Monday, March 26, 2007

My Heart's in the Lowlands ~ by Liz Curtis Higgs

My Heart's in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland ~
by Liz Curtis Higgs, 2007, travel

This photo by the author is so clear you want to reach out and touch the stonework of Sweetheart Abbey in Scotland. Her writing is like that, too, so clear you would swear you have been to Scotland.

Instead of the highlands, Higgs takes the reader to the Scottish lowlands, her favorite part of that country. It's the setting for her historical fiction, which I have not read ... yet.

I tasted the delicious food of Scotland with Liz, stayed in quaint B&B's, rambled through ruined castles, and even shopped in Benny Gillies Bookshop. The people we met were lovely, very friendly. The only disappointment of the whole trip was when I realized, as we were ready to fly back to the States, that I was sitting in my chair at home, traveling only in this book, and did NOT have in hand that Dorothy Sayers book Liz bought for me. She said I should read it because the story was set in that very town where we got it. (Now, what WAS the name of that place?) Anyway, I didn't make it home with the book, obviously, since I never left home, and will have to borrow it from my library.

If you want to see the collection of photos "we" took on "our" trip, pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey tea and click on this link: Rated 10/10, loved it!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Napoleon's Pyramids ~ by William Dietrich

Napoleon's Pyramids ~ by William Dietrich, 2007, fiction

A little bit Indiana Jones, a little bit da Vinci code, a little bit history of the French invasion of Egypt, a little bit love story. Not a perfect blend, but enough of a thriller to make me want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

Napoleon takes savants along with his troops, wanting to learn the secrets and mysteries of exotic Egypt. Our hero, Ethan Gage, though not exactly knowledgeable of his subject, is one of them. It all begins with a trinket he wins in a card game, which everyone seems to want. That's a picture of it on the front cover.

See the tiny dots on the top half? Holes that allow light through, like stars. See the zig-zag rows just below center? Waves of water, but what water? Barely visible are hatch marks at the bottom; what do they mean? They resemble a pyramid. Oh yes, pyramids, the real ones. Crawl through dark tunnels with Napoleon and Ethan Gage, going nowhere or finding empty "tomb" areas inside the largest pyramid.

Sometimes our hero wears this medallion hidden under his shirt, refusing to let anyone look at it; sometimes he leaves it with strangers, trusting them because ... because ... well, I don't know why. Did I mention that Ethan Gage is an American? Yes, any number of people wonder why he's there with the French army (and navy), consorting with both Bonaparte, the little Corsican, and Admiral Nelson of England. I guess you'll just have to read the book to find out what happened. Rated 8/10, a very good book.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A fiction/nonfiction survey

The comments on my earlier post "How many of these books have YOU read?" went like this:

Kailana said... I have only read 20 or thereabouts. There are a lot of others that are on my tbr pile...
Stephanie said... I've read even less on this one. 11, I think was the total...
Bonnie Jacobs said... I've read all 100 of these books I listed...
Bookfool said... I've only read about 10 of those - even worse than the other list...
Margreet said... I count 23 I've read from your list! Hmmm, I'm pleased with myself
Marylyn said... I counted 35 that I have read and quite a few that I must get and put in my pile...
I can tell you why this list messed up your stats, folks. I read more nonfiction than most of you do. Marylyn and Margreet and Kailana, do you read much nonfiction? You have read more of these books than Stephanie and Bookfool. Do you two read mostly fiction? Take a look at my sidebar where I have two lists: What I'm reading now and Books recently completed. Notice how many are fiction and how many are nonfiction. Why don't more of us like to read nonfiction? Maybe I need to take a survey:

1. When did you last read a nonfiction book?
2. What book was it?
3. Why did you read it?
4. How would you rate it, and why?
5. What was the best part of it?
6. What was the worst thing about reading it?
7. Do you have any nonfiction at your bedside? Why or why not?
8. Are there nonfiction books on your TBR list? Why or why not?
Okay, friends, have a go at my little survey, and let's think about our reading lists. [Oh, yeah, the photo above is Jack Finney, one of my favorite writers. See my comment for March 22, on the next page.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bonnie's Quiz

Many of us book buddies have been sending around a list of questions to "learn" about each other. I've lost track of who I got the list from, and sent it to, because we've overlapped so many times. Okay, here's a different list of questions we can answer in one spot and compare answers with each other:

1. What's so special about your favorite book?
2. When was the last time you wrote in a book?
3. When was the last time you colored in a coloring book?
4. What's the coolest invention, in your opinion?
5. What song do you have stuck in your head?
6. What do you think of standardized testing?
7. Have you ever been rushed to the emergency room?
8. What languages can you say "I love you" in?
9. What's the most addicting website for you?
10. What's under your bed?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Traveling in books

I have two discussion groups "traveling" in books. They are called Around the World in 80 Days and Essencia Island, and both are among Oprah's "Online Reading Groups." Here are the lists we've made and some of the places we have "visited":

Around the World in 80 Books
August ~ Storyteller's Daughter ~ by Saira Shah ~ Afghanistan
September ~ Snowflower and the Secret Fan ~ by Lisa See ~ China
October ~ A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali ~ by Gil Courtemanche ~ Rwanda
November ~ Mutant Message Down Under ~ by Marlo Morgan ~ Australia
December ~ Simon's Family ~ by Marianne Fredriksson ~ Sweden
January ~ Sweetness in the Belly ~ by Camilla Gibb ~ Ethiopia
February ~ The Cigar Roller ~ by Pablo Medina ~ Cuba
March ~ The Other Boleyn Girl ~ by Philippa Gregory ~ England
April ~ Snow ~ by Orhan Pamuk ~ Turkey
May ~ Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight ~ by Alexandra Fuller ~ Zimbabwe
June ~ The Coffee Trader ~ by Daniel Liss ~ Holland
July ~ Flags of Our Fathers ~ by James Bradley ~ Iwo Jima

Essencia Island
April ~ My Sister's Keeper ~ by Jodi Picoult ~ Rhode Island, USA
May ~ Girl in Hyacinth Blue ~ by Susan Vreeland ~ Groningen, Netherlands
June ~ Gilead ~ by Marilynne Robinson ~ Iowa, USA
July ~ Stolen Lives ~ by Malika Oufkir ~ Morocco
August ~ Train to Pakistan ~ by Khushwant Singh ~ Punjab, India
September ~ She's Come Undone ~ by Wally Lamb ~ New England, USA
October ~ The Name of the Rose ~ by Umberto Eco ~ Italy
November ~ Never Let Me Go ~ by Kazuo Ishiguro ~ England
December ~ The Alchemist ~ by Paulo Coelho ~ Spain, Morocco, Egypt
January ~ Palace Walk ~ by Naguib Mahfouz ~ Cairo, Egypt
February ~ The Tea Rose ~ by Jennifer Donnelly ~ London, England
March ~ Embracing Defeat ~ by John W. Dower ~ Japan
April ~ Little Children ~ by Tom Perrotta ~ suburban USA
May ~ Green Grass, Running Water ~ by Thomas King ~ Canada and USA
June ~ Caravans ~ by James Michener ~ Afghanistan
July ~ Vermeer: A View of Delft ~ by Anthony Bailey ~ Delft, Netherlands
August ~ The Years with Laura Diaz ~ by Carlos Fuentes ~ Mexico
September ~ The Tenth Circle ~ by Jodi Picoult ~ Maine and Alaska, USA
October ~ Luncheon of the Boating Party ~ by Susan Vreeland ~ Paris, France
November ~ Helen of Troy ~ by Margaret George ~ Greece and Turkey
December ~ The Gilded Chamber ~ by Rebecca Kohn ~ Persia (Iran)
January ~ The Secret River ~ by Kate Grenville ~ Australia
February ~ Teacher Man ~ by Frank McCourt ~ New York, USA
March ~ The Kite Runner ~ by Khaled Hosseini ~ Afghanistan
April ~ The Hours ~ by Michael Cunningham ~ London, NYC, L.A.
May ~ The Holding ~ by Merilyn Simonds ~ Canada

Which of these have YOU read? Please feel free to make comments about ANY of these books.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Book pairs ~ his 'n hers

(1) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville ~ Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
(2) The Bible story of Jacob ~ The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
(3) King Lear by Shakespeare ~ A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
(4) The Odyssey by Homer ~ The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
(5) The Iliad by Homer ~ The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley
(6) Le Morte d'Arthur ~ The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

What do these pairs of books have in common?

(1) Melville gives us Ahab's story about the hunt for Moby-Dick, and Naslund presents his wife's point of view.

Ahab's Wife
by Sena Jeter Naslund

(2) The Bible tells us about Jacob and his sons, while Diamant gives us the perspective of Dinah, Jacob's only daughter.

The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant

(3) Shakespeare tells us what the king and his daughters said and did, but Smiley's 20th-century characters show us reasons for the daughters' actions.

A Thousand Acres
by Jane Smiley

(4) Homer gives us the story of Odysseus, who finally makes it home to Penelope and promptly kills her suitors and twelve of her maids; Atwood lets Penelope and her twelve hanged maids tell the tale as a 21st-century retrospective by the ghost of Penelope.

The Penelopiad
by Margaret Atwood

(5) Homer tells us the story of the Trojan Wars, with all the men and "heroes" fighting. Bradley shows us how it was lived by Cassandra, one of the many daughters of King Priamus of Troy. She was a psychic and unmarried, thus "making" her unpopular with the men. (Thanks to Margreet for this pair.)

The Firebrand
by Marion Zimmer Bradley

(6) The legend of King Arthur recounts the battles of the knights of the Round Table, while Bradley's version is told from the perspective of powerful women characters like Morgaine, more commonly known as Morgan Le Fay, and Gwenhwyfar, a Welsh spelling of Guinevere. (Thanks to Chris for this pair.)

The Mists of Avalon
by Marion Zimmer Bradley

So the answer to my question is that the second of each pair of stories gives us the women's viewpoint. And the stories change vastly when viewed through the eyes and experiences of women. His and hers stories. Ha! It's about time we got the women's side of things, huh? Do you know any other pairs of stories like these?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Favorite children's book?

My favorite children's book is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. First of all I love the illustrations, but the story line is so good. When Miss Rumphius was a little girl, she told her grandfather that, when she grows up, she will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea. "That is all very well, " he told her, "but there is a third thing you must do. You must do something to make the world more beautiful." Do you know what Miss Rumphius did? I'll give you a hint: the children call her the Lupine Lady. (Click on the picture to enlarge it.) Rated 10 of 10. Do you have a favorite?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

Granita wrote to me, saying, "As for L'Engle I've read only the 3 I have on my shelf -- A Wrinkle in Time (my all time favorite kids book!), A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and A Wind in the Door. Collectively, they used to be known as The Time Trilogy, but my niece made me aware L'Engle has added a 4th book, called Many Waters."

Not only did Madeleine L'Engle add a fourth book to the trilogy, but she now has 62 books, plays, and poetry listed on her new web site:

Categories for L'Engle's books:
... Young Adult Fiction ... Children's Fiction ... General Fiction ... Autobiographical ... Reflections on Scripture ... Prayers ... Poetry ... Special Books, Plays, and Short Stories ...

I have read most of the books (YA fiction, general fiction, autobiographical, reflections on scripture), but I didn't know about some of the plays and stuff. I have written a 13-week study called "Genesis: Soap Opera with a Twist," and I think I've read all of L'Engle's books about Genesis. I once met her after a church service at the University of the South in Sewanee when SHE was the speaker. Very nice, and I got to shake her hand.

Friday, March 2, 2007

How many of these have YOU read?

Thanks for this bookshelf and this idea to list a hundred books to Stephanie, who got a list from Ms. Literary Feline, who got that list from Bookfool. I had read exactly 50 of the hundred on that list, but I decided to post 100 books that I chose myself. Tell me how many of these you have read:

1. Half of a Yellow Sun ~ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2. The Measure of All Things ~ by Ken Alder
3. Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now ~ by Maya Angelou
4. The Battle for God ~ by Karen Armstrong
5. The Clan of the Cave Bear ~ by Jean M. Auel
6. Nothing but the Truth ~ by Avi
7. The Social Construction of Reality ~ by Peter L. Berger
8. Genesis ~ in the Bible (I could claim 66 books)
9. Memories of God ~ by Roberta C. Bondi
10. A Place to Pray ~ by Roberta C. Bondi
11. To Love as God Loves ~ by Roberta C. Bondi
12. The Mists of Avalon ~ by Marion Zimmer Bradley
13. Moloka'i ~ by Alan Brennert
14. Year of Wonders ~ by Geraldine Brooks
15. The Da Vinci Code ~ by Dan Brown
16. The Big Wave ~ by Pearl S. Buck
17. The Good Earth ~ by Pearl S. Buck
18. How the Irish Saved Civilization ~ by Thomas Cahill
19. The Artist's Way ~ by Julia Cameron
20. The Myth of Sisyphus ~ by Albert Camus
21. Our Endangered Values ~ by Jimmy Carter
22. Disgrace ~ by J. M. Coetzee
23. Ireland: A Novel ~ by Frank Delaney
24. The Genesis of Justice ~ by Alan M. Dershowitz
25. The Red Tent ~ by Anita Diamant
26. Great Expectations ~ by Charles Dickens
27. A Tale of Two Cities ~ by Charles Dickens
28. The Brothers Karamazov ~ by Fyodor Dostoevsky
29. The Grand Inquisitor ~ by Fyodor Dostoevsky
30. The River Why ~ by David James Duncan
31. The Breadwinner ~ by Deborah Ellis
32. From Time to Time ~ by Jack Finney
33. Time and Again ~ by Jack Finney
34. Cold Mountain ~ by Charles Frazier
35. Friedman's Fables ~ by Edwin H. Friedman
36. Evensong ~ by Gail Godwin
37. The Good Husband ~ by Gail Godwin
38. Forever ~ by Pete Hamill
39. A Brief History of Time ~ by Stephen Hawking
40. Stranger in a Strange Land ~ by Robert A. Heinlein
41. Catch-22 ~ by Joseph Heller
42. The Old Man and the Sea ~ by Ernest Hemingway
43. Go Out in Joy! ~ by Nina Hermann (reissued, by Nina Hermann Donnelley)
44. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft ~ by Thor Heyerdahl
45. The Kite Runner ~ by Khaled Hosseini
46. Brave New World ~ by Aldous Huxley
47. A Prayer for Owen Meany ~ by John Irving
48. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter ~ by Sue Monk Kidd
49. Secret Life of Bees ~ by Sue Monk Kidd
50. Animal Dreams ~ by Barbara Kingsolver
51. High Tide in Tucson ~ by Barbara Kingsolver
52. The Poisonwood Bible ~ by Barbara Kingsolver
53. Prodigal Summer ~ by Barbara Kingsolver
54. The Fifth Book of Peace ~ by Maxine Hong Kingston
55. English Passengers ~ by Matthew Kneale
56. The View From Saturday ~ by E. L. Konigsburg
57. I Know This Much Is True ~ by Wally Lamb
58. To Kill a Mockingbird ~ by Harper Lee
59. The Altered I ~ by Ursula K. Le Guin
60. The Dispossessed ~ by Ursula K. Le Guin
61. Last Child in the Woods ~ by Richard Louv
62. The Giver ~ by Lois Lowry
63. Number the Stars ~ by Lois Lowry
64. Somewhere in Time ~ by Richard Matheson
65. Teacher Man: A Memoir ~ by Frank McCourt
66. A Canticle for Leibowitz ~ by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
67. A Fine Balance ~ by Rohinton Mistry
68. Humanity in God ~ by Jurgen Moltmann and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel
69. Animal Farm ~ by George Orwell
70. 1984 ~ by George Orwell
71. Gnostic Gospels ~ by Elaine Pagels
72. Crack in the Cosmic Egg ~ by Joseph Chilton Pearce
73. Amanda/Miranda ~ by Richard Peck
74. Keeping Faith ~ by Jodi Picoult
75. My Sister's Keeper ~ by Jodi Picoult
76. The Pact: A Love Story ~ by Jodi Picoult
77. Perfect Match ~ by Jodi Picoult
78. Second Glance ~ by Jodi Picoult
79. Songs of the Humpback Whale ~ by Jodi Picoult
80. Vanishing Acts ~ by Jodi Picoult
81. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ~ by Robert M. Pirsig
82. The Chosen ~ by Chaim Potok
83. My Name Is Asher Lev ~ by Chaim Potok
84. Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs ~ by David Pryce-Jones
85. Ishmael ~ by Daniel Quinn
86. Honest to God ~ by John A. Robinson
87. Lovely Bones ~ by Alice Sebold
88. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan ~ by Lisa See
89. Train to Pakistan ~ by Khushwant Singh
90. Message in a Bottle ~ by Nicholas Sparks
91. The Notebook ~ by Nicholas Sparks
92. Three Weeks with My Brother ~ by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks
93. East of Eden ~ by John Steinbeck
94. Grapes of Wrath ~ by John Steinbeck
95. Of Mice and Men ~ by John Steinbeck
96. The Pearl ~ by John Steinbeck
97. Agape Love ~ by John Templeton
98. Courage to Be ~ by Paul Tillich
99. Tao Te Ching ~ by Lao Tzu, translator Stephen Mitchell
100. Worlds in Collision ~ by Immanuel Velikovsky