Review: The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This children’s classic is about a girl orphan and a little sickly boy who strike up a friendship because of their similar disposition and their shared interest in a secret garden.  Through their friendship and plenty of play in the secret garden the sickly boy regains his health.  Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden is a great book.  Thats what makes it a classic.  Like everyone else I have heard of this book and I also knew that it was a 1993 movie of the same title.

I didn’t start listening to this book for any of those reasons though.  I did start listening to it because it is on my BBC 100 list.  That makes it part of one of a few challenges I am completing in this year.  I downloaded this book on my iPhone via overdrive and listened whenever I had a moment.  It is well read by Johanna Ward aka Jennifer Mendenhall.  I’m very confused as to why these narrators keep different names.  I’m sure its all due to how “show business” works.  David Case did the same thing.

This was the 23rd book I’ve read thus far this year.  I’m about 10 books ahead of my goal of 100 books.  Plus this means I have another book off the BBC 100 list.  At sometime I would really like to be able to watch the movies that all these books have associated with them, but I can’t keep myself from picking up a book instead of watching television.

I liked this book.  It wasn’t amazing, but again is a children’s story.  It is a sold 3 star book in my opinion and I am glad I have read it.  I can see why it is a classic.

The Secret Garden Book Cover The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Penguin Classics

Ten-year-old orphan Mary Lennox comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors and discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden.

Review: All Joy and No Fun

All Joy and No Fun
All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

Reading All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior was a welcome break from all the fiction I have been reading.  I love a good non-fiction book and this cross between a parenting and psychology book was good fun.  I believe that I first heard of Jennifer Seniors book via a TED talk she gave in 2014:

Like most TED talks the speakers are very good.  They are practiced and the speech comes off flawlessly.  Also, like most speaking at TED then are selling something.  In Ms. Senior’s case she was selling her book and doing a damn good job of it too.  It worked on me.  I got her book, but didn’t read it until recently.

Senior has a very interesting way of approaching the parenting book writing process.  Instead of telling you how to raise your children like so many of the books out there do, she is more interested in looking at how raising children effects the parents.

What it does to us. the good and the bad. How does having children change us? It is an interesting take. I felt something was missing in this book and it could very well be the lack of child rearing advice or maybe it was something else.  Funny thing is that Senior herself writes a good many book reviews.  You see she works for the New York Times.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.  As I said, I felt something was missing, I just can’t put my finger on it.  All in all it was a good fiction read, well written and researched.  If you are looking for a parenting self-help book that turns the question around, this is it.

All Joy and No Fun Book Cover All Joy and No Fun
Jennifer Senior
Social Science
January 28, 2014

Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: What are the effects of children on their parents? In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior tries to tackle this question, isolating and analyzing the many ways in which children reshape their parents' lives, whether it's their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today's mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood's deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its fi nest rewards. Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture's most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.

Review: The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is a curious novel. I really liked the main character. I wanted to pick up this book often. It is about a butler who goes on a car trip to see a housekeeper that used to work in the same house as he did. On his trip he comes to some realizations that his former employer may not have been all that he previously thought he was. He also finds that he may have had feelings for the housekeeper that left the house they both worked at. A very interesting look into the thoughts of this man and what it means to look back at your life, if you don’t particularly like what you were then.  I gave this book 4 our of 5 stars.

I really enjoy the climbthestacks reviews and Ashley happens to have already done a video review of The Remains of the Day.  It is excellent and you should watch it:

What are we supposed to take away from this book, what is the butler a metaphor?  Thanks to YouTube we can get it from the man himself:

The remains of the day Book Cover The remains of the day
Kazuo Ishiguro

An English butler reflects--sometimes bitterly, sometimes humorously--on his service to a lord between the two world wars and discovers doubts about his master's character and about the ultimate value of his own service to humanity

Bookstore Sales up 2.5%

Bookstore by Martin Cathrae

Publishers Weekly posted an article yesterday about a rise in book sales.  While this is welcome news to any book nerd, myself included, I’m still so sad that there was such a dive in book sales to begin with.  Don’t get me wrong I love reading on my kindle, iPhone and iPad, but I miss all the bookshops that once littered malls and especially the smaller mom and pop books stores, that sold new and used books.

These were the real diamond in the rough.  I loved to be walking in a new small town and come across a bookstore selling new or used books.  Browsing through bookstores is FUN!  Even if you don’t come away with anything they give you this wonderful feeling knowing that they are there for a return visits, when next time you might find that real jewel of a book that becomes your new all-time favorite.

The article states that we hit 11.17 billion in sales last year, up from last year, but horribly down from the pre-2009 high of 17 billion.  I hope we return to this number and I hope it is soon, because I want to see new bookstores opening up all over the place for book nerd browsing!

Review: Star Wars: Princess Leia

Star Wars Princess Leia
Star Wars Princess Leia by Mark Waid

When I first heard that new Star Wars comics were going to come out I was very excited and I told myself I will buy all of these and I can’t wait to read them all.  Thing is I didn’t realize all of them were coming out at the same time and that comic books now cost $3.99 each!  With them all coming out at the same time it is hard to keep up with all of them.  Plus 5 of these things would be $20!  It is also hard to keep up with all the different ones that are coming out.  I think there are a dozen different comics series right now for Star Wars.  There is Shattered Empire, Princess Leia, Star Wars, Lando, Chewbacca, etc.

Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid, contains the first 5 comics from the Princess Leia series. The story was okay, it did give up some details about what happened before the Force Awakens, but really it wasn’t enough.  The story was not as well written as Shattered Empire.  The art was nowhere near as good as Shattered Empire either.  This graphic novel was a fun distraction, but I don’t think it’s going to get non-graphic novel readers to read comic and it’s not going to draw in people who are not already fans of Star Wars.  I would say if you are trying to keep up with everything in the Star Wars universe that this is one that you can safely skip.  Maybe the next collection of Princess Leia comics will be better.

Star Wars Book Cover Star Wars
Comics & Graphic Novels
September 15, 2015

When Princess Leia Organa was captured by the Empire, she never betrayed her convictions - even after the complete destruction of her home world, Alderaan. When her rescue came, Leia grabbed a blaster and joined the fight, escaping back to the Rebel Alliance and helping strike the biggest blow against the Empire - the destruction of the Death Star! But in the aftermath of that victory, the question remains...what is a princess without a world? As Leia comes to grips with her loss, a new mission leads her to the underground world of Sullust. The Empire is rounding up fugitive Alderaanians, and that doesn't sit well with their Princess! But what can one woman do against the Galactic Empire? They're about to find out! Join the galaxy's toughest Princess on a quest to save her people and rebuild her life! COLLECTING: Princess Leia 1-5

Review: Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

I liked the writing in this book very much. I originally picked up Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons because it is on my BBC list. I am very glad it was. The characters of Gibbons novel are particular and quirky. I had a little trouble getting to know the family at first, but after I had everyone placed things went really well. I occasionally had to re-read a line or two here and there since the acent some of the characters has was written in a bit difficult language for me.

Women are all alike– aye fussin’ over their fal-lals and bedazin’ a man’s eyes…

I really enjoyed Flora and I loved how the Starkadders addressed her as “Robert Poste’s Child” all the time. I’m totally going to do that to my nephew next time I see him. I loved reading a Penguin Classic. There is something about these little back books that is so enjoyable! Stella Gibbons first novel was this in 1932 and I have to say she did a stellar job on her very first book! Simply amazing for a first effort. The introduction talks about how this plagued her for the rest of her life. She hardly ever talked about the book and when she did, she never mentioned it by name. Only saying that thing or something similar.

Spoilers below:

Continue reading Review: Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm Book Cover Cold Comfort Farm
Stella Gibbons
Important Books

A hilarious parody of D.H. Lawrence's and Thomas Hardy's earthy, melodramatic novels, the deliriously entertaining "Cold Comfort Farm" is "very probably the funniest book ever written" ("The Sunday Times").

Books Bought in January

January 2016 Bookhaul
January 2016 Bookhaul
    • Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes (Graphic Novel).  Paid full price, $20, at a comic book store.
    • The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower.  This one was a $1.99 kindle daily deal from Amazon.
    • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  $1.50 at local libraries used book store.  Another one I’ve been wanting to read for a very long time.  Now, I have a like new copy, still has the Costco price sticker on it ($9.49).
    • The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.  $0.75.  Another used book find.  Another that has been on my list to read a long time!
    • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I can’t remember exactly, but lets say 75 cents.  Another one I have wanted to read for a long time, I hope I get to it very soon!
    • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  Last 3 bought for $3.75 at local used book store.
Arepagitica and Other Writings
My very own black Penguin Classic!
  • Areopagitica and Other Writings by John Milton.  I finally got my very own little black Penguin classic book.  I won it on Twitter and I love it!
  • The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis.  $3. I got this not because I’m catholic or even particularly religious, but this guy is a very different Pope from what I’ve read and this is supposed to be his mission statement of sorts.  I want to know what he wants to accomplish.
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  Ever since seeing the movie, I’ve wanted to read the book.  I finally picked one up from a used book sale for fifty cents!
  • And finally, three beautiful books by Ian Fleming. Thunderball, Goldfinger and From Russia with Love.  These were $0.50 each.  Look at these, how could you say no?  These are actually really hard to find.  I looked on abebooks and they are not cheap or easy to find.  Something to keep any eye out for in the used bookstores.
    Ian Fleming Penguin Classics
    Ian Fleming Penguin Classics

    The take away from this is that I bought 12 books for $33.74 in one month.  It’s 2/9 and already I know there are at least 3 books that I have bought and I plan on visiting a book sale this Sunday.  This all tells me I need to slow down and I’m buying books faster than I can read them.  However, in the month of January I read 16 books.  It’s too bad I never seem to catch up.  Maybe, someday.

The other take away is that looking at these books again as I write about them makes me want to read them so bad!  I can’t wait to get to them.  I’m excited about it!

Review: Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

Star Wars Absolutely Everything You Need to Know
Star Wars Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

This picture book or coffee table book if you like has a very long title.  The full title: Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  And as you would assume a book with a title this long requires more than one author, four actually:  Adam Bray, Cole Horton, Michael Kogge, and Kerrie Dougherty.

Star Was Everything Inside
Star Was Everything Inside

If you get the feeling that this books title and abundance of authors is trying to compensate for something, you would be right.  First and foremost, this is a book written for juniors, DK says 8-12.  It would probably be perfect for a 8 year-old boy.  But I wanted more.  I wanted the mysteries that the movie brought to use at least hinted at.  Seeing as the target demographic is 8-12 year-old boys it makes sense that the bulk of the book deals with descriptions of characters, buildings, and droids/robots.

I did learn things I didn’t know before leafing through the pages, so it is a worth while checkout from your library, but unless you have some Star Wars fans that fall in the target age group I wouldn’t purchase this one.  Keep to the books for the most part.  If you have watched the Clone Wars and are watching Rebels you will already know more that what is in this book.  There are only four pages or so in the back of the book that pertain to The Force Awakens, so don’t get this if you think it will reveal more about the movie.

Having said that the pictures are great quality like every DK book and there is a lot of information there.

Star Wars Book Cover Star Wars
Dk Publishing, Adam Bray, Kerrie Dougherty,
Juvenile Nonfiction
DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley)
September 4, 2015

Star Wars®: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know explores the world of Star Wars through lively lists, interesting facts, and questions and answers via a highly engaging infographic design. Whether it's a chart of who is the oldest Jedi, a list of all the owners of the Millennium Falcon, or a diagram showing all the Jedi Yoda has trained, this guide will excite readers of all ages and provide facts they never knew about the Star Wars Galaxy. © & TM 2015 LUCASFILM LTD.

The Observer Weighs in on the 100 Book Challenge

Current Books
These are just the ones that were on my desk in arms reach

Okay, another 100 book reading challenge article is this thing from the Observer going to be any good?

Does your reading list keep growing? Did you buy books that you’ve never read? It might be time to cross more books from your list this year than ever.

Yep.  They got me!  At least I’m not the only one.

Most of the books you read are not planned in advance. You don’t sit down in January and say: “The first week of June I’ll read this book.”

Actually, I do do that.  I have a pile that I get from the library and I read them in a certain order.  Usually by due date and the availability of renewals on the title. Darius Foroux, the author of this article makes a point of saying you need to have a lot of books around.  I agree, this helps, but he seems to have forgotten about libraries.  To have many books around you need to buy them which costs money.  No, again, library, it is free and you can usually check out somewhere around 20 books at a time.  Most libraries lending period is between 2 – 3 weeks and you can renew sometimes more than three times.  So, I don’t see why you have to have money to read a lot of books.

This doesn’t really apply to me, but I like to borrow books before I buy them.  If they are not something I like why should I spend money on them when I can borrow them for free.  Last year I saved over $800 by borrowing from local public libraries.

Darius, can I call you Darius, says not to overthink what book you are going to read next.  I do like to read some of the reviews on goodreads before starting a book.  I like to read the synopsis of the book too, just to see what I’m getting myself into.  Before I open any book I also read the cover, front and back to see what I can learn.  I think that is all part of reading the book.  I also do not skip introductions or forwards.  The only part I skips are the notes and acknowledgements at the end of books.

I’m beginning to think Darius’ rules are a little too strict.  Reading shouldn’t have so many rules!

I do like this though:

I live by a different motto: Always Be Reading.

I find this makes me feel guilty though.  Even as I write this blog post, I’m thinking should I be spending my time doing this or catching up on War and Peace or reading some more of Cold Comfort?  I like doing the blog post though so I need to make time for my other projects as well as reading.  Still….I do feel guilty any time I’m doing something that is not reading.

Darius is right, you must find time to read books if it is important to you do do so.  Just last night:

Next Darius covers a very important point.  Don’t read books you don’t like.  He says only read relevant books which I think is completely different, but if you don’t like something than stop reading it, good advice, but nothing we haven’t heard before.

Oh, I love this, “read multiple books at once.”  Yep.  Right now, here is the line up:

  1. On the Kindle: All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
  2. On the Overdrive:  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. On iBooks: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  4. From the library: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  5. Reading with my daughter: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head, but I think there are some I forgetting.  You get the point though.

Darius’ last point “retain the knowledge”.  I do highlight in my kindle and ibooks when I find something I like or something that interest me, but I could be doing a better job of this of course.  I never make notes in a library book and I find that takes notes, takes me away from the story and out of “the zone” when I’m reading.  Therefore, I stopped doing that years ago.

Good job Darius, you hit some good points and I got a good reminder to be more studious and retain something from all these books I’m reading.  Because if you don’t gain anything from reading 100 books in a year, what was the point?

Reading War and Peace: January Update

War and Peace is "Heavy Reading"
War and Peace is “Heavy Reading” by Jill Clardy

Last check-in I had read 2.5% of War and Peace.  So, where am I in the book? I am 6.3% into the book.  This is bad, this is very bad.  I needed to hit 8.2% by the 31st of January.  I’m 2 points or 129 pages behind on my reading.  That may not sound like much, but combined with the February goal of another 8.2% of the book or 560 pages, that is going to be a tall building to scale.

I’m reading this on my mobile phone so the pages are very small, which means there are more of them 6,822 pages at the font size I have chosen.  Do you think ‘ol Tolstoy would have every thought someone would be reading his work on a small glowing screen which made phone calls and ordered coffee in advance of their arrival at a cafe that charged over $3 for a cup of coffee?

I thought I might be able to find a group reading the book right now especially since the show is out now from BBC.  I haven’t watched any of the episodes, but I would like to.  We will see, maybe watching an episode or two would help me get more into the book.