Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Why does it seem like all book are rated 'R'? Do everyday people really talk like that and I just live in my bubble and don't hear it? I thought only teenagers who are trying to test the limits of their freedoms by being vulgar used such language. I picked up a book called Left Bank by Kate Muir at the library. It sounded cute, and the first couple chapters were, but then it was all about swearing and having affairs. What's the deal?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick was an interesting read. It kind of debunks the whole mythology of pilgrims landing on Plymouth rock, practically starving but surviving (which is true) and then launching off into the Revolutionary War 150 years later. He gives more of a play-by-play of the pilgrims--how they got here, why they came, and how they survived, including the traditional 'first Thanksgiving' and interactions with Squanto, who was more mischievious and duplicitous than has been traditionally rendered. But the greater part of the book is about their relations with the Indians (and yes, he calls them Indians) and the war that ensued fifty years later, hence the subtitle, A Story of Courage, Community, and War. He doesn't take sides with the English or the Indians; as he says, they were both "too human" to be purely good guys and bad guys. It's an interesting issue to me, especially with the gospel perspective that we have. He gives some pretty gruesome details of King Philip's War (King Philip being the sachem, or tribal leader, of the Wampanoags, and the son of the leader with whom the pilgrims had been fairly intimate). I had no idea that being drawn and quartered was something that was done here by the colonists. It makes sense, seeing as they hailed from Shakespeare's England and that was still going on over there, but still. Yuck. Philbrick estimates that between 60 and 80 percent of the local tribes were killed in that particular war. He also concludes that about ten percent of modern Americans can trace their lineage to the Mayflower. I'm descended from Edward Doty and Faith Clark through my dad's mom's side. I know Austin says that the Calders are, but he can't remember which ancestor it was. Anyone know? Anyway, it was a good book. I find it all very fascinating.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


So, I went ahead and bought The Thirteenth Tale and boy, it was a page turner. I couldn't put it down. But, every time I read it, I got a eerie feeling in the pit of my stomach. I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn't go away. I figured someone was trying to give me the hint that I shouldn't read it, so, I stopped half-way. In conclusion, it was good, but I can't exactly recommend it.

I'm also reading the Marie Antoinette book that Caitlin recommended, and it is a really enjoyable read. I'm at the part where the public opinion is just starting to sour towards her.

Also, while I was at my Mother-in-law's house, I read a book called, The Secret Symbols of the Dollar Bill by David Ovason. It was a quick read: it only took about 2 or 3 hours. It was interesting enough, a lot of it made sense, some of it was a little out there. But what can you expect from an author who "teaches astrology, and has studied the life and writings of Nostradamus for more than forty years." On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give it a 3.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I read the back of this book while in Costco, and it looked interesting. It said it was Jane Eyre-esque fiction. I liked Jane Eyre, so I requested it from the library. (In case you care, the libraries here on the Central Coast are in a huge cooperative so if the book you want isn't at you're library, they'll ship it from Santa Barbara or Cambria or wherever.) Anyway, usually when I request a book, I get an e-mail in a couple days. It has been like two weeks, so I checked to make sure I really had ordered it and not just made it up. Turns out, there are 42 people in line a head of me. Forty-two people, at an average of two weeks a piece, that's almost two years. So, my question is, has anyone heard anything about this book? Should I just buy it?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Everything I tried at the Library

So, most of my book getting from the library happens on my way to the children's section. I tend to quickly browse the books in the middle, pick two and run to see what mischief Jack has happened upon. I picked up On Beauty, by Zadia Smith and Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. (How come I can't underline, like everyone else on this blog. I'm not blog smart.)
OK, so, On Beauty was hard to follow at first. Then it kind of had a lot of swearing and after a while I decided that I didn't like it. I only read half of it.

Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize, so I thought it would be great. Hmmmm...I see why it won, but it's not a page turner. It's more of a book that you read one page a day. It's about an old preacher. He didn't marry until very late in life, he's now almost 80, and he feels like he's dying. The WHOLE book is a letter to his 7 year old son. He meaders and rambles though the letter adressing events in his life and his views on life.

I was sitting next to Caitlin in Sunday School and I asked her if she'd read the Tennis Shoes Amoung the Nephites books. She hasn't. I recommended those. If nothing else, they made me want to get out my Book of Mormon and read. The other book that made me do that was Righteous Warriors, by John Bytheway. I thought that book was great. Everything I read, I kept thinking, "Oh, that would be a great talk."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Marie Antoinette

When I saw a preview for the new Sofia Coppola movie about Marie Antoinette, I couldn't have been more excited. If you haven't seen the preview then here is the link. The movie comes out this Friday (I have only been waiting for 5 months). As I looked into the movie more I read that Coppola based her script on the book by Antonia Frasier called "Marie Antoinette: The Journey". I was slightly worried that the book would read very dry and boring, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It was a fascinating and heartbreaking story about a 14 year old girl thrust into a marriage as a political pawn. I couldn't put the book down and I was able to relate to her as a girl and as a mother. It also dispelled a lot of the myths about her. One of these myths was the fact that during a protest of hundreds of starving peasants, she never uttered the phrase "Let them eat cake". I am so excited to see this movie and to see the book come alive. The film was shot on location in Versailles, what could be better than that? OK, I have gone on long enough. Just read it already. PS- Another interesting fact-her marriage to King Louis the XVI wasn't 'consummated' for SEVEN years!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Picture books

Owen and I have been favoring the folk and fairy tales section of the library lately. We go there every week. We've also checked out a few seasonal books of late.

From the folk tales section:

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
This is a traditional french folk tale, you probably all know it, but Owen really likes it. It is a Caldecott honor book, if that means anything to you.

Koi and the Kola Nuts-A Tale from Liberia illustrated by Joe Cepeda
This one has very colorful illustrations. The facial expressions of the main character are particularly funny. And of course, Owen loves it. Is there a book he doesn't love?

Yonder Mountain-A Cherokee Legend illustrated by Kristina Rodanas. Owen didn't 'get' this one at all, but he still wants to read it repeatedly. It has a good message and beautiful pictures.

and Owen's absolute favorite, Mariana and the Merchild-A Folk Tale from Chile by Caroline Pitcher and illustrated by Jackie Morris. It's about an old woman who lives alone by the sea and a merbaby she cares for for a time. The artwork is fantastic.

I enjoy folk and fairy tales, partly for the adventure component but also because I feel that being exposed to other cultures was a major missing piece in my education. It's great that Owen loves books so much. He'll read anything with me.

I already mentioned The Halloween Showdown with the witch Grizzorka in my other blog. Now we've got a book called Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' by Eileen Spinelli. We may end up paying for it because Soren took a big chunk out of the corner this morning. Not just on one page but the entire book. That kid loves to eat paper. Anyway, it's pretty silly and Owen laughs at the slapstick. Even Austin and I laughed out loud a couple of times. All the while I was reading aloud I was thinking, "how is this going to end?" But it has a great ending with a warm message.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fermat's Last Theorem

Remeber the Pythagorean theorem, a^2 + b^2 = c^2, from High School? Well Fermat's last theorem is like that but way cooler. I just read this book and it was awesome. It is also a very readable book containing mostly the historical background of the many mathematicians involved in solving this three hundred year old problem.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I love history

I'm in the middle of two books right now.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow is a really well written, detailed history of Hamilton's life, starting with his childhood in the West Indies and moving on through his immigration to the United States and his career with George Washington, first as his private secretary during the Revolutionary War and then as the first Treasurer. Apparently Hamilton was a doting father and husband, but he also had an illicit affair that he was later blackmailed with. He ended up dying in a duel (who knew people engaged in duels in this country?) and his wife outlived him by fifty years. Despite the affair, which became public, she adored him until the day she died.

It's a really dense biography but it's so interesting, it almost reads like a novel. I love this period in history. Chernow presents tons of information without bombarding you with his own opinion. He also gives mini biographies within the context of history of the people with whom Hamilton worked closely. In this aspect, I find that I'm learning more about George Washington in this book than I did in reading a biography solely about the President. It's also interesting that Hamilton is one of the only founding fathers who never attained the presidency. His moral failings aside, he played a pivotal role in shaping the country at its inception. And that's an understatement. His character is fascinating.

The other book I'm reading is called Hidden in Plain View by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. It's about slave-made quilts and the underground railroad. We visited the National Cryptologic Museum and they have a big quilt in one corner (a modern sampler, not an actual slave quilt, as those are extremely rare) with excerpts from this book. Slaves used different quilt blocks as codes and hung them out as if airing them to send messages to those who were preparing to flee. I'm finding the book itself to be somewhat redundant, but the history they cite is interesting. The authors did a lot of research tying the quilts and symbols they used to African culture and secret societies.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

This work of fiction by Betty Smith is one of the best books I have ever read. It follows a poor Irish immigrant family that lives in Brooklyn in 1912. You really get a sense of the history of these people and the time that they lived; from politics to how they heated their homes. It shows how people can be happy inspite of poverty and hardship and I found it very inspirational. If anyone gets a chance to read it, let me know what you think.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Dying for Jerusalem by Walter Laqueur

It's about the Jewish-Arab conflict, something I know very little about. The tag line on the back says "Why are people who do not want to live in Jerusalem willing to die for it?" I didn't know the answer, so I decided to read the book. The whole first half was about the Kibbutz movement, which I couldn't figure out had to do with anything, but it's starting to make more sense. I've read about 3/4, and so far, it's pretty good. It's readable and I feel like I'm learning a little bit more about the world.