Monday, February 28, 2011

Hollywood Stories

The subtitle of this book is "Short, Entertaining Anecdotes about the Stars and Legends of the Movies!" and the book lives up to this claim. Because of my love for Gone With the Wind, the first thing I did with this book was turn to the index and look for Vivian Leigh. I was really happy to see how comprehensive the index was, because this book lends itself to flipping to the back to search out our favorite stars.

The stories in this book are fun to read, and can be shared with the entire family. The author, a Hollywood tour guide, has clearly done his research to find entertaining behind the scenes information. This book brings the Hollywood tour to you.

This is a great book for those times when you have just a few minutes, and want something entertaining to read. It would be great on a coffee table in your home. It would also be a nice addition to any office waiting room. If you love trivia and would like to know some extra stories about Hollywood favorites, this book is for you.

I was provided this book by the author, Stephen Schochet, for free to review.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quote by John Ruskin

"To use books rightly, is to go to them for help; to appeal to them when our own knowledge and power fail; to be led by them into wider sight and purer conception than our own, and to receive from them the united sentence of the judges and councils of all time, against our solitary and unstable opinions."
--John Ruskin

There is so much good stuff in this quote that I don't quite know where to begin. Reading books helps us see life from a new, broader perspective. Every day life is much like a river. We are in the middle, trying to find our way through the rapids. Books, filled with the knowledge of the past, can be like a guide for us. Fiction can help us understand human nature. It can make truths clear by placing it in our minds and our hearts. Nonfiction can give us much needed information, or tell us the important lessons of the past. We can experience the failure and triumphs of others as we read. We can learn from the mistakes and foibles of our fellow men.

Books are messages sent out to the world by their authors. We can ignore them, or we can learn from them. What are we choosing today?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Do Hard Things

Alex and Brett Harris have started what they call a rebelution. It is a movement for youth to "rebel" against low expectations. The Harris brothers lay out a basic plan for how young people can make a difference in the world, and they show how great it can be to do the hard things in life.

I loved this book. Even though I am not the age this book is directed to, it inspired me to aim higher and achieve more. My oldest daughter is now reading the book, and we are discussing it together.

If you were inspired by the book The Fourth Turning, this book will give you hope that the younger generation is on track for the role they will need to play in history. Teens and their parents should read this book. Anyone who is feeling a need for direction will benefit from this little volume.

More information from Alex and Brett Harris can be found at their website here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Her Fearful Symmetry

Would being a twin be like being half of a person? Could you find love, experience joy on your own, or sleep alone? Her Fearful Symmetry uncovers the dark side of being a twin, something that few books delve into. Julia and Valentina are identical twins. Their aunt passes away and leaves her entire estate to them, on the condition that they live for one year in her flat in London. Part of the will stipulates that their mother, who is the aunt's twin, and their father are not allowed in the flat.

Things are strange for the twins from the beginning, because their mother has rarely spoken of their aunt. They are curious about the reasons behind the estrangement. After they arrive in London Valentina begins to feel that their aunt's ghost is in the flat. The story just becomes more compelling as it continues.

This is an interesting, disturbing book. Its final chapters are still rattling around in my brain days after finishing it. It is the kind of book that is great for book discussions with a friend or book club, because of the controversial decisions people make in the book. I recommend this book to clubs, as well as to people who enjoy stories with a twist.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream

How much can a person with $25 and the clothes on his back accomplish in a year? This is the question that Adam Shepard set out to answer. Scratch Beginnings is this story. Follow his journey through homelessness, searching for a job, setbacks, and triumphs. The language and reality of the streets is represented on the page for readers.

I read this book as part of my new nonfiction challenge. It was a great beginning to the challenge. I found the book both entertaining and inspiring.

This is a great book for adults and older teens. The final thoughts that Shepard offers are an insightful reflection on his experience, and a lesson all of us can learn.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Parenting A House United: Changing Children's Hearts by Teaching Self Government

We read this book by Nicholeen Peck as part of my book group a couple months ago. It outlines on of the best parenting plans I have seen. I have been teaching parenting workshops off and on for years, and this book has sent me back to the drawing board. It incorporates ideas that many parenting plans do not include, such as how to teach children important skills and values.

We have been slowly implementing many of the parenting ideas from this book in our home, and it has been great. This book advocates a very involved style of parenting, but the ultimate goal is allowing children to make informed choices about their behavior. And guess what? It works!

To find out more about this book and Nicholeen Peck, visit her website here.

I recommend this book to all parents, and to all those that work with children. This book is self-published, but the lack of professional editing should be overlooked because this is a great resource.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quote by Clarence Day

"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man nothing else that he builds ever lasts monuments fall; nations perish; civilization grow old and die out; new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on. Still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts, of the hearts of men centuries dead."
--Clarence Day

Are we learning from the wisdom of the past? Books can give us so much information that will help us in the here and now, because they impart the lessons of history. But we must access that information by reading, by digging deep for what lies beneath the surface.

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo has this section on how architecture is the library of past civilizations. Before books were common, man left his mark on the world and told his story through massive buildings. Architecture can reveal a lot about history, but books get to the point much more quickly. They reveal the inner workings as well as the outer actions of mankind. We should learn from the stories that our ancestors have left behind, in hopes that it will prepare us for the future.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Pillars of the Earth

I had heard a lot about this book and seen it in the stores. It just hadn't been high on my priority list. I was browsing my library and came across the second of the series. I read the back of that book and decided that perhaps it was time to read Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth.

The book is large. It covers a number of topics, but the main thrust of the novel is the building of a cathedral. The characters were interesting and intriguing. The struggle to fund the cathedral and then build it properly was fascinating to me. Follet explores many of the gritty aspects of life--abuses of the nobility, rape, greed, betrayal, and more are all part of this book. It may be too intense for some readers.

If you enjoy historical novels, this could be the book for you. If you like big books that cover many years and several characters, then you will enjoy this book. This is definitely a book for adults.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pancakes and Reading

Do you like pancakes? I do. We have sourdough pancakes quite a bit at our house. I like to try out different toppings. Some days I will have syrup and other days jam, powdered sugar, fruit, or just plain butter. Most of the time everything is good. On occasion, I will bite down into a pancake to discover that the batter wasn't mixed quite thoroughly enough. Instead of a lovely cooked batter, I have eaten a mouthful of flour. Yuck!

I love reading and books. If I have down time, I typically read. But not every book is a good fit for me. In fact I recently read this one book...well, lets just say that I was ready to kick the author in the shin by the time I finished it. True, I could have just put down the book, but the author had managed to create characters that were both annoying and intriguing. This particular author has written many other books that I have enjoyed, so I continued on with reading. When I got to the end of the awful book, the ending was so disturbing that I cried. The book was just like that mouthful of flour.

If you eat enough pancakes you will taste a mouthful of flour. Its the same with reading. Not every book will be a perfect pancake, but it shouldn't stop you from trying again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Books Finished January 2011

A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin
A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
Daughter's Keeper by Ayelet Waldman
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Hitler's Private Library by Timothy W. Ryback
How to be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward
Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison
Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
Much Ado about Anne by Heather Vogel Frederick
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
Room by Emma Donoghue
Servant of a Dark God by John Brown
Stand for Something by Ken Kasich
The Coming Aristocracy by Oliver DeMille
The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner
The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan
The Narcissistic Family by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty
The Writing Group Book by Lisa Rosenthal
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

*These are books that I have finished reading. This list does not include books that I have skimmed. The list does not include picture books that I have read to my children, nor does it show all the other reading I have done. These books were finished in this month, but some may have taken considerable time to read, bit by bit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Miracle of Mercy Land

Mercy Land is a young woman who works at the local newspaper in a small town. One day, the owner/editor of the newspaper asks for her help with a mysterious book. As they read this book, they learn about the people in the town. The book shows them the entire lives of many of the people they know. Mercy doesn't realize it, but the newspaper owner takes the book as a call to action to right an old wrong.

This book is interesting because it explores a big what if question--what if you could go back and change a mistake you made? What else would it change? Can it even be done? The author explores these ideas in a sensitive, intriguing way.

I recommend this book to all adults and most youth. Parents may wish to preview this book to decide how to discuss some parts with their youth. This book will provide a variety of topics and ideas to discuss. It would be great for book groups too.

You can read chapter one here.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.