. I don't like my fiction to preach at me. I would not recommend this book unless you are anti-religious and liberal.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Wednesday Sisters

I didn't really know what to expect with this book, because the title was recommended to me with no additional information. I knew it was a fiction book, but that was pretty much it. As I began reading it, I initially thought it was just another story about a group of women friends. But it is more than that. The women, brought together by the neighborhood park, decide to start a writing group. They write, read each others writings, and critique them. They meet every week. Their lives go through normal ups and downs, but their friendships and writing brings them strength.

This book is a light, quick read. The friendships are the focal point of the book. I found the book to be entertaining and inspiring. This book would make a good vacation read, if you are looking for something with an interesting story line.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Dead-Tossed Waves

Carrie Ryan's sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth is just as good as the first book. The world continues to be overrun by zombies. This book keeps the story fresh because it takes place in a different location, with its own traditions and beliefs about the zombies. Typically zombies aren't really my thing, but the way that Carrie Ryan writes about people makes the story very compelling and even believable.

When the phrase "the dead-tossed waves" is used in the book it accompanies the most chilling word picture I can ever recall reading. I stayed up late to finish the book two nights ago and the scene is still rolling around in my mind.

If you enjoyed Carrie Ryan's first book, you will definitely enjoy this one too. It is a truly well done sequel. If you aren't sure about zombies, don't discount these books. The characters are so realistic that their struggles carry the book. The relationships and the dilemma posed by a world hedged in by fear are what makes these books great.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Books Finished September 2010

Austenland by Shannon Hale
Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Nuefeld and Gabor Mate
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Steady Days by Jamie C. Martin
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrota
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper