Saturday, October 31, 2009

Women Unbound: A Reading Challenge

Even in my relative newness to Twitter, I still managed to catch the development of a new reading challenge called Women Unbound. The challenge calls for participants to read fiction and non-fiction book related to the idea of "women's studies," which is pretty broad and, as defined on the challenge site, includes books about women and their place in society as well as books about notable women and cultural books focused on women. The challenge runs from November 1, 2009, to November 30, 2010.

I really enjoy reading books with strong female protagonists, and as a history teacher I love to study the contributions of women to history and their changing place in society. So, this challenge seems right up my alley, and I figure I will probably have a lot of books in my TBR pile that will count for this challenge. Right now I'll aim for the Bluestocking level, which is to read at least 5 books, with at least two of them being non-fiction. I've actually worked up a larger list than that of books that I own that I can read for this challenge (and would bring me up to Suffragette level), but I don't want to over-commit myself on this and make it seem like a chore to get them all read.

Here's my tentative list:
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
  • In the Devil's Snare by Mary Beth Norton (non-fiction on the Salem Witch Trials)
  • The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  • Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage by Edith Gelles (non-fiction)
  • The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir (non-fiction)
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  • The Bonds of Womanhood: "Woman's Sphere" in New England, 1780-1835 by Nancy F. Cott (non-fiction)

What My Child Is Reading - October 31

Every week Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns hosts What My Child Is Reading. It's a chance to share the books that our kids love and have been reading for the past week. Today I'm focusing on books my 4.5-year-old son has been reading this week.

My son has really been enjoying Mrs. Morgan's Lawn by Barney Saltzberg this week. Mrs. Morgan loves her lawn. She loves it so much that she keeps it clear of all leaves and stray balls. The main character has lost many, many balls to Mrs. Morgan's lawn and asks her for them back, but she acts like she doesn't know what he is talking about. It's not until she become sick and the main character rakes the leaves off of her lawn for her that she thanks him by surprising him with his entire lost ball collection. This isn't my favorite book to read to my son, but he has been requesting it lately.

Little Bear Won't Go To Bed by Jutta Langreuter is a book my mom picked up for my son because she says it reminded her of him. Little Bear would rather be with his mom and dad than sleep in his bed, and glasses of water, stories, and even the "sniffing game" won't help. Finally he realizes that if he doesn't sleep in his own bed his stuffed animals will be lonely. It's really a cute story, and my son loves it when I play the "sniffing game" with him now.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a classic that both my son and I love to read together. The tree loves her boy and gives and gives and gives of herself to make him happy until all that is left is a stump. And in the end, all he needs is the stump as a place to sit and rest, making them both happy in the end. The story is bittersweet and a bit open-ended in interpretation (is the moral of the story about giving or taking, or is it a bit of both?). But we love it anyway.


That's just a small sampling of what my son has been reading this week. Visit Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns for more children's book suggestions. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain

I finally finished What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain. Yes, I am a college teacher--I teach part-time at my local community college--so I bought this book with the hope that I would learn some tips on how to be a more effective teacher. It did not disappoint.

From the cover blurb:
What makes a great teacher great? Who are the professors students remember long after graduation? This book, the conclusion of a fifteen-year study of nearly one hundred college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities, offers valuable answers for all educators.
The short answer is--it's not what teachers do, it's what they understand. Lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the special way teachers comprehend the subject and value human learning. Whether historians or physicists, in El Paso or St. Paul, the best teachers know their subjects inside and out--but they also know how to engage and challenge students and to provoke impassioned responses. Most of all, they believe two things fervently: that teaching matters and that students can learn.
In many ways this book both reinforced and challenged some of my own ideas and opinions about teaching. The main emphasis of the "best teachers" in Dr. Bain's study is student learning. Indeed, it seemed that attitude and mindset on the teacher's part are almost more important than any specific teaching methods. He seemed to say that if teachers will approach their students with the right attitude and goals, they will find ways to figure out the methods that work the best for them.

So, what do the best teachers do? I'll just lay out some of the more important points, and leave the details and explanation to the book. First, good teachers understand ways to learn and what kinds of learning are the most effective, long-term. They understand the differences between deep learners, strategic learners, and surface learners, and strive to help their students become deep learners.

Second, their focus is more on the students' learning than on their teaching. It's not about what the teachers can teach to the students, it's about what the teacher can do to help the students learn. It's a focus on the student's needs rather than the teacher's knowledge.

Third, the best teachers appreciate every student's value, have faith in all students' ability to achieve, and set high standards while conveying to the students that they trust and believe the students can meet those high standards. This faith in the students means that they leave learners in control of their own education, while assuring students that they are there to help them achieve.

When it comes to teaching practices, the best teachers try to create natural critical learning environments. Bain explained it this way:
More than anything else, the best teachers try to create a natural critical learning environment: "natural" because students encounter the skills habits, attitudes, and information they are trying to learn embedded in questions and tasks they find fascinating--authentic tasks that arouse curiosity and become intrinsically interesting; "critical" because students learn to think critically, to reason from evidence, to examine the quality of their reasoning using a variety of intellectual standards, to make improvements while thinking and to ask probing and insightful questions about the thinking of other people. Some teachers create this environment within lectures; others, with discussions; still others, with case studies, role playing, field work, or a variety of other techniques (p. 99).
He then goes on to provide more detail in how these critical learning environments can be encouraged and gives examples of the ways that the best teachers in his study accomplished this.

One of the important points that really made me think was this: the best teachers are flexible and change the rules to fit individual student needs in the interest of learning. I guess in that area I tend to be a bit rigid. I don't like to have a lot of late work coming in because I'm afraid that students will fall behind and never catch back up. I may try some more flexible deadlines in future classes as an experiment on this idea, but my usual experience in my classes is that students wait until the very last minute to turn in their work, for better or worse. I'll have to think on this one.

The other point that I thought broke with convention was that the best teachers emphasize learning rather than performance in their assessment of students. This really makes sense, yet my natural instincts (based on my own experiences as a student) are to do timed, closed book exams with test performance as an important part of the grade. The best teachers in this study, however, look for alternatives to performance to assess learning. They might drop those in-class exams in exchange for term projects or take-home essays. They try to encourage critical thinking rather than strategic memorization.

But in the end, Bain concludes, there is no single "best way" to teach--adaptation and invention is necessary because students and situations will vary.

This review is getting a bit long now, so I'll try to wrap up. Overall, I thought the book was quite logical and thought-provoking. It has given me much to think about and I found myself brainstorming on ways to improve my classes to try to help my students think critically, become more interested in the subject, and learn more. I also think that this book is not just for college teachers. I think anyone in a position of trying to help a student learn would find inspiration and motivation in this book. That would include teachers at any level of education and parents as well.

Book details:
Ken Bain. What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press, 2004. 207 pp. $21.95. ISBN 0-674-01325-5


Thursday, October 29, 2009

The A-Muse-ing Test

Your result for The A-Muse-ing Test...

Your muse is Clio!

40% Clio, 0% Erato, 0% Euterpe, 0% Melpomene, 30% Calliope, 10% Thalia, 10% Urania, 10% Polyhymnia and 0% Terpsichore!

Clio is the muse of history known as the "glorious one." She is one of the least called upon muses and perhaps one of the most unappreciated. Yet without her knowledge of the past we would not ever be prepared for the future, for it is well known that we learn from past mistakes. It is the education and knowledge that she offers that can help someone become great in their lifetime.
Call upon Clio when you need to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes.

Find a comfortable quiet spot where you can be alone for a time. Recount your past, mistakes and all. Know that you can speak and your confidence will not be betrayed. You can speak without fear and without shame. Here is when you can then take your journal and write until you feel that you are in control of you life again. Let go of the past and look forward to your future. You should value yourself and value your history. No person in this world has ever gone through life perfect. We are all flawed, but it is how we cope with this fact that makes the difference.

Take The A-Muse-ing Test at HelloQuizzy


This is pretty fitting, considering that my profile picture is a painting of Clio! :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Heartbreaking: Notes Left Behind

I saw this story on the news last night. It made me cry. I just had to share this bittersweet story--the book was released yesterday. Book Description:

Elena Desserich dreamed of becoming a teacher. Although her time on this earth was far too short to fulfill her dream, she left behind an enlightening lesson plan on life. Wise beyond her years, Elena never stopped teaching those around her to appreciate the miracle of everyday living even as the innocent six-year-old battled a rare form of brain cancer.

Through personal and candid journal entries written as a remembrance for Elena's younger sister, Brooke and Keith Desserich share their emotional journey as they negotiated their contradictory impulses to fight Elena's cancer at all costs and realized the inevitable outcome. Page by page, this journal is a reminder to parents everywhere to appreciate and savor every precious moment they have with their own children.

Notes Left Behind tells a story of humility and inspiration. From the time of her diagnosis, Elena accomplished a truly spectacular series of wishes, big and small, that she alone created, from riding in a horse-drawn carriage to painting a masterpiece that would hang in an art museum. Her life motivated the creation of the foundation, The Cure Starts Now, which today helps children everywhere in their fight against cancer. The authors’ proceeds from the sale of this book benefits this foundation.

Included in the pages of this book are Elena's private messages that she secretly hid around her home, knowing her family would find them when she was gone. These notes show us how even during the darker moments of life, it is possible to find hope and encouragement through selfless love.

If you are interested in buying the book, buy it through their website--Notes Left Behind. It will earn extra proceeds to support the non-profit organization The Cure Starts Now.

Wish List Wednesday - October 28

I have wish lists at both Paperback Swap and BookMooch, and am always adding new books to them. So, I'm going to feature a book (or two) each week on Wednesdays that I'm wishing for. You are welcome to join in on the fun!

I recently added Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale to my wishlist. I read and enjoyed Austenland this summer and suddenly had the urge to see if Ms. Hale had any other books that sounded interesting. This book certainly sounds intriguing.
When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years because of Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.

As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. With the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, the other decidedly less so—the girls are confronted with both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.

With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this little-known classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset in a land inspired by the Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.
The other book I discovered this week and am really excited about is Mother Goose in California by Doug Hansen. We live in California, so this would be a wonderful addition to my kids' library. From the publisher:
Once upon a time, before the Second World War, children's books were whimsical, colorful, and exuberant. Artists and authors such as Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, Howard Garis, and Walter Brooks bestowed wide-eyed wonder on generations of children.
Artist Doug Hansen has recaptured this whimsy in a way that is at once nostalgic and brilliantly original. The text of this book is the pure vintage Mother Goose of your grandmother's childhood but set to a new illustrated backdrop of California landmarks such as Half Dome and the Golden Gate Bridge—and inhabited by conquistador cats and sailor squirrels!
The level of detail in the illustrations is marvelous. For the letter "T" Hansen recreates an old-fashioned toy store filled with handcrafted gems. "Jack be nimble" is Mark Twain's famous jumping frog dressed up as a gold prospector, complete with a Colt six-shooter and holster, pickaxe, and panning tray. And the three little kittens have lost their mittens to Stellar's jays!

I'm thinking I will probably buy this second book for the kids for Christmas this year...

So, what are you wishing for this week?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - October 27

Teaser Tuesdays logo

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title AND author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Here's my teaser:
"You exceed your authority!" Scarsdale snapped. "And you are impertinent. My private affairs are no concern of yours. Watch your tongue or I shall be obliged to complain to your superiors."
--Pg. 58, The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry
 I have an older copy than the one pictured here--I wish I had this copy. The cover is prettier! LOL

What's On Your Nightstand - October

What's On Your Nightstand

Every 4th Tuesday of each month, 5 Minutes for Books hosts an event called What's On Your Nightstand? It gives book bloggers a chance to connect with each other and see what we are reading and planning to read.

For my introductory post in this bookish carnival, I thought I'd take an actual picture of the books on my nightstand (but stacked a bit more nicely than usual, LOL).

These are all books that are in various stages of being read (each one has a bookmark in them and I'm working on reading them). The pile is a bit larger than I usually have going at one time, I think partly because I've stalled out on a couple. But here's a list of the books:

I doubt I will finish all of these this month. I actually finished What the Best College Teachers Do last night, but I am still digesting it to write a review. I really want to have A River Runs Through It and Other Stories finished by the end of the month too.

Later in the month, I am planning to try to fit in Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison (for the November Novella Challenge) and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (for the 1st in a Series Challenge).

So, that's what's on my nightstand. :) What's on yours?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mailbox Monday - October 26

Mailbox Monday

Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received.


The Widow of Larkspur Inn by Lawana Blackwell arrived from Paperback Swap on Tuesday. I totally ordered this on a whim. I was surfing around looking at book blogs, saw this book, and thought it looked interesting. LOL I hope I like it!


First the Dead by Tim Downs was sent by another Paperback Swapper and arrived on Wednesday. I've read the first two books in the series already and they seem to be improving with each new book. I'm looking forward to this one. The main character is an expert in bugs who helps solve mysteries--the books are mystery/thrillers. It kind of reminds me of Gil Grissom on CSI, but Nick Polchak is a lot more abrasive and rude than Gil. This one is set in post-Katrina New Orleans.


Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison was also sent from Paperback Swap. I ordered it for the November Novella Challenge. I didn't really love the movie, but I'm hoping the novella is better. :) (BTW, there's still time to join in on the November Novella Challenge, if you're interested!)


What Girls Learn by Karin Cook arrived on Thursday from BookMooch. I ordered the book in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month--the mother in the story is diagnosed with breast cancer.


A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin also came from BookMooch. I am wishing for one of Austin's newest books, and thought I'd try one of her earlier works. After I read the description on this book, I knew it would be right up my alley.


We made a trip on Saturday to Barnes and Noble for Halloween Story Time and I just couldn't resist buying some books. None for me, but I bought a book for everyone else. :) My 4-year-old son picked out Thomas and the Big Big Bridge and my 2-year-old daughter picked out Biscuit Wants to Play. I bought Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn in hardcover for my husband, who recently mentioned he wanted to get all of the Mitch Rapp books in hardcover. It was in the markdown section and was a great deal for a new hardcover book.


So, what books came to YOUR house last week? :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

 I picked up and finished The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke this week. It has been years since I have read a book by Janette Oke or Davis Bunn, but I enjoyed the last books I read by them and hoped this would be equally enjoyable.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but once I realized who the characters in the story were, I became quite interested. Leah is the niece of Pontius Pilate, who is working as a servant in his household until he arranges a favorable marriage for her. She learns she is to be betrothed to a Roman centurion named Alban, a natural leader with strong ambitions. Alban also turns out to be the Roman soldier who had sought out Jesus to heal his dying servant (from Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10). I found these choices for main characters to be very creative and interesting.

The story takes place in the days and weeks following Jesus's crucifixion. Pilate thought he had washed his hands of the whole affair, but when he learns that Jesus's grave has been unsealed and the body is missing, he begins to worry that the Jews are planning a revolt. He decides to use Alban, who has a good relationship with the Jews in the area, to try and find out what is going on, requiring him to learn what happened to Jesus's body before he can marry Leah. Leah is not thrilled about the idea of marrying, but she has little choice as Pilate chose to use her marriage to his advantage. Pilate's wife, Procula, is also worried about what the Jews are planning and sends Leah to find Jesus's disciples to try to learn what she can. So, both Leah and Alban are trying to learn the same information, unaware of what the other is doing until near the end of the book. In the process, they begin to question all they thought they knew and come to believe that what Jesus's followers are saying is true.

The book really impressed me. I was impressed with the creative storyline, even though I already knew the biblical version. I really enjoyed the imagery and descriptive talents of the authors. I often felt like I was right there, standing on the top of a hill with Alban, or browsing through the marketplace with Leah. I was moved to tears in a few places as the main characters came to realize what was going on, and to see them come to the same conclusion, regardless of the danger to themselves and their futures.

I thought it was interesting to see this time period and these events through the eyes of Romans. Things were turbulent and confusing, there were rumors and gossip flying around, and there were dangerous people trying to prevent the truth from getting out. It was also interesting to see the questions that Jesus's followers had during the time. They all agreed that He had risen, but they didn't quite understand what it meant or what they needed to do yet. It really was a fascinating time to read about. I am familiar with the biblical accounts of this time, but this book (even if it is fiction) gave me a bit of a better understanding of what people were like in that time. The book personalized the events for me, pushing me to consider what it must have been like for the people living through those events.

I enjoyed the book. The one drawback that I found was the existence several typographical errors in the book--errors that were a bit distracting. Hopefully they do a better job in editing the second book of the series, The Hidden Flame, which is set to be released January 1, 2010. I am looking forward to its release. The Centurion's Wife leaves the reader hanging, wondering what Alban's fate with Pilate will be. I expect that it will be explained in The Hidden Flame. This book gets 4 of 5 stars.

Book Details:
Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. The Centurion's Wife. Bethany House Publishers, 2009. 378 pp. $13.99. ISBN 978-0-7642-0514-9

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What My Child Is Reading - Books About Elmo

This is a weekly book meme that focuses on children's books, hosted by Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. This week, I'm focusing on a group of Elmo books that my daughter (she turns 3 in January) has been reading almost nightly.


Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street? by Eleanor Hudson is an adventurous book that begins with Elmo reading books (which my daughter loves to do) and moves on to Elmo flying a kite and then being carried away by the wind while holding onto his kite. He ends up far away from Sesame Street, landing in the back of a truck full of ducks, plopping onto a log lined with frogs, surfing in a river on his kite, flying up to outer space, and landing at a zoo, where he is finally pointed in the right direction to get back home. There is some fun rhyming going on, and my daughter especially likes the zoo at the end.


Sesame Street Playground by Sarah Albee is something we picked up at the dollar store. It has quickly become a favorite. The premise of the story is that Elmo is trying to help find a lost puppy, which he finds at the Sesame Street Playground. The puppy steals a baseball from some monsters playing a game, and the monsters give chase. Elmo is worried that the puppy will be scared, so he asks his friends at the playground to distract the monsters. The monsters are invited to help build sandcastles, push little monsters on swings, and sit on the seesaw. By the end, the big monsters are having so much fun they give up their baseball game to stay and play at the playground. On each page, the little black puppy is hiding, and my daughter loves pointing him out.


Sleep Tight! by Constance Allen is another book we found at the dollar store. It follows the bedtime rituals of the residents of Sesame Street, from teeth-brushing and baths to reading stories and singing songs. And of course The Count counts sheep. :) It's a nice story to wind down the night with, and my daughter likes to say "Sleep tight, little Elmo!" at the end.


That's what my daughter has been reading this week. Visit Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns for more children's book suggestions. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wishlist Finds!

I found two books reviewed on book blogs this week that sounded really interesting! I included links to the reviews so you can check them out too. :)

Lisa at Book Blab reviewed The Gremlins of Grammar today--it sounds like a great AND fun resource!

 Deena at A Peek At My Bookshelf reviewed Love is a Battlefield this week. It sounds like a fun read.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: Cassandra, Lost by Joanna Catherine Scott

 Book synopsis from Alibris:
Inspired by a true story, this novel traces the fortunes of a wealthy 19th-century Maryland woman named Cassandra Owings. In love with a French aristocrat who fought for America in the Revolution, she elopes with him to France, only to find his family in the grip of the Reign of Terror. She also finds a friend--and eventually a lover--in her husband's friend Jean Lafitte, part of a counterrevolutionary movement. When the mob closes in, Cassandra, her husband, Lafitte, and other sympathizers are forced to flee back to America. They settle in New Orleans, and when Cassandra's husband dies of yellow fever, she takes off by ship to meet Lafitte, now a notorious pirate--and a band of pirates attacks her ship. What happens next is a matter of historical dispute. 
Cassandra, Lost, by Joanna Catherine Scott, is the story of a young woman who runs away from her home in Maryland to marry the Frenchman she loves. They end up in Revolutionary France and witness a lot of the horrors that members of the aristocracy faced during the time. They manage to flee Paris with their lives and settle in New Orleans and raise a family. The book is the story of Cassandra's life--the growth of her family, her loves, her losses, and her eventual disappearance. I actually quite enjoyed it.

The book is roughly based on the actual life of a woman named Cassandra Owings Van Pradelles, who eloped at age 15 and went to live with her husband in France in 1790. Scott takes a number of liberties in telling the story, but I can accept that in a book that is admittedly historical fiction and based on the life of a woman about whom there is little information to work from. I was able to find a little bit of historical information on Cassandra's life in an article about her son, Albert Gallatin Van Pradelles.

There is a point in the book where several years pass by quite quickly, and suddenly Cassandra has five children, which I wish would have been fleshed out a bit more. I felt like I never really understood her relationship with any of her other children besides the first one and the last one. It leaves the book feeling a bit disjointed. There is also an episode in Cassandra's life when she is not faithful to her husband. Infidelity usually turns me off in a book, but even though I spent much of that part of the book cringing I still kept reading and wanted to know what would happen.

I think this is the first book I've read set in Revolutionary France (even if it is only for half of the book), and I haven't really read much non-fiction on it either. It makes me want to pick up another book about it. Although it is definitely not the best historical fiction I've read this year, Cassandra, Lost was still an interesting book, and even more so since it is loosely based on the life of a woman who actually existed. I'm glad I read it. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Book Details:
Joanna Catherine Scott. Cassandra, Lost. St. Martin's Griffin, 2005. 336 pp. $14.95. ISBN 978-0312319434.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wish List Wednesday - October 21

So, I've seen Wish List Wednesday posts all over the blogosphere, and I thought it would be a neat idea to adapt it to my blog. I have wish lists at both Paperback Swap and BookMooch, and am always adding new books to them. So, I'm going to feature a book (or two) each week on Wednesdays that I'm wishing for. You are welcome to join in on the fun!

Today, I am wishing for a couple of books by Anya Seton. I read The Winthrop Woman over the summer and I really liked it, so I'm looking to read more of her work. First, Katherine.  I have heard wonderful things about Katherine, so I put it on my wishlist.

Here's the summary from
This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history-that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets-Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II-who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king's son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.
Not my usual reading fare, but I'm really wanting to read another book by Anya Seton.

Second on my list is Avalon by Anya Seton, which is interesting partly because of the beautiful cover.

Summary from
This saga of yearning and mystery travels across oceans and continents to Iceland, Greenland, and North America during the time in history when Anglo-Saxons battled Vikings and the Norsemen discovered America. The marked contrasts between powerful royalty, landless peasants, Viking warriors and noble knights are expertly brought to life in this gripping tale of the French prince named Rumon. Shipwrecked off the Cornish coast on his quest to find King Arthur's legendary Avalon, Rumon meets a lonely girl named Merewyn and their lives soon become intertwined. Rumon brings Merewyn to England, but once there he is so dazzled by Queen Alrida's beauty that it makes him a virtual prisoner to her will. In this riveting romance, Anya Seton once again proves her mastery of historical detail and ability to craft a compelling tale that includes real and colorful personalities such as St. Dunstan and Eric the Red.
I think this second one interests me more, but I still would like to read both of them.

~So, what are YOU wishing for today?~

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - October 20

Teaser Tuesdays logo

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title AND author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here's my teaser:

"Highly effective teachers design better learning experiences for their students in part because they conceive of teaching as fostering learning. Everything they do stems from their strong concern for and understanding of the development of their students."

--Pg. 67, What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mailbox Monday - October 19

Mailbox Monday

Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. This is a chance for book lovers to showcase all the great reads that came to their house and to go see what other book lovers acquired over the past week.

It was a low-volume week for me, but everything that arrived I am so looking forward to reading!


My first book arrival came from BookMooch on Tuesday. I ordered Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte after a friend of mine recommended it. The book description was intriguing, so I'm going to give it a try. It's another classic that I haven't read, and one of my goals for the next year is to read more classic fiction.


Another book via BookMooch came Wednesday. A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist was recommended by a friend of mine. It's a Christian historical romance, set in colonial America. It sounds good. I like the time period, hopefully I will like the story too!


I received Shadowbrook by Beverly Swerling from Paperback Swap--it was on my wishlist for a long time, so I was very happy to see it arrive! :) It's historical fiction set during the French and Indian War. It sounds exciting!


Hubby went to Costco as quickly as he could last week to pick up Vince Flynn's latest novel, Pursuit of Honor. Vince Flynn is one of his favorite authors and he's currently working on collecting a hardcover set of Flynn's thrillers. :) I am secretly happy that I have encouraged him to become more passionate about books than he used to be. He used to avoid reading.


 So, did you have a good book week too?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Superior Scribbler Award!

Two days from now is my one-month book blogging benchmark. LOL It doesn't seem like I've been at this for very long, but I've already met some really cool book bloggers and joined a few reading challenges too.

J.T. over at Bibliofreak gave me this cool "Superior Scribbler Award." I found J.T.'s blog while surfing the 'net for reading challenges and found the November Novella Challenge there, which I'm participating in.

Of course, as with every Bloggy Award, there are A Few Rules. They are, forthwith:
  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
I am passing this award on to:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What My Child Is Reading - October 17

This is a new weekly book meme that focuses on children's books, hosted by Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. This week, I'm going to focus on lift-the-flap books, which my kids are wild about right now.

Corduroy's Birthday by Don Freeman and illustrated by Lisa McCue starts with Corduroy receiving an invitation to his friend Checkerboard Bunny's house. It then shows his friend's party preparations and the fun activities that take place at the surprise party. The book has multiple flaps on each page. My kids' favorite flap in the book is the birthday candles flap, which are lit on the top flap, and blown out underneath. They like to pretend they're blowing out the candles.


Where's Spot? by Eric Hill is an adorable lift-the-flap book that my daughter has been requesting lately. Spot's mother goes searching for him when she sees that he hasn't eaten his dinner. She looks inside, behind, and under things all over the house and is surprised to find everyone but Spot, until the end. My daughter especially likes the alligator under the bed.


Who's New at the Zoo? by Susan Knopf is a book my son likes to read. It is a board book with a lot of different flaps on each page, and each flap often has little facts about animals on the underside along with the picture underneath. Danny Dozer, Barney Backhoe, and their other John Deere tractor friends work on new animal habitats for the animals that are new to the zoo. The flaps are a little hard to open for younger toddlers, but they enjoy all of the different things hidden below the flaps.


That's what my kids are reading this week. Visit Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns for more children's book suggestions.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review - American Cookery by Laura Kalpakian

Book Cover

From the Publisher:
High-spirited Eden Douglass is born into a contentious California clan full of headstrong women who vie for her loyalty. The Douglass women are known to borrow trouble as well as time and money. As a child, Eden’s hungers are satisfied with merely having enough to eat.  As an adult, her appetite for adventure leads her to serve on the European Front, to elope to Mexico with a charismatic film maker, and become a producer in the golden age of television. Eden’s life is seasoned with a rich cast of lively characters. All have stories. Some have legends.

Each chapter is followed by a recipe. Readers can share and savor Emotional Cornbread, Book Club Gingerbread, Parti-Colored Salsa, Figs Napoleon, Stella’s Sauce and Ginny Doyle’s Cowgirl Chili.   American Cookery celebrates those women and men whose cooking forges connection across time and miles and through generations.

Animated as a family reunion, intimate as a lover's picnic, American Cookery is a novel to relish and share, satisfying stories in many flavors, and one woman’s journey through tumultuous times.
One of my mother's friends loaned this book to me, along with a few other books she thought I might be interested in reading. I had not heard of this book and have not read any of the author's other works, but decided to give it a try. It turned out to be quite an enjoyable novel.

The first thing in the book that stood out was the recipes. I thought the placement of the recipes was such a unique and rich way to pull the story together. Much of Eden's life ended up revolving around food--having enough food to eat as a child, her aunt's food as a comfort, and eventually her own cooking as a way to support her family. The recipes weren't just afterthoughts, either; the recipes were thoughtfully tied to the events or the people of that chapter. Each recipe had a special emotional angle to it. I have not endeavored to actually cook any of the recipes (I'm honestly not much of a cook--it takes a special occasion to take me out of my comfort zone), but this would be such a fun read for a book club! Getting together to discuss the book could be a great occasion to have members make and bring in some of the recipes from the book.

The second thing that struck me about this book was the author's descriptive skill and character development. There were times when I wanted to grab Eden by the shoulders and shake some sense into her, but her hang-ups were so typical of a woman in love that it seemed all the more realistic. I thought the storyline was believable, and I found myself wondering if any of the locations and people in the book were based on actual people or if it was all a product of the author's imagination. Either way, it was a pleasurable read that I enjoyed very much.

Rating: ★★★★ 4/5 stars

Book Details:
Laura Kalpakian. American Cookery: A Novel. St. Martin's Griffin, 2007. 432 pp. $14.95. ISBN 978-0-312-34814-4



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