Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 2015 Recap

What a great start to the year! I read nine books in January (about what I read in January and February combined last year), and I've had a blast doing it. Three were from my TBR, two were poetry, one chunkster, two for kids, one favorite re-read, and one read just because everyone else is.
I started out the year with a list of books I hoped to read in January and February. I chose a little bit of everything and most of it fit into my reading goals for the year. I don't usually do this kind of mapping, but it worked very well for January. I always knew what was coming next, and there's a certain amount of comfort for me in that.
One word reviews provided for each.




 [made me feel] Connected


Going into February, I'm reading:

Other (hopeful) February reads include:


How is your 2015 reading going?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Finds (1/30/15)
Hosted by MizB. Click on the picture to link up!

Sister Mother Husband Dog has been on my radar for awhile now. I know next to nothing about the Ephron sisters other than I've enjoyed a bunch of their movies. This sounds like a nice, light collection of essays that a lot of women have enjoyed.
Jen Lancaster. What can I say? I've only read one of her books, but I enjoy her humor very much. Her new book, I Regret Nothing will be out May 5, and I'm looking forward to it.
I've seen The Other Wes Moore all over, and I finally looked into it and decided I might really like it. It's the true story of two boys from the same area named Wes Moore. One, the author, made a good life for himself, and the other ended up in prison. The book examines their lives, choices, and friendship.

Having read The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio recently, I was reminded of Ogden Nash's witty little poems. I don't know that I'll ever read The Best of Ogden Nash, that much Nash might burn me out, but I'd like to read more of him.
I read I Am Malala a year or so ago, and now they've released the book in a young reader's version. I'm interested in how the YA book differs from the "adult" version.
I've been considering The Romanov Sisters for awhile now, and so many folks have said it's an intimate book that I think I'll reconsider it.
What have you added to your TBR this week?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

15 Picture Books for 2015

Last year I read 80 picture books, but I still didn't get to everything on my list. And recently, I took on the responsibility of children's book selection for at the library. So, the list runneth over! (Because who wouldn't buy the books and authors she enjoys, right?) I've put together a list of 15 of the books I'm looking forward to reading the most in 2015. Most are relatively recent releases, but some are books that got missed along the way.



Do you have any recent picture book favorites?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Monuments Men, Robert M. Edsel

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter (Contrib)

Category: Nonfiction: History

Synopsis: Edsel discusses the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) section of the military whose mission it was to “save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat.”

Date finished: 20 November 2014

Rating: ***

Not only did I want to love this book, I fully expected to love this book. I expected to be uplifted, and I pictured myself writing a review full of works like “remarkable” and “superb.” There will be no such review, my friends.

I don’t know, was I cranky when I read the book? Did I read the right book at the wrong time and therefore miss something spectacular? So many people loved this book. It inspired a blockbuster Hollywood movie. What’s the deal?

All I can tell you is that it didn’t do it for me. I have two theories. One is that the writing was just sort of blah. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t terribly vivid either. And for a book about artwork and war, I expect some vivid prose. I have a prejudice against books with “contributors” especially by ones who contributed to books about cats who live in libraries. And while I enjoyed said cat book, it suffered from the same bland writing as this one did. I found myself skimming over the sentences and not feeling like I missed anything in doing so. One credit to the writing, though, was that the author/s would remind you who the characters were from time to time. Since there were so many men to keep track of, this was very helpful. Praise to the editor (I assume) who pushed for that. 

The second theory, which is less likely, is that I didn’t know enough about art to appreciate what was going on. I know a great deal of trivia about a great deal of things, but art and music are two cultural black holes for me. Often in the book a specific piece would be discussed, and having no idea what that piece looked like or its provenance or cultural import, I would just have to shrug and move on. (When I was near a computer I’d Google the piece to have some background, but I generally wasn’t within Googling range.)

While I admit to deficiencies in my knowledge of European art and architecture, I am fully appreciative of art itself and what it does for a culture. The Nazis were dismantling whole countries’ visual histories. That’s a big deal. That’s something I can’t even fathom. While America is a relatively new country, where would we be without our American Gothic or Nighthawks (both of which I’ve enjoyed in person). Art moves us, it transforms us, it transports us, and it makes a people who they are, it helps give a culture its identity. Unfortunately, this is a sentiment I came to much on my own, without the help of Edsel or his book. (I’m told the movie hits this message home, but I’ve yet to see it.)

So frankly, I was disappointed. This is such a remarkable (hey, I did use that word in this review!) and important story—which I was surprised to learn in the book was told by other books and movies. Unfortunately it wasn’t told well enough for my tastes.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
I think I would because it might just be me…

You might also enjoy:
When Books Went to War

Tell me, did you enjoy this book? Can you recommend a good book about the world’s great works of art?

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading? (1/26/15)
It's Monday! is sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.
Last week I finished two books, one on Monday when I was off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and another on Wednesday.
Gulp had been on my TBR for months, and although I didn't fall in love with it, I enjoyed the writing and am glad I finally read it. In short, it wasn't exactly what I was expecting and was much more sideshow than main attraction. That was kind of exciting but a little too weird for me.
I also finished my re-read of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio last week. And it was every bit as good as I remember it being. This time through I did see a darker overtone than I did the first time. It's about a mother in the 1950s and 60s who enters and regularly wins jingle contests sponsored by America's top products. She's raising ten children with an alcoholic husband, so money troubles are ever-present. It's a sweet and hopeful book without being sappy, and it deals with the realities of alcoholism in their family without dwelling on it. It's written by one of the kids, now an adult, of course. I highly recommend it.  
This week I'm reading Americans' Favorite Poems (only about 25 pages left) and Brown Girl Dreaming which is a YA memoir set in verse. Both are very good.
I hope to finish both of these this week, and then I think I'll move on to one or both of these:
I'll be reading Yes Please for my "read something everyone else is" challenge and Charlotte's Web for my "read a children's class" challenge.

What are you reading this week?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Finds (1/23/15)
Hosted by MizB. Click on the picture to link up!
A short, weird list this week, two children's books and one fiction.

Last year I happened upon Sara Pennypacker's Clementine and fell in love. Our library has The Talented Clementine, and I'm primed to read it next time I need something fun.
One of my favorite authors is Michael Perry. We sort of went to school together and we read our work at local readings back in the day. Last fall he came out with a middle-grade (I think, for grades 4-7 anyway) book. It sounds kind of apocalyptic, which isn't really my genre, but he's an author that I really would read anything by. I bought my grandson a copy of the book for Christmas, but he has yet to crack it, so maybe we'll read it together.
I can't remember if I highlighted All the Light We Cannot See on Friday Finds or not. I don't know that I'm deeply interested in the plot, but it's one of those "everyone else is loving it, so I must be missing out" kind of things. And I challenge myself to read a couple of those each year.
What did you add to your TBR this week?