Friday, June 29, 2007

I Am Legend

I came about reading this book in a roundabout way. I was perusing movie trailers on and saw that a new Will Smith movie was coming out. When I clicked on it, the trailer wouldn't work for whatever reason, so I googled the title to find a working trailer. On, it had a trailer and a description of the movie, saying it was based on a book by Richard Matheson. I watched the trailer, found it to be delightfully spooky and decided I needed to read the book. It's a post-apocalyptic vampire thriller. I'm always a fan of vampires. I thought it was a suspenseful page-turner, packing a wallop at a mere 150 pages. This book was written in the 50s and you can tell by some of the language he uses and some of the slightly silly science he concocts. The main character's psychological state is a big part of the book too, which made me sit and wonder how I would handle being the last person on earth. Build a fortress and fight to the end? Give up and die? I don't know. All in all, I read the book in just a few hours and enjoyed it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel

Mike is fun to take to the library because he will pick up random books that look interesting. This last week he grabbed "Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography" by Judith and Neil Morgan and it was a treasure to read. I usually avoid biographies because they're not always very good reading. Either dull or colored by the biographers views. The authors of this were obviously well-researched and made it easy reading. I've always been a big Dr. Seuss fan, but sometimes reading a loved figure's history makes them seem not so magical anymore. This biography just endeared Dr. Seuss to me more. Some interesting things I learned were that Ted Geisel participated quite a bit in the roaring 20s, he was nervous around children, had debilitating claustrophobia and stage fright, was married twice to two women who served as muses and organizers to his artistic mind, and was a talented painter. Ted Geisel always wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, but never got recognition except as a great contributor to children's books. Well, until he died anyway. He had an art show in the 80s with original sketches and paintings, but one reviewer said that it wasn't real art. Well, now those paintings go for 25K or more. I've already got my favorite print picked out if I ever have $1695 lying around, waiting to be spent. It's called "The Joyous Leaping of Uncanned Salmon" and I love it. Another favorite is "Venetian Cat Singing Oh Solo Meow" but it's sold out. For a mere $325 I can get "Oh the Stuff You Will Learn" which comes from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!" Coincidentally, that's where I get the title of my blog. The Cat says that reading with his eyes shut "is bad for my hat and makes my eyebrows get red hot. So reading with my eyes shut I don't do an awful lot."

By the time I got to the end of the book and read about his death, I mourned as if he was a favorite uncle, even though it was over a decade ago. Ah, Dr. Seuss. He thoroughly loved making his books and I so thoroughly love reading them.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Magazines are slowin' me down, man

Look at this, a week since my last post and why is that, may you ask? Magazines are why, curious reader. Darn magazines. Once a month, all the magazines arrive at the same time and I am compelled to put down whatever it is I'm reading at the moment and read all the magazines. For a ridiculous reason that has to do with unused frequent flier miles, we get tons of magazines. When we picked out these subscriptions, we didn't necessarily know what some of these magazines were about. We just thought the titles sounded good. Here's what we got from those useless miles.
Prevention: This sounded good, but it's actually geared towards old people. It looks like something that should be found in a urologist's office. It's all about dealing with age, walking for exercise, having regular prostate exams, etc. Can't wait for this one to run out.
Shape: Another one that sounded good in the description but ended up being a dud. We thought it would have helpful hints about exercise, but in actuality has half-naked women on the front of every issue. It goes straight into the dumpster the minute it arrives.
Forbes: I tried to read this once, but was bored to tears. Mike claims to enjoy reading it but half the time it stays on the desk so long that the corners start to curl up. A magazine for wealthy magnates. Hmmm, applicable.
Travel and Leisure: Ah yes, when I'm planning my next trip to tour all the finest hotels in Europe, this magazine will come in handy. Or perhaps when I'm going to hike Mount Kilamanjaro or take that cruise down the Amazon. Gosh, what will I do with my millions?
Computer Shopper: I have never actually opened this one up. I'm not much of a computer shopper, just a computer user. But I'm kind of glad we get it so Mike can keep things up to date and hummin'.
Time: I don't agree with everything in here, but it sure has made me aware of lots of things I never would have formed an opinion about otherwise. One thing I have most certainly formed a strong opinion about is that I'm sick to death of the 2008 presidential election. And it's June 2007. So sad.

Here are the magazines we get because our grandmas love us.
Reader's Digest: Classic, gotta love it. I read it cover to cover. Sometimes I skip the more traumatic stories, because now that I have children, I picture it happening to them. But the jokes give me chuckles and I love to read about life-saving new medicines and happy stories.
Highlights: This is a magazine I had a child and now my grandmother gets it for my children. They love the Timbertoes and the crafts, and Charlotte loves how easy it is to color on all the pages. Now that Madelyn can read, she enjoys it even more. And Lucy enjoys it now that Madelyn will read it to her and she doesn't have to wait for me to get around to it.

The last set of magazines are the ones we actually pay money for. Mike renews mine every two years and I do the same for him.
Popular Science: Mike's favorite magazine. If I forget to tell him that it came in the mail and it sits under a pile of stuff for a few days, it's not good. Not pretty. Then after he reads it, he talks about it for several days. His favorite is the issue that comes towards the end of the year and is the year's best inventions. That'll keep him going for weeks!
Family Fun:
I've been getting this magazine for years and just recently my kids have gotten big enough to do most of the crafts and things inside. It's just so full of fun ideas! And new books and videos and toys! And recipes! And travel ideas! I could just keep exclamation marking! They now have another magazine bye the same people called Wondertime that's geared toward baby through preschool age kids. I probably would have gotten better use out of it so, gee, I might just have to get it.
The Ensign: This is a magazine put out by the LDS Church. The problem with this is that it has to be highly visible for me to remember to read it. I have to leave it on my counter or in front of my computer screen to jolt my memory and read it. Once I open it up, I usually read the whole thing and feel wonderfully uplifted. But if it disappears in my house somewhere, it never gets touched.
The Friend: Same problem as above. If I can get Madelyn started on it, I'll read quite a bit out loud to the girls. If I need ideas for family night, I usually turn to this magazine. But if it disappears, well, you know.

So you see why our magazines keep me busy. One thing that's hard about magazines is knowing when to throw them away. You don't want to become one of those people who have to go in and out of their house by a window because the magazines are covering every exit, but what if you need one of them? What if you want to read that certain article again? What if? Okay, so the church magazines are fully indexed and accessible online. But they're church magazines, for crying out loud! It feels kind of wrong to just toss them out. I've managed to convince Mike to throw away issues that are more than few months old of his favorite reads, yet I keep years worth of my magazine. And yes, they are accessible online too. I can find most of what was in an issue on their website. Not to mention the fact that I never re-read magazines. I've got too many other things to read! I almost never re-read books, for that same reason! There are too many books out there waiting for me. I have certain books that I read every few years, but they are of a much higher caliber than back issues of Family Fun. Jane Eyre is a bit more compelling than making coin banks out of milk cartons. Honestly, I throw away most everything, but sometimes it's painful and I have to remind myself that there's this great thing called the internet. Ahhh, I love the internet. Providing me with more stuff to read.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Harry Potter anticipation is killing me

I did something unprecedented. For me, at least. I pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from In my previous location, pre-ordering was far from necessary since there'd still be dozens of copies at the local Wal-Mart two days after it's release. I guess Harry isn't as big an item in the South. I debated over this for weeks, since pre-ordering requires you pay shipping if you want the book to arrive on the day it's released and I'm morally opposed to paying shipping. My other option was to go to a book release party at this really great bookstore where I live. It's the kind of bookstore that started in someone's garage or something and now has author signings and other such cool events. They are also having a party starting a few hours before release day, with the books being handed out at midnight. I have to admit the geekiness quotient large enough to have always wanted to go to one of these. But with small children, I have once again opted to skip the party. Sigh. I wasn't willing to take the risk of just going to a local store and hoping to pick up a book. Too risky. So I pre-ordered. I coughed up the extra $3.99 for shipping. But I felt better when I realized that I still was paying less than getting my copy at the bookstore party. What can I say, I'm cheap!

The end of the Harry Potter books has me in a bit of a depression. I didn't discover the series until the first four books were already out, so I haven't been able to savor the stories for years on end. When book five came out, I re-read the first four. When book six came out, I re-read book four and listened to book five on CD from the library. There's about 30 CDs for the book, so it was a hefty package getting it home from the library. The man who reads the books, Jim Dale, is absolutely fantastic. I noticed that with my stack of CDs, there was one cassette tape. I thought that was odd, but figured they had lost a CD and dubbed it onto a tape. I was happily listening along when I got to the tape. I popped it in and what should I hear but a very southern drawl of a familiar librarian reading aloud where Jim Dale had left off. The effect was so startling that it was like biting into something bitter. I yanked the tape out of my stereo, put in the next CD to figure out what I missed and just read it from the book instead. Listen to Jim Dale and you'll know why nothing else quite measures up.

Back to being depressed that this is it. These books are such great stories, such riveting characters that I feel like I know these people. The only consolation is that there's still three movies to go. And that can drag this on for another three or four more years. I hope the actors don't start looking too old. It's creepy enough that Daniel Radcliffe bared all for his play in London without him having a five o'clock shadow and a receding hairline when he battles Voldemort for the final time.

The point of all this is that I'm excited. I can't wait to see what happens, can't wait to find out how this whole story wraps up. I'm sure I'll blog like crazy afterwards, but I'll wait a week or so, just to make sure I don't spoil it for slower readers. Just to warn you, though, don't read my blog after July 21st until you've read Harry Potter. I can only hold back so long.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A Brief History of the Dead

This book was a bit bizarre, but thought-provoking. I actually listened to this on CD a few years ago, but decided it was worth putting on my blog. The whole premise of the book is based on some African theology that when you die, you go to a sort of pre-afterlife, where you remain until everyone who remembers you on Earth has died. The author, Kevin Brockmeier, tells this story from two points of view, the people in The City, as they call it, and a woman in Antarctica. Something is obviously going on, since people in The City keep disappearing in the thousands and the woman in Antarctica can't get a hold of her fellow explorers or the outside world. The ending left me, well, puzzled and a bit dissatisfied, but you might like it better. The whole concept was interesting and it was suspenseful to realize what was going on, but have to watch the characters figure it out. I wasn't going to add books on this blog that I hadn't read recently, but decided this might get some people to read it and then tell me what they thought of it.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club

I'm on a book chase lately, reading books to find books. This one was recommended in another book I read, and then this book led me to the next one I read. It was mostly about the mechanics of forming a Mother-Daughter book club, but it had some great insights on developing your relationship with your daughter before they hit adolescence and want nothing to do with you. I know that I'm a bit premature in worrying about adolescence, but I figure if I read up now, it won't hit me as hard later. Basically, the author, Shireen Dodson, wanted to have a better relationship with her nine-year-old daughter. She decided to form a group where they could talk about different topics without fighting about them. The book club was formed with 10 different moms and their daughters and was a big hit. They let their daughters pick the books, from a pre-screened list and let them lead the discussion. There were great book recommendations and some of the ideas were interesting. The mechanics of running a book club bored me, so I tended to skim through those chapters. All in all, worth checking out from the library.

The next book I read was by the same author, but was more of a reference guide to great books for girls. I read the intro, then just skimmed through the rest of the book. This is a book worth buying, to refer to again and again. I'm going to hunt for it on amazon marketplace or and get it used. Each book has a description, discussion questions, info on the author, activities related to the book and other books that you might like. The author picks just about every type of book you can think of, so everyone can find something they like. I'm thinking I'll just start at the beginning and work my way through. Then, when my girls are big enough to read these kind of books, I'll have read them too and we can talk about them. I don't know about you, but that sounds like fun to me!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Orson's blog

I'm a big Orson Scott Card fan and love it when he comes out with a new book. One day, while skimming through his website I noticed that he had a blog link on the left-hand side of the page. He writes about books, movies, t.v., food, schools, the economy, whatever strikes his fancy. I've found several book gems by reading his blog. This week he talks about the book choices he made for teaching a class on the Contemporary American Novel at Southern Virginia University. It's too long to include here, but I printed it up and put it in my stack of books to be read, so I can find some of them at the library. He has strong feelings on the merit of books that are understandable by most people, and little patience for the intellectual superiority complex of English professors en masse. I'm excited to try out some of these books. How fun would it be to take a class from Mr. Card?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Honey for a Woman's Heart

Other than an overly long chapter on reading spiritual books, I thought this book by Gladys Hunt was wonderful. I was hoping for an annotated book list, just like her other book "Honey for a Child's Heart" but wasn't disappointed by the lack thereof. She convinced me to try some genres that I may not have tried otherwise, like westerns. Not that I don't like westerns, but I don't think I would have ventured over when there were some juicy murder mysteries to entice me. But as a testament to this woman's great writing, I checked out a Louis L'Amour book from the library this week. I haven't yet read it, but believe me, I'll tell you when I do.

For Sale Magic Kingdom-Stinks!

Can I tell you how much I didn't like this book? And I like fantasy novels! I like dragons and wizards and what-have-you. But I thought this entire book was written like Terry Brooks expected a producer to buy the rights and make it into a movie within five minutes of publishing it. I was so disappointed. I read another book of his, "Running with the Demon" and thought it was exciting and fun. This book I finished merely because I wanted to know what he ended up doing with the characters. But I thought the love story was contrived, the climax not very climactic, and the whole magic kingdom kind of dumb. Oh well, only a waste of a few hours of my life.

Beezus and Ramona

I love Beverly Cleary. Her books are pure gold. I got this book from the library to read to my girls, but Madelyn stole it from the book pile and read it herself. It tickled me so much to watch her engrossed in reading this book. It took me back to when I was eight years old, working my way through the Ramona books. I related to Ramona. I thought Beezus was a bossy big sister. Some of the antics Ramona pulled, I longed to do myself. I've always wanted to squirt out a whole tube of toothpaste into the sink. I still get that urge on occasion when I brush my teeth. Now, Madelyn's reading skills are quite up to this level, so there was quite a bit that she didn't catch. But she understood enough to want to know more. Ramona lives on to another generation!

The Bonesetter's Daughter

I've never read any Amy Tam books before, I had only heard of her book, "The Joy Luck Club." I knew they made it into a movie and that was the end of my knowledge. I read about her in another book, "Honey for a Woman's Heart" which was by Gladys Hunt, the author of "Honey for a Child's Heart" which I blogged about before. Since I'm always on the hunt for new authors, I gave this one a try. So fascinating! It's about a woman's complex relationship with her mother, who immigrated to California from China in the 60s. The mother had a very interesting life in China and her daughter knew virtually nothing about it. That is, until she finds a stack of papers onto which her her mother had written her life story when she realized her memory was failing due to Alzheimers. Chinese culture is so out of my frame of reference that this book was educational for me, even if it wasn't meant to be. Loved it.

Honey for a Child's Heart

This is the book by Gladys Hunt that started me on this introspective journey. A friend from church gave it to me right after the birth of my new baby girl. I'm not usually much of self-help book reader and I figured I was already doing really well reading to my children. I honestly didn't expect to get much out of it, but instead, found lots of great suggestions. The first edition of this book was published in the 60s, but has been updated and republished a few times. The newest edition was published in 2002 and talks about such recent books as the Harry Potter series. I would say that Mrs. Hunt's comments are classic, so despite the fact that she's a woman probably in her 70s by now, I find everything so relevant. She's obviously a big Tolkien and C.S. Lewis fan, so I was pleased to see that she wasn't some sort of purist, that no children's book should have fantastical elements. Her requirement is that it is a good book, worthy of reading. She's got a section on reading poetry, which I hadn't realized I totally was neglecting with my children. One chapter is on reading the Bible and Bible stories to your kids, which I thought was great. The creme de la creme was the annotated book list in the last half of the book. She categorizes books by type and age group. I've decided that I have to take it with me to the library so I can start going through the list with it in my hand. I literally read every single book title in the annotated lists. Everytime I saw one that I already owned, I mentally patted myself on the back. And when I was done reading the book, I had a renewed desire to read wonderful books to my children. That counts as a good read, I think.

Jumping on the blog wagon

I love to read. I read lots of books, sometimes several at a time. I have a stack next to my rocking chair in my room, waiting my perusal. Recently, I decided to keep a journal of what I read to track how much I read and what it is I'm reading. Plus, I'd like to be able to recommend or warn friends about any books I come across.

Since these things are even better published on a weblog, I decided to start one up. Included in my blog I'll put other random stuff I find, experience, or feel like sharing with all of you fellow readers out there. Now, I don't claim to be a book reviewer. I don't know enough about what makes good literature. I just know what I like and I tend to have strong opinions about what I read, so I'm just gonna share. It's going to be oodles of fun!

In case you don't catch the reference from my blog address, here's a clue above.