29 June 2011

Do you read at the pool or the beach?

I read at the pool. I read at the beach.
I love the water and I love reading.

The two do not seem very compatible. At times they certainly aren't.

Previously I decided the risk of the cost of a ruined book was worth the pleasure of combining the two activities. 

Here is one of my favorite photos of my brother doing just that:

Here's what my hubby likes to do at the beach.

...and I can't really argue with that either!

Now that I have an ereader I still want to read when I go to the beach or the pool.

Here is how I handle my ereader so that I don't ruin it when I am near water:

Yes, it's just a gallon-sized Ziplock baggie. That's all that's necessary, right?

Kindle sells a waterproof cover but I think it is even uglier than my simple and inexpensive Ziplock.

Anyway, the point is that there are options available to users of ereaders who want to enjoy reading while near the water.

New Version TrendyDigital WaterGuard Waterproof Case for Kindle 1, 2,3 (First, Second and Third Generation Kindle), Blue Border

28 June 2011

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

When you were young did you ever wonder what would happen if your parents died?

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius   

I did.

When I was about 15 or 16 my dad became quite ill; he was hospitalized for a while and almost died. We knew that the possibility of is death was a very real thing. The tension was staggering. I was the oldest of six kids. 

What do you think the second thought on  my mind was at the time? 
~"What if something happened to Mom too?"

Thinking back on it now I can't believe that there wasn't some sort of plan in place and 
I really believe there wasn't. By that point we either had no grandparents living or just one who was old and very ill. We had one aunt on my mom's side and she was divorced and pretty frazzled with the raising of her only son. We had one uncle on my dad's side who seemed like a possibility as they were raising three kids as old or older than myself; but we weren't really close to them emotionally and I can't imagine the financial burden of raising six kids on top of the emotional strain.

Really...who's going to raise SIX kids that aren't their responsibility?

I was certain that I'd do it. I really thought I could. I was also certain that the only possible solution I could imagine was for us kids to be split up among different people; family...close family friends... I was determined that if that had to happen due to my young age, I would work to be able to take custody of everyone as soon as I was old enough.

Dave Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius explores a very similar situation that really happened.

Yes, he works very hard to convince the reader that it is fictional, at least only based on truth; his truth. My friend and I both feel that he doth protest too much though. We believe it is autobiographical. 

At the age of 21 Dave and his older siblings expected their mother's death; sooner than later. What they didn't expect was a death-sentence-diagnosis for their dad that resulted in his almost instantaneous and previously unexpected death.

Their youngest sibling was 7 years old. It was decided that Dave would take on most of the responsibility of raising Christopher ("Toph").

Dave gives word to feelings all parents experience at one time or another. It seems that perhaps he experiences them more frequently though. 

As the mom of five kids ranging in age from 5 to 15 I admit to having experienced most of the concerns he explores. In truth, I've wondered as he did whether or not something horrifying might happen to one of my children due to the awful selfishness I've exhibited by needing a bit of "me time" or "us time" for my husband and me. Overall, I've always been able to keep those feelings from ruining life for all of us. They are crippling thoughts but I've never allowed them to cripple me. Can you imagine the "case" I'd be if I did. Five kids, remember?

So, Dave explores all of this.
He does so with a book that is mostly written as a string-of-consciousness-sort-of-thing. My brother pointed out that such writing can become exhausting or annoying. I felt that due to the subject matter it really worked though. I liked it. I could feel what he was feeling.

Dave really cornered my market when he was thinking about how lucky Toph was to be hanging out with him and how lucky he was to be exposed to the great music Dave enjoyed... Oh yeah. He even explored the idea of homeschooling Toph because he was envious of how much time the teachers spent with him.

As a mom who homeschooled all of our kids until our oldest was finished with sixth grade, and then some others longer, I attempted to expose our kids to the best of everything from all time periods: books, movies, music. There is so much more to life than today's available choices. Still, one worries about recreating yourself via your children (if we're honest). That is not something we wanted to have happen. We only want for them to be well rounded individuals who can related to people of all ages.

Here is a quote that expresses part of Dave's obvious concern:

"...when someone noticed him (Toph) for being him(self), we would all have to stand back a second and see him for what he actually was, at least superficially: a seventh-grade boy. Of course, he had a difficult time discerning, himself. He had recently made this clear, when he and Marny and I were driving back from the beach. She and I were talking about one of the new interns, who, at twenty-two, was much younger than we had assumed~
"Really?" said Toph. "I though he was our age."

Sure, mistakes were made in the raising of Toph.
We ALL make mistakes. All. The. Time.

The real point is the great love fostered between the two. They grew and they grew together. They were a team, united. They made the best of a horrifying situation. they made it work.

I appreciated Eggers' raw honesty.

Oh...I also appreciated the sense of humor he exhibited in the titling of his book.
He acknowledged the fact that everyone who would read his book would be able to pick it apart. They'd be able to find a million and one things wrong with it; and so he poked fun at the self-inflated idea of writing a book about yourself, about your own loss, and expecting others to read it.

I read it.
I liked it.

27 June 2011

I'm tough on traditional books these days.

Recently a friend sent me a few books to read.

(Love that!)

It has been about a year now that I've been mostly reading via my NOOK ereader.

I am very careful with my NOOK. I have never spilled anything on it. It's never been damaged.

I practically ruined the book my friend sent me...

Somehow I managed to get the top edge of the pages wet while reading it at the pool. That doesn't even make sense; it should be the bottom edges that are more likely to become damaged by water. I spilled some food on it while eating (gross). The binding is coming apart; it's literally falling apart.

I'm always thankful for book but my ereader serves me quite well; I'm glad I have it.

I'm also glad I bought the two-year warranty for it because it's obvious that I am not as careful as I'd like to think I am.

Of course I will do what I am able to repair and save the book. I enjoyed the book very much and will keep it on my shelves for someone else to read and enjoy too!

24 June 2011

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Okay, so we read this in Literature class sometime during middle school; probably my 8th grade year. I completely forgot that I had read it until a friend and I began discussing the books we'd been assigned in school. I guess I was underwhelmed the first time through.

That makes sense though. My 14 year old self could hardly have been interested.

Since that time I have: married, given birth to five kiddles, homeschooled, and moved a family from the Chicago area to the SW suburbs of London, and traveled to Paris twice. I can easily see that my life, well lived, has given me a greater ability to appreciate this classic piece of literature.

I was going to try to read this apace with our daughter as she read it for her Honors 9 English Lit class. I failed to keep up but then, I was reading over ten books at once. If the book had been assigned to me I would have struggled with reading it on the time schedule assigned. If I choose to read a book I don't struggle with it so. I also seem to glean much more from my reading when I have read by choice. My choice was, however, at least partially determined by the fact that I felt I should read the book.

This book is about the French Revolution, with its opening setting being 1780. What a bloody travesty it was. The actual Revolution was from 1789-1799 and consisted of the overthrow of absolute monarchy that was eventually replaced by government that formed upon the basis of citizenship and inalienable rights.

I don't doubt that revolution was an evil necessity; it's still very unfortunate though. Not all good came from it either. I find support for that belief in this quote from page 210:

"A revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty of fifty thousand revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected, which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered over any good and innocent person to bad and guilty one; prisons gorged with people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no hearing; these things became the established order and nature of appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were many weeks old. Above all, one hideous figure grew as familiar as if it had been before the general gaze from the foundations of the world~the figure of the sharp female called La Guillotine. 

It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for the headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied."
~pg 210

Whew. If you are still with me then surely you see the despair apparent in those two paragraphs. In an effort to bring freedom to the masses the masses exculpated themselves as they made everyone live in daily fear and obeisance to the newly powerful...themselves. One is not really any better than the other; one is not a loftier ideal if both result in the same things, even temporarily. But, then, how does one manage a revolution without such things as bloodshed? It's a quandary for certain. Sacrifice of the innocent is more than regrettable though, even if ultimate good comes of it. As we lived in England for over two years we saw contemporary evidence of humanity's attempt to supersede the ultimate importance of Christ and his sacrifice for humanity. There is an abundance of beautiful churches all over Europe that are, today, used for a multitude of purposes other than worship of the Almighty.

This quote, toward the very end of the book laments my same concerns about revolution:

"Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day's wine (sacrificial blood) to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind."
~pg 286

It seems that Dickens thought a lot about revolution. He appears to believe that there are certain inevitabilites...at least when certain conditions occur. Lamentable, indeed.

The novel's depiction of Christianity was, frankly, lost on me in middle school though I do recall the teacher trying to impress that theme upon us. I really hadn't a clue. Now I can see how beautifully Dickens orchestrated all of it. It is a much prettier novel, in that aspect, than I ever could have imagined.

It took me weeks and weeks to finish reading this book. (49 days; I checked) The first part was a little tedious as it took time to build momentum and to get to know all the many varied characters. I read much more quickly once I reached about the middle of the book. I am proud to say that I figured out where Dickens was going with the ending of the story about thirty five pages prior to the final page. I recalled nothing from my prior reading though, other than small bits about the theme of sacrifice and the setting of the Tower of London.

While reading A Tale of Two Cities I was reading no fewer than 10 other books some with intensity, others only in bits at a time and infrequently. 

Once again, this novel is an example of classic literature using a greater number of characters than most modern literature, as well as a very heavy topic. 

Back to characters for a moment. I was surprised that I grew to like Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher much more by the end of the book than I did at the beginning.

I am glad I read it. (Okay, I am glad I REread it!)


Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

The air among the houses was of so strong a piscatory flavour that one might have supposed sick fish went up to be dipped in it, as sick people went down to be dipped in the sea.
~pg 14 of 297

...the time, half-past seven of the clock on a windy March morning, Anno Domini seventeen hundred and eight. (Mr. Cruncher himself always spoke of the year of our Lord as Anna Dominoes: apparently under the impression that the Christian era dated from the invention of a popular game, by a lady who had bestowed her name upon it.)
~ pg 41

Now, from the days when it was always summer in Eden, to these days when it is mostly winter in fallen latitudes, the world of a man has invariably gone one way~Charles Darnay's way~the way of the love of a woman.
~pg 99

If you could say, with truth, to your own solitary heart, to-night, 'I have secured to myself the love and attachment, the gratitude or respect, of no human creature; I have won myself a tender place in no regard; I have done nothing good or serviceable to be remembered by!' your seventy-eight years would be seventy-eight heavy curses; would they not?
~pg 239

It was in vain for Madame Defarge to struggle and to strike; Miss Pross, with the vigorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate, clasped her tight, and even lifted her from the floor in the struggle that they had. 
~pg 284

23 June 2011

I've finished reading two books this week!

I must finally be hitting my summer groove.


My summer schedule is such a wreck. I've resorted to setting daily alarms to prevent myself from forgetting to pick up children who are relying on me!

We've one in high school summer school killing a year's with of American history in 30+ school days and one taking a three week college course in Russian for free. (Score!)

The baseball season for one just ended, as did soccer for another. Our oldest child is on a summer high school travel soccer team (local only, but our first travel team). Baby girl is taking free swim lessons (she needed them) that we received as a bonus for joining our gym. Hubby is playing on a golf league.

The weather's been cool or rainy so I've not been reading at the pool as much and our schedule isn't allowing as much pool time anyway. I'm reading at the gym and at soccer games and, of course, after everyone's fallen asleep!

My schedule will be in this groove for two more weeks. I'm hoping I will continue to see that I am finding more time for reading. As a bonus, one of the books I finally completed reading was A Tale of Two Cities! My review will be posted as soon as I have time to look up and reflect on all the notes I made as I read.

21 June 2011

I tried out the new NOOK...

I popped into B&N yesterday.

I tried out the new NOOK. Unfortunately, I didn't have my original NOOK with me to compare side by side. It struck me that the new NOOK is smaller and at feels lighter. I haven't found a comparison of the weights yet though.

It looks good. I like it. I still like my original though. If one were to be given the choice between the two I'm not sure how the decision would be made. The original model has the pretty color screen that shows book covers whereas the new model does not. However, the new model utilizes all if its space for reading by not having the pretty color covers.

I am still convinced that eInk technology is the best for serious readers who want to convert to reading ebooks. The new NOOK model us affordable and has a friendly user interface. I think it would be a great place for most people to start.

17 June 2011

Prize awarded in honor of my site's 5,000th visitor!

My site played host to its 5,000th visitor this week!

I decided to post an award in honor of that.

Monica was the prize winner. She and I met through our mutual use of Sonlight curriculum about 4 years ago although we had previously known each other online through Sonlight's forum.

I wanted to pick a lovely gift that I thought she would enjoy.

I mailed out her prize today; a $50 value!

Both hardcover titles by Jeanne Marie Laskas:

Fifty Acres and a Poodle


Fifty Acres and a Family: The Exact Same Moon

Monica, I hope you will enjoy your books! Thank you for following my blog!

16 June 2011

How do you read? Pencil in hand taking notes?

I've been thinking about this the last few days. 

I guess I'm a book nerd. There are worse things to be. 

Depending on the book, if I owned it there have been times that I've dog-eared it to death. Pathetic, huh?

When I would come across something unusual I would want go look it up at a convenient moment. There have been times when I would keep a small notepad with the book I was reading. Even so, I'd still have to find time later to look those things up. I've taken notes in my books too. 

I'd pine away "If only I could easily look up the definition of this word right now while I'm reading..."

We've never kept a computer in our bedroom, we've always had a study. I often read in our bedroom or our living room or outdoors. These days our laptop computer may or may not be where I'm reading. If it's with me I can use it to look things up. 

These days I make highlights and take notes as I read, using my ereader. My ereader has a browser if I really want to Google something. My iPhone 4 is more functional for Internet searches though but I usually have it with me!  

For definitions I use my NOOK's inherent dictionary. I take issue with it though. I wish it used a better dictionary. I've actually looked up many words that it has no definition for. I've complained to B&N but they've not made any changes. 

I didn't used to be like this. In school there was little that I hated more than reading. I hated it. Not anymore. These days I want to experience a goodbook to it's fullest. That might really be the issue though. These days I'm in charge  of choosing my reading. 

So...How do you read?

15 June 2011

5,000th site visitor!

Be the first to comment on this post and you'll be considered to be my 5,000th blog visitor!
You'll also receive a small prize from me!

13 June 2011

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

I really wasn't sure about reading this book but I enjoyed it!

Here is the book blurb:

"Bibi Chen is dead.
And she wants to tell you a story.

Busineswoman, patron of the arts and socialite Bibi Chen has been killed in mysterious circumstances. Her death may or may not be linked to the disappearance of eleven American tourists in southern Burma. They are "Following Buddha's Footprints" along the Burma Road, on an expedition dreamt up by Bibi. But when her body is found just days before the departure date, they go without her. Robbed of their guide, it isn't long before the travellers stumble into difficulty with wary tribes and the military junta.
Saving Fish from Drowning

Seduced by notions of Shangri-La, and oblivious to the cautionary cries from the watchful presence of Bibi, they continue on their ill-fated journey, becoming ever more lost in the heart of the Burma jungle ~ where a desperate tribe await their saviour...


Since the book is about 13 people the author had to take the time to intruduce the characters to the reader and that took a while. I didn't have too much trouble remembering the traits of each character though, they were each different enough. As I read this book I experienced the same thoughts the author is investigating in her writing: all actions, even the best, have side effects which weren't intended and are undesired. Is it ever possible to truly choose the best option?

Amy Tan is also the author of The Joy Luck Club which I have not yet read.

I love seeing the differences between American and British versions of books.
My particular book happens to be a British version as I bought it while we were living there. I prefer its cover...but then again it's MINE and I do believe that affects our affinity to our books.

12 June 2011

Developments with regard to ebooks and library lending...

This economy has hit hard. Everywhere.

I am the mom of five kids. When my husband and I sat down last year to really investigate our budget I was stunned to realize how much money I was spending on reading. We lived in England from August 2007 to December 2009. Our budget allowed us to pretty much do as we pleased while we were living there; we were so blessed. In 2010, back in the US, after we analyzed our budget for the year I found that I was spending as much as $80 a month on books sometimes. That's a lot of money. I decided, on my own, that I would reel myself in to some degree.                                    I'll remark on my success with that at the end of this post.

For now, let's get on with the topic at hand:

Ebooks and Library Lending

The propagation of digital books appeared to be the miraculous incarnation of eternal life for literature.

Then Harper Collins realized that there was an avenue that could be exploited.
The decided to limit the number of times an ebook could be lent.


At first thought, this seems reasonable...
A physical book will eventually wear out.

But how soon?
I began to wonder about actual statistics on this and decided to look for some real answers.
I found this wonderful video, created by two librarians. It substantiates that traditional books really do last longer than you'd have ever imagined. I know I'm amazed.


I no longer feel that Harper Collins' restriction holds water.
America's libraries do so much to aid in the education of our people.
I'll tell you that I don't generally support the raising of taxes in America. This country was originally created because of taxation without representation and so it boggles my mind that we've allowed ourselves to be taxed so heavily. One type of tax that I will always consider though is taxes that allow for library expansion ad renovation...
Now...I ask you...isn't that depressing?

And so, what can we do about this situation?


If you would like to contact HarperCollins directly, they have set up an email address:


Honestly, I do believe that publishers may experience a decrease in revenue due to the creation of ebooks and the quickly increasing population of ereader owners. I know that the cost of ebooks is actually a lot higher than I think many were led to believe they would be. I know it's caused me to recently decide that I'd like to find a way to analyze the cost of popular ebooks over time. I have a belief that as the initial popularity of a book slowly decreases, the price will also.

Perhaps this is a legitimate situation in which an independent agency should evaluate the market to determine how best to keep publishers, writers, and libraries in business...as well as making it possible for individuals, like me, to still afford to read.

Now...back to my personal success in lowering my reading-related expenses...

I've read 22 books so far this year.

3 were downloaded from Gutenberg
2 were books bought in 2010 
1 was borrowed from my sister
6  were borrowed from the library
4 were previous purchases
1 was a previous ebook purchase
5 were library ebooks

08 June 2011

Have you wondered about reading books using a "smart phone"?

I bought an iPhone 4 about six weeks ago.

My second phone in about 15 months was about ready to die, as the previous one had.
I decided I needed a more reliable phone.

I mostly need a phone to be a phone; a way to be contacted reliably.
We have five children. That's enough reason, huh?

Of course as soon as I had my phone I downloaded all kinds of reader apps.
I am not more impressed by any one particular app than others. They all pretty much do the same thing; allow you to read books on the screen of your phone.

I read parts of Bill Bryson's "At Home" on my phone last month. I knew I could do that so I purposely left home without my NOOK once in a while so I would have to use my phone to read.

I found that I really do not enjoy reading on my phone.
It's just too small.
I also found that the lighted screen appears to be much harder on my eyes than the eInk screen of my original NOOK.

I am certainly glad that my phone can be used in that capacity.
I won't be switching to my phone for reading though. I'll only use it when it becomes necessary to do so.

Apple iPhone 4 16GBNo Kindle Required - The Complete "Kindle for iPhone" User's Guide/Unlock the "Lightning Web Navigator for iPhone & iPod Touch" (DRM-Free with Text-to-Speech Enabled, User-Friendly)

October Sky by Homer Hickam

I love a good true story.  The movie, same title, is a favorite of ours too.

October Sky (The Coalwood Series #1)

Homer H. Hickam, Jr. had dreams...and he wasn't about to remain in Coalwood, West Virginia. The town was dying, as do miners from the day they set foot into mines. Homer's father, however, was the superintendent of the mine. Fighting your father for the right to your own future can be a very big deal. Sputnik 1 raced across the "October Sky" and grabbed the interest of everyone but especially the interest of Homer and a few of his friends. 

Supporting the dreams of  Homer and his friends was Miss Riley, their chemistry and physics teacher. 

She urged them to enter a national science fair in 1960. The "Rocket Boys" won gold and silver medals for their work in propulsion. Later, Hickam served in the Vietnam War for the US Army. He worked as an engineer for the army and then for NASA. He was also a scuba instructor and has written about that as well as about war-related topics. Sky of Stone is another non-fiction book of his, a follow-up project to October Sky.  Hickam also works as an amateur paleontologist and to his credit are the finds of two tyrannosaur dinosaurs. He has written a fictional novel titled The Dinosaur Hunter. 

October Sky was made into a film in 1999. The film runs extremely true to the book. I was quite impressed by both. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the role of Homer Hickam. Chris Cooper plays his father, while Laura Dern plays Miss Riley. October Sky is also an anagram of "Rocket Boys", the initial title of Hickam's manuscript, which was changed by studio executives as the book was adapted to film. It was felt that the new name would bring with it a broader viewing audience. I imagine that proved to be true.

October Sky (Special Edition)
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