April 2014 Reading Wrap Up

Only two fewer books than last month. That surprised me considered how much of a slump I found myself in during April. I almost made it to seven books. I'd planned to finish The Last Policeman by Ben Winters yesterday, but was distracted checking up on friends. Anyhow, it's riveting in a very balanced sort of way: not too heavy, not too light. Just what I need right now.The links in the image above will take you to my reviews, with the exceptions of Little Island by Katharine Britton, which I loved but have to wait until June 2 to review (for a book tour), and The Happiest Days of Our Lives by Wil Wheaton, which I'll review soon. I picked up…

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The Painter by Peter Heller

  Well-known painter Jim Stegner has a checkered past and is prone to violence. Having lost his marriage and his daughter, Jim escapes to rural Colorado to paint, fish, and deal with his grief. When his inner demons surface once again, Jim flees, struggling to understand and overcome his true nature while being chased by those wanting revenge. Peter Heller has created a heart-wrenching portrait of grief. Watching Jim work through that grief was compelling, sometimes overwhelming. There is a good bit of confusion in this novel: it's hard to get a straight answer about what happened, about what exactly is going on, especially since Jim seems to lose chunks of time. It creates a good deal of suspense. Yet...I…

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T is for Tan Giveaway: The Joy Luck Club

Shortly after graduating high school, I read Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. I loved it so much, I immediately went out and bought her other novels (only two more at the time: The Kitchen God's Wife and The Hundred Secret Senses) and devoured those as well.This year marks the 25th anniversary of The Joy Luck Club. To celebrate, Penguin Classics—together with Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley and Jessica Hische—has created a stunning new Drop Cap with the letter T, dedicated to the talented Amy Tan. Check out the other beautiful Drop Caps that have been released so far.Penguin has generously provided copies of both the Classic Edition and the new Drop Cap for a giveaway! The first winner chosen by Rafflecopter (the winner listed…

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Sunday Salon

Goings-On:Friday I was featured in the new "How I Work" series on the Dollarhide's Music Teacher Resource Blog. I answered a lot of questions about how I organize and run my studio. Last night I had the pleasure of playing flute and piccolo with the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra on the first Mahler symphony I ever listened to: Symphony No. 1 (aka "The Titan"). Such an incredible piece of music!Recently Finished:Stand Up Straight and Sing! by Jessye NormanThe Painter by Peter Heller (review coming soon)Currently Reading:Little Island by Katharine BrittonA generational family saga; good so far! Makes me think more about my mom, my daughter, and myself as a mother and daughter.Can't Wait to Read:The Last Policeman by Ben WintersThis mystery…

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Stand Up Straight and Sing! by Jessye Norman

  American opera star and recitalist Jessye Norman is one of the most celebrated and highly respected singers in the world. In her upcoming memoir Stand and Straight and Sing!, she shares what it was like to grow up in the segregated South and how she made her way to stages across the globe. Norman's conversational tone is intimate and remarkably kind, even when she shares a story that could portray a colleague in an unflattering light. She also has a rebellious, "don't tell me I can't do that" kind of spirit, combined with a hint of diva, a hint of tomboy, and a very strong sense of security and comfort in who she is. To be honest, I found her to…

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Prison Book Project

A couple weekends ago, I joined a handful of members of my church to volunteer at Open Books. This is a completely non-profit, volunteer-run bookstore in our area. Open Books supports the Prison Book Project, sending thousands of books each year to indigent inmates in Florida prisons, where libraries and educational opportunities are insufficient.Why send books to inmates? Check out the response from a recent survey which asked prisoners about books and the role they play in their lives.We opened letters from prisoners, trying our best to fulfill their book requests, getting as close as possible to the author/genre they specified. There were a lot of requests for dictionaries, thesauruses, and Bibles. I opened a particularly touching letter from a…

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Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

  Astonish Me is the story of Joan, an American dancer who helps a Soviet ballet star defect. Joan is a very good dancer, but she will never be a soloist. She eventually leaves the world of ballet, marries, has a child and a new life. Years later, Joan finds herself faced with the world she left behind when she recognizes a rare, exceptional talent in her son. This was my first encounter with Maggie Shipstead's writing, and I was captivated from the very first page. Her writing is simply stunning. I savored every word, and I didn't want to put the book down. These characters are flawed, their lives complicated, and the connections between them confusing and messy. Yet Shipstead created characters…

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Sunday Salon: Easter Sunday

Setting: Writing this at home on Saturday night, 9:20 p.m. My spouse and the kiddo are taking a nap (yeah... we run on a late schedule around here!). Giveaway: If you're a historical fiction buff, don't forget to enter my giveaway of Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones. There hasn't been a huge response, so your chances of winning are good! Contest ends at midnight tonight (CST).   Recently Finished: Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead Her writing, ahhhh! Just wonderful from beginning to end. Should have a review posted soon. Currently Reading: Stand Up Straight and Sing! by Jessye Norman Almost finished with this one. Norman seems so sweet and kind-hearted, I can't help but wonder how true to life that portrayal is...…

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Mini Reviews from Classic Children’s Literature

C is almost 5 and still enjoys plenty of picture books, but this year we've been reading more and more classic chapter books. Between audiobooks while we're in the car and whatever book we're reading here at home, we're on a roll! I thought I'd combine our most recent reads into a mini review post. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence AtwaterThis was a completely new one for me. How had I never even heard of it? I loved the rich vocabulary, the problem-solving (especially how to keep the penguins happy and healthy), and the little bits of social studies woven seamlessly into the story. C's reaction? "Sooooo cute and those penguins are hilarious!"Little House in the Big Woods…

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The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

  Set in the near future, The Word Exchange takes place in a world where print is almost extinct and people can biologically interface with smartphone-like devices called Memes. Anana is searching for her missing father, following a single clue he left behind. She follows a trail which uncovers a secret society and the true intentions of the corporation behind the Meme, all while the English language begins to decay thanks to a "word flu" pandemic. The way the technology worked and how the word flu spread make me skeptical. I'm not sure if I felt like details were too scarce, if the details weren't consistent enough, or if I wanted things to be more grounded in reality. Also, the…

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