Recommendation: Gilda Joyce: Ladies of the Lake*

51bn2kq1yxl_pisitb-dp-500-arrowtopright45-64_ou01_aa240_.jpgWow, I’ve read a lot of good books this year, but this one may just take the cake as my TOP read of 2007 (so far!). Gilda Joyce: Ladies of the Lake by Jennifer Allison is just so much fun! I love to read, and I love to laugh. But reading doesn’t usually make me laugh. This book is truly laugh-out-loud hilarious. Gilda Joyce is the girl I wish I had been when I was 13. She wears wigs, she solves mysteries, and her personality just LEAPS off the page. I finished the book this morning and–Oh Gilda!–I miss you. Luckily, I see another Gilda Joyce installment hits shelves in August!

In Gilda Joyce: Ladies of the Lake our fearless heroine solves the mystery surrounding the death of a student at an expensive private school that Gilda herself is attending on scholarship. You wouldn’t think a book about a girl drowning could be funny, but this one is! Gilda’s comments are hilarious–I especially enjoyed the goings on in Mr. Pante’s class (that’s Pan-TAY, not Panty!).

Ladies of the Lake is my second encounter with Gilda. I read Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator last summer. Why did I wait so long to read this one? Who knows. But it was worth the wait. The first one is spookier, the second funnier, and both are wonderful. Gilda Joyce fills a niche lots of kids are looking for: a mystery AND funny book. Go get yourself some Gilda Joyce!

*Yuma County Library book

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Recommendation: Pedro Paramo*

Tuesday evening I sent an email to all my fellow clubbers, with the subject: “BOOK CLUB EMERGENCY!” There I was, just 24 hours away from the meeting, and I hadn’t read the book. I had ordered it (on April 17!) from amazon and it hadn’t arrived. Darn that super saver shipping! Luckily, Hilary came to my rescue and even dropped off her copy at my house.

The book: Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. Jenna, who chose this book for our group, is a serious student of literature in Spanish, and I always appreciate her selections. The book is only 122 pages so I could read it in one day. I want to read it again, though, to absorb it a little better. Pedro Paramo has been called the “skeleton” version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Published in 1959, it is an early example of magical realism. A man promises his dying mother he will visit the home of his father, who stole her money and sent her off to live with her sister. The man fulfills his promise, but discovers his father’s town is full of ghosts (literally!). Pedro Paramo is a “dead people” book. Various villagers fade in and out of the novel, they tell their story, then fade away again. The book packs a real emotional punch.

I love Latin American literature. Favorites include Love in the Time of Cholera*, The Hummingbird’s Daughter*, and In the Time of the Butterflies*. I especially like reading Latin American literature here in Yuma. Seeing palm trees and sunshine out the window definitely adds to the experience. The author of Pedro Paramo, Juan Rulfo, wrote less than 300 pages. I’ve read 122 now, and I want more!

*Yuma County Library Book

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Hurrah and huzzah! Remember way back in February when I created my own “Baseball Reading Project?” Well, I finished it this afternoon. I read my five baseball books. I vowed to finish by the start of the season (April 1). And while I didn’t quite make that, I did finish my books! And for someone who is not a baseball fan, this is big. Dare I say it’s a home run? Should I get into the baseball metaphors? What the heck–I’m as corny as they come.

Here are the five books I read for my project:
The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella
The Natural by Bernard Malamud*
Heat by Mike Lupica*
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord*
The Summer Game by Roger Angell

Did I enjoy all of these books? Yes. I will now attempt to rate these books, using baseball terminology. I don’t really know much baseball terminology, mind you, but I’ll give it a whirl.

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy: a single.
This was a good way to start my project. Not as good as Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, but fine. As a native Nebraskan, I love the Iowa setting and the descriptions of thunderstorms. Plus, I learned some famous baseball names, like Tinker, Evers, and Chance. The premise of the story was way too far-fetched, though. And the “romance” part seemed forced–it reminded me of a Star Wars romance. What? They’re in love? What? But, still. Confederacy got the game started.

The Natural: a triple.
The writing is wonderful. I’m a fan of mid-20th century writing and The Natural fit the bill. Like many readers (probably), I’d seen the movie and was completely blown away by the differences between the book and the film. The book is MUCH darker. Just when you think things can’t get worse for Roy Hobbs, they do. I hesitated to pick this book up, but I read it pretty quickly–mostly because I love the writing.

Heat: a double.
I wanted to like this book more. It’s for kids and it was a Cybils nominee. But it didn’t really do much for me. The kids in the book are cute, but–more than my other choices–Heat was just too sporty. That’s probably a reflection of me, not the book. I like my stories character-driven and Heat is baseball-driven. However, just because I didn’t love it, doesn’t mean its target audience (middle grade kids) wouldn’t. I would definitely recommend Heat to reluctant, sport-playing readers.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson: home run!
Although I heard this book was good, I was a little leary of it–I thought it might be too dated (published, 1986). But, it’s not. It is adorably sweet and made me laugh out loud. Oh, Shirley Temple Wong, you are just precious. I think I liked this book because it’s not Heat. It’s not really about baseball at all–it’s about Shirley and her adjustments to American life. Baseball helps her adjust. Only one quibble about this book . . . there’s a scene where Shirley baby-sits her neighbor’s two-year-old triplets, and SHE GETS THEM TO BED! As a mother of (one!) young child myself, I found this a tad unbelievable. If I could find someone who could consistently get my baby to sleep each night, she’d be hired instantly.

The Summer Game: home run!
My husband, who is a huge baseball fan and the reason I started this project recommended The Summer Game. Its author, New Yorker writer Roger Angell, is called the “Poet Laureate of Baseball.” Much more than my other choices, The Summer Game got me interested in baseball. Now, unbelievable as it may be, I want to go see a ball game. The book is a collection of essays, mainly about baseball in the 1960s. I didn’t really like Angell’s play-by-play of the actual games–none of the players’ names mean anything to me. But, I loved his descriptions of the ball parks, weather, and American life. Now I want more Roger Angell. Especially this.

*available at the Yuma County Libraries

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Recommendations: Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie and Library Lion

And now . . . for some children’s lit. I recently checked out a couple of picture books from the library. And now I may have to buy my own copies of both of these books. They are just so good.

Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie written by Judy Sierra and illusrated by Edward Koren
037583218101_sclzzzzzzz_v45272619_aa240_.jpg

Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie is actually kind of gross. It is, after all, about flies and flies are pretty nasty, especially LOTS of flies. But, I found myself saying to Teddy, “Let’s read that again!” simply because reading the book aloud is fun. The rhythm is absolutely infectious, the sing-song rhymes are irresistible, and the story-in-verse contains a lot of emotion. If you’re looking for a fun, one-poem book, go get Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie.

First lines: “Thelonius Monster once swallowed a fly, and decided that flies would taste grand in a pie. That silly guy!”

Thelonius Monster author Judy Sierra’s official website here.
Thelonius Monster illustrator Edward Koren here.

Library Lion written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
076362262101_sclzzzzzzz_aa240_.jpg Of course, I love libraries. I’m a former English teacher, involved with Friends of the Library, and a lit blogger. So I knew from the moment I heard about it that I would love Library Lion. The picture book is about–you guessed it–a lion who comes to the library. Naturally, the lion disturbs rule-loving librarian Miss Merriweather (who wears spectacles and a bun). No one really knows what to do with the lion and, gradually, he makes himself indispensible to library users. But then, guess what, he’s too loud! Please Be Quiet is a Library Rule, and the lion is ashamed and leaves. You’ll have to read this book to find out whether he comes back. But here’s a hint: I cried a little at the end. Yeah, yeah. I’m sensitive. But I’ve got a soft spot for libraries. And, now, for library lions.

First lines: “One day, a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks.”

Library Lion author Michelle Knudsen’s official website here.
Library Lion illustrator Kevin Hawkes official website here.
Interview with Library Lion author Michelle Knudsen at Cynsations.

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Recommendation: Forever in Blue

038572936701_sclzzzzzzz_aa240_.jpg Way back in January, I got to meet Ann Brashares in Phoenix. Oh, that was exciting! And since we had a baby in tow, we got bumped to the head of the line, and Ann Brashares actually spent some time talking with my sister and me. Yes, I had a brush with a famous person.

Well, I finished Forever in Blue, the fourth book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. And it’s a good one. I loved the first book in the series, but *whisper* I didn’t really like the second all that much. I persevered, though, and bought the third one the day it hit the bookstores (it’s great!). Finally, I just finished the series. And, I’m a little sad to say good-bye to Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bee.

More than anything else, I like the “summerness” of these books. They just scream June, July, and August, green grass, flip-flops, and adventures. They make me glad that I am (sort of) in the education biz where we still say, “What are your plans for the summer?”

In Forever in Blue, the girls have come a long way since we met them in the first book. I like that they are still changing and still struggling with growing up. I found Carmen’s struggles especially realistic. Yes, college is wonderful and so much fun. But I’ll go out on a limb and say the first year of college is really not so much fun. I remember finding myself suddenly friendless and missing home desperately.

What I don’t like about this installment, quite so much, is its boy-craziness. The girls are always thinking about boys and boyfriends. Yeah, I suppose that’s realistic, but how about a little girl-power-I-don’t-need-no-man action?

I’d recommend this series to anyone, young or adult, who wants a fun read with well-drawn characters–especially in the summer.

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Reading, Carolina Style

Well, I’m back from hiatus, folks! Thanks for hangin’ in. Several days ago I posted about my Spring Break reading. I wondered what this Spring Break would bring. SB ’07 is very different from its predecessors, mostly because I now have an 11-month-old. But also because instead of hanging around Yuma and taking a jaunt over to Southern California, this year we visited my sister in North Carolina! I only brought one book on the trip because I didn’t think I’d have much time for reading, between taking care of Teddy and gabbing with my l’il sis. Turns out, I finished, not one but two books over Spring Break this year. Without further ado, here’s the Spring Break 2007 list:

Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde by Brad Dimock
It’s a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons by Andrea J. Buchanan

Sunk Without a Sound is the non-fiction version of Grand Ambition and was also the One Book, One Arizona choice in 2005. As a fiction fan, I must say I did like Grand Ambition better. Sunk is a bit too technical for my taste. But, I did like the “mystery” part of the book. The author went into great detail about the people who claimed to be Glen or Bessie Hyde. Since the bodies were never recovered, no one really knows what happened to the honeymooning couple. One woman, claiming that she was Bessie, said she killed her husband then walked out of the canyon. Hmmm . . . . I read this at my sister’s house, while I was nursing the baby and everyone else was asleep. Definitely creepy.

I checked out It’s a Boy from the Wake County library that my sister uses. What a great book! It’s a group of essays about raising (you guessed it!) boys. The essays are about sons, from pre-birth through teenagerhood. Corny as it may be, all the essays “touched my heart” in one way or another. One in particular made me cry when the author described her now-teenage son and remembered when he was a little boy. This book would make a great gift for any mother of a son. (Andrea J. Buchanan also edited It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters).




Wake County Library April 2007

Originally uploaded by pierson_katherine.

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Spring Breaking

Well, howdy loyal readers (if any are left!).  We’ve been visiting my sister in North Carolina for the past several days, and I haven’t been blogging about my reading.  We’ll be back in Yuma tonight, though.  See you soon!

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