30 November 2009

Thankfully Reading Weekend: Wrap-Up

Yesterday marked the end of the first Thankfully Reading Weekend. I was thankful to have the days off, but I didn't get quite the amount of reading in that I had hoped to. On the other hand, I had a relaxed and stress-free weekend, and that counts for a lot!

Audiobooks: I finished the remaining 7 hours of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon and started Sweeping up Glass by Carolyn Wall. Wow, Glass has swept me up (okay, lame, I admit), and I'll be highlighting it on Thursday if I haven't finished by then.

Print books: I finished Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle and The Magykal Papers by Angie Sage. I almost finished The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.

The good news is that I can put three half-read books to rest and get the reviews written this week. The bad news is that I didn't spend the hours I thought I would in reading. More good news is that I took a long walk outside on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I've enjoyed reading the Thankfully Reading Weekend posts that were linked up at the Book Blog Social Club. I also want to thank co-hosts Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves and Jen of Devourer of Books for coming up with the idea and for their help.

I'd like to make a small plug for the Book Blog Social Club. If you have a community event in mind and need a place to host it, check with the owners to see if the blog is available. According to the first post on the blog:

The Book Blog Social Club is quite simply what it states! It's a place for book bloggers to socialize and celebrate major life events. If you'd like to host an event at the Book Blog Social Club please email bookblogsocialclubATgmailDOTcom
Hoping everyone has a fabulous, safe, and healthy holiday season.

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Challenge: What's in a Name? 3 (I'm Hosting!)

I've bitten the bullet and I'm going to host the 2010 What's in a Name? 3 Challenge. For the history of this challenge, to learn why I decided to host it, and to sign up for it, check out the brand new What's in a Name 3 blog.

Here's the challenge in brief: Between January 1 and December 31, 2010, read one book in each of the following categories:

  1. A book with a food in the title.
  2. A book with a body of water in the title.
  3. A book with a title (queen, president, sir) in the title.
  4. A book with a plant in the title.
  5. A book with a place name (country, city) in the title.
  6. A book with a music term in the title.
I have created a blog dedicated to this challenge, where you will find the complete rules and the Mr. Linky for signing up.

I hope you have room in your challenge schedule to join in the fun. This is one of my favorite challenges.

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29 November 2009

A Few Awards

On Thanksgiving weekend, I'm not only Thankfully Reading but also thankful for my blogging friends. In that spirit, I'd like to acknowledge some awards that have come my way and to alert you to four blogs that are on my regular blog-reading circuit.

One thing I love about the blogging community is that it crosses international boundaries and spans oceans.

Carolyn from Book Chick City and Alice from Hello, My Name Is Alice both gave me the Uplifting Blogger Award. Carolyn is a UK blogger and hasn't been blogging very long, but she cranks out great book reviews, author interviews, and is even hosting two reading challenges! Alice lives in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. We overlap in a lot of areas, such as books and photography. It's a little crazy for me to put my name in the same sentence as hers though when it comes to camera work. Alice is an awesome photographer!

Kaye from The Road Goes Ever Ever On gave me an award she designed to celebrate her blogoversary. Kaye is another blogger who is active in both the book blogging community and the photography community. I think I discovered her blog through Wordless Wednesday. Once I saw her hobbit banner picture, I knew we'd be blogging buddies.

Amy from Passages to the Past gave the Honest Scrap Award. Amy is the historic fiction queen, and her blog is a great source of industry news, author interviews, and book reviews. I love her feature about castles. This award comes with a meme; I'm supposed to reveal 10 honest things about myself.
  1. I love my job.
  2. I wish I had more time to read.
  3. I let weeds take over my gardens this past summer.
  4. I look forward to my birthdays.
  5. I can't carry a tune and refuse to sing in public.
  6. I wore braces (on my teeth) when I was in my late 30s.
  7. I drove my last car for 17 years.
  8. I wish I had a wood-burning stove.
  9. I hate doing housework.
  10. I really don't like to shop
Instead of passing these awards along, I'd like to encourage you all to visit Carolyn, Alice, Kaye, and Amy -- I bet you add their blogs to your reader.

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28 November 2009

Looking to 2010: Readalong and Challenges

Here are some more events and challenges I am looking forward to in 2010.

1. The Lord of the Rings Readalong has four hosts, one for each book in the series (including The Hobbit). The idea is to read a book a month from January through April. My last re-read of these novels was in 2005, so I'm due. They are among my all-time favorites. I'm pretty sure I'm going to listen to the audios. Visit Teresa's blog at Shelf Love for more information and to sign up.

2. MizB is hosting the Read and Review challenge again. This one is kind of easy: review every book you read. I try to do that anyway, so I'll be joining up. I've managed with little trouble to meet this challenge in 2009.

3. Bart's Bookshelf is hosting the Twenty Ten Reading Challenge. This one looks fun: there are ten categories and the commitment is to read two books in each one. Check it out because I think this challenge could become a favorite.

I have some more 2010 challenges to post about in the coming month. You know me -- Hope springs eternal! I'm not worried about failing, I'm all about having fun and doing my best.

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Weekend Cooking: Blue Cheese Salad on Endive

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


I hope you're not too tired of being in the kitchen to play along this week. Between cooking for the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoying all those fabulous virtual cookies yesterday, what more is there?

I'm going to share an appetizer recipe that a friend of mine passed along to me. I don't know where she got it from. I've been making this for Thanksgiving for the last few years. (All measurements are in U.S. standard units.)

Apple, Blue Cheese and Hazelnut Salad on Endive Leaves

  • 1 large (about 8 ounce) tart-sweet red apple such as Gala or Braeburn, cored and cut into ⅛-inch dice (that's 1/8-inch)
  • 3 ounces of blue cheese, crumbled (to yield about ¾ cup)
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt, to taste (I don't add)
  • 5 Belgian endives, leaves separated; smallest leaves saved for another use
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (I used toasted pecans)

In a medium bowl, combine the apple, blue cheese, celery, mayo, and lemon juice. Stir gently to combine. Season to taste with salt.

To assemble, mound a small spoonful of the apple mixture onto the core end of each endive leaf. Sprinkle with the nuts and serve.

Note: I mix the nuts in with the rest of the salad.

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27 November 2009

Virtual Cookie Swap: 2009

Today is the Virtual Cookie Swap, hosted by Julie from Booking Mama and Kathy from Bermuda Onion. So that means today is the day to share cookie recipes -- a traditional one for Kathy's blog and/or a chocolate/candy recipe for Julie's blog.

They posted such fabulous recipes this week that I'm having trouble deciding what I'll bake for the cookie exchange I'll be attending in December. Maybe I'll have to bake a bunch of test runs before I choose.

My traditional cookie comes from Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Because the book provides very detailed directions, I've edited them here because of space issues. Also note that all measures are American.

David Shamah's Jumbles

Makes about 3 dozen 2½-inch cookies

¼ cup pecan halves
1¼ cups unblanched whole almonds
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1½ cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the pecans on one ungreased cookie sheet and the almonds on another and bake, stirring occasionally about 7 minutes or until aroma is released. Cool completely and coarsely chop.

In a small bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to blend.

In a mixing bowl, cream the white and brown sugar and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed beat in the flour mixture until incorporated.

In a large bowl mix together the nuts, chocolate chips, and raisins. Add the dough and mix thoroughly by hand.

Drop rounded tablespoons (1½-inch balls) onto ungreased cookie sheets placed 1½ inches apart. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and barely soft. Cool for a few minutes on the sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.


My chocolate cookie comes from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, but I edited the directions a bit to take out brand names and for clarity. This is a bar cookie, which makes baking easy. I get fewer cookies than the recipe calls for because I cut bigger squares.

Toffee Squares

Makes 6 to 7 dozen squares

1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1¾ ounces milk chocolate bars, broken into pieces
½ cup chopped nuts (I use pecans)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet.

Mix the butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in the flour and salt until the dough is well blended. Spread in a rectangle, about 13 by 10 inches, on the prepared pan, leaving about 1 inches all around the edge of the baking sheet.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the dough is nicely browned. Crust will be soft.

Remove from the oven and immediately place the pieces of chocolate on top. Let them soften and then spread evenly over the entire surface. Sprinkle with the nuts. Cut into small squares while warm.

Enjoy! And be sure to check out the other cookies in the cookie exchange.

Source: Bought (see review policy)

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Thankfully Reading Weekend: Plans

Hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving had a great day with friends and family.

Today starts Thankfully Reading Weekend. I don't think I'll get a lot of print reading done today because I have some cooking to do, but I do intend to have a book in my ears while I work in the kitchen. The goal is to finish up Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon.

I'm not sure how many print books I'll finish by Sunday but I have three novels at the top of my list for this weekend: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, The House on Tradd Street by Karen White, and Liar by Justine Larbalestier. Oh, and I'll likely get another audio going too, but I don't know which title I'll pick.

To see what other readers are doing this weekend, pop on over to the Book Blog Social Club and check out the Thankfully Reading Weekend post.

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26 November 2009

Thursday Tea: Final Look at Austen to Film

Today is my last look at Jane Austen in film. I know there are other movies and television mini-series that I didn't highlight -- be sure to check out the BBC and Masterpiece Classic versions of Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey. PBS also did a lovely biography of Austen. In any case, it's interesting to see how popular Austen has remained over the centuries.

First up is Bridget Jones's Diary, which is based on the novel by Helen Fielding. Fielding, in turn, based her novel on Pride & Prejudice. Renée Zellweger is great in this. Although Bridget isn't exactly an Elizabeth Bennett, she is a wonderful character all on her own. I love that Colin Firth plays the character named Mark Darcy. Hugh Grant plays the man based on Whickam. If you haven't seen the film or read the book, I recommend them. For those familiar with the film, you'll notice that the trailer doesn't quite match the final theatrical cut.

Next is another novel to movie: The Jane Austen Book Club. In this film, five women and one man get together to read Austen's six major novels. During the course of their reading and growing friendships, they find that people's lives haven't changed all that much over the last 200 years. Although it got rave reviews, it was only meh for me. I haven't read the novel, so I can't address it.

Finally, we have 2007's Becoming Jane, which is the story of how Austen became an author. While I didn't love this movie, I did enjoy it. I am not knowledgeable enough to vouch for its accuracy, but I was interested to see Austen's development as a writer and a person and to learn about the influences on her work.

The Tea. I'm drinking Celestial Seasonings's Indian spice chai tea. I love chai tea, and this is a nice one that I just recently discovered. The company says the "authentic blend infuses rich and hearty Assam black tea with lively spices like ginger, cloves and cardamom and a touch of smooth vanilla." I love the smell and the flavor, and it is perfect for the holidays.

The Assessment. I don't see Bridget Jones or Jane Austen drinking this tea. But at least someone from the Jane Austen book club surely drinks spiced tea. Regardless, I like it!

Which films or television versions of Jane Austen's work have you really loved or can highly recommend? I know there must be some that I haven't seen yet, although my husband is sure (is hoping?) that there cannot possibly be others.

Thursday Tea is hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Here's how it works: Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.

Source: Rented or seen in the theater (see review policy).
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.
Challenges: Everything Austen

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25 November 2009

Wordless Wednesday (November 25)

Stormy Skies, Denmark

For more Wordless Wednesday click here.

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Short Review: Peony in Love by Lisa See

Peony in Love by Lisa See is a lovely and haunting look at China in the seventeenth century. The publisher's summary for the book is quite long, but here is some of it:

“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.

Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production. . . But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.

So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow.
Here are my notes from early in 2008 (edited to avoid spoilers): "Wonderful tale of women's issues set in historical China and based on factual information. Peony wants to make something of her life and becomes obsessed with writing a critical assessment of an opera that carries her name: The Peony Pavilion. Through the course of the novel, Peony learns what it means to be a woman in China in her times, learns the true stories of her mother and grandmother, sees her father and grandfather in a new (and changing) light, and even comes to terms with her duties as a wife and sister wife. Peony's journey to become an ancestor will stay with me for a long time. Narrator Janet Song did a wonderful job with the Chinese words and accents, enhancing the novel."

If you haven't read Peony in Love or See's earlier Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, you don't know what you're missing. Highly recommended for anyone who loves historical fiction, books about women's issues, and books that transport you to other places, other times.

The cover is from the 2008 Random House edition. (Source: Bought; see review policy)

Peony in Love at Powell's
Peony in Love at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's P.

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24 November 2009

Today's Read: The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

My name is Melanie Middleton, and my army brat childhood didn't exactly prepare me for my chosen profession. Who knew that I'd specialize in selling old houses, the kind in which generations of a single family lived and died. I don't even like the things, they are smelly and dusty and I have to talk to old people who are admitting that they don't have much future left. Okay, maybe that's not the real reason I hate old houses, it's probably because I can often see the ghosts of former occupants . . . not in some sentimental way, but quite literally.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

As was my habit, I avoided looking at the historic buildings along King Street. . . . I supposed the buildings were beautiful in their own antique, money-sucking way, but it was what I saw sometimes peering out at me from old shop windows that kept my eyes focused straight ahead. It was the same with hospitals. I had to wear earphones just to block out the sounds of the voices from people only I could see. (p. 14)
—From The House on Tradd Street by Karen White (Source: Review, see review policy)

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23 November 2009

Review: The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan

The Rabbits, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is a little hard to describe. It's not really a graphic novel but is more than just a picture book.

On the surface, the book is about the colonization and industrialization of Australia by Western peoples, but it is also the story of any land that was settled by Europeans in the last two hundred years.

On a different level, the book is about the effects of overpopulation and technology on the environment and the loss of natural resources.

Although The Rabbits is the winner of The Children's Book Council of Australia's Picture Book of the Year award, the sparsely told story addresses adult and universal issues.

The oversize format of the book is the perfect way to showcase Tan's amazing art. The rabbits are not cute bunnies but triangular-shaped creatures that walk on two legs and wear the uniforms of Western cultures. The contrast between the original landscapes and native inhabitants with the introduced species and urban sprawl is unmistakable and unforgettable.

Here is a spread from near the beginning of the book:

And here is one showing the effects of unregulated exploitation of the land:

I recommend this book for parents who like to discuss political and environmental issues with their children and to anyone who loves beautiful art. The paintings are incredible, and I will turn to this book many times to study the details.

John Marsden and Shaun Tan both have websites where you can learn more about their work.

The Rabbits at Powell's
The Rabbits at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Lothian, 1998
ISBN-13: 9780968876886

Challenges: 100+, 999, Clear Off Your Shelves
YTD: 83
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+

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22 November 2009

Blogger Unplugged: Can You Do It?

Well, you know the story: All ideas evolve from Twitter conversations! In this case, Jen of Devourer of Books and I were talking about how sometimes it's a good idea to step away from the computer and fully focus on our homes, families, and the upcoming holidays. We love blogging and being on Twitter and checking out Facebook because that's the only way we have of connecting with our blogging friends, some of whom we've met in real life at book events.

It's easy to get that feeling that you'll miss out on something--an event, a wave, a conversation--if you shut down your computer.

But the truth is, it's okay to walk away sometimes. And that's what Blogger Uplugged is all about. As Jen wrote in her post, we are not only giving you permission to unplug, we're challenging you to unplug for some time between now and the end of year.

What about the rules? Because we aren't big on rules, we didn't make any! Instead, we challenge you to pick a time or a schedule that suits you. Maybe you'll pick a weekend or Christmas Day. Or perhaps you like the idea of walking away from the computer from 5:00 to 8:00 each evening for a week. You pick the time, you make the commitment.

We are here to help you avoid blogger burnout. It's okay to preschedule posts, but don't beat yourself up, if you spend the day baking cookies instead of writing something for your blog. Just grab the button, and let your readers know that you might be absent for a few days in December. We promise, the world won't collapse, and we won't forget who you are.

My goal is to unplug on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve day for sure. I'm also going to spend most of Thanksgiving weekend reading as part of the Thankfully Reading Weekend event.

Hope to not see you for a little bit during the coming weeks.

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Four Good Challenges for 2010

It's that time of year again, when optimistic bloggers pick the challenges that they really, really think they will finish in the coming year. I love a good challenge, and I have a healthy attitude about finishing them--or not (just see my post on challenges).

Anyway, here are four that I am definitely joining. The wonderful J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog is hosting the first three.

The 2010 YA Reading Challenge has four levels. I'm joining in the Mini Challenge, which is a commitment of 12 books.

The 100+ Reading Challenge is pretty self-explanatory: I have committed to reading at least 100 books next year.

The Support Your Local Library is an important challenge, and one that everyone should consider. I am committing to the Mini Challenge, which is 25 books.

The New Author Challenge is once again being hosted by Jackie at Literary Escapism. For this challenge, you pick your own level of commitment; I'm going for 25 new authors in 2010.

For more information about these challenges and to sign up, click on the challenge name. I have at least five more challenges that I plan to join, so you'll see some more challenge announcement posts before the year is out.

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21 November 2009

Weekend Cooking: Learning French

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


Although many of us read food-related books, review cookbooks, and share recipes, we are pretty much lightweights compared to the group over at Cook the Books Club. I love the idea that Rachel from the Crispy Cook, Debbie from Kahakai Kitchen, and Jo from Food Junkie Not Junk Food came up with. These women from New York, Hawaii, and Greece combined their love of reading with their love of cooking and came up with a terrific club.

Here's how it works. First they pick a novel or nonfiction book and read it. Then comes the fun part:
After reading the book, cook up something delicious inspired by this novel and blog about it. If you don’t have a blog, one of us three hosts above would be happy to post your entry as a guest blogger. Make sure to include a link to this COOK THE BOOKS blog so others can find out about the details.
Now who do you think picks a winner? Their first choice is always the author of the book they are reading, but when that fails, they find a fellow reader and foodie. And guess what? This month that person was me!

The club read French Lessons by Peter Mayle, which I reviewed in January. Then they each made a dish inspired by that book. Let me tell you, I was so utterly impressed with the participants. They did research, they adapted ingredients to the season and to their local resources, they took photos and shared tips. The round-up post is up at Cook the Books Club.

I spent most of the week reading and re-reading the eleven entries. Several people were inspired by the same dish, and it was fascinating to see how each one tweaked that dish to fit her own tastes and local ingredients. And I kept getting distracted by hunger pangs. OMG, no lie, I wanted to make every single one of the dishes presented.

Finally I had it "narrowed down" to five! Argh. But in the end I picked a runner-up and a winner. Because the announcement post isn't up yet at Cook the Books, I can't tell you who got that number one spot. You'll have to check out the Cook the Books blog later.

I want to thank Rachel, Debbie, and Jo again for asking me to be their judge. I had a blast, and I would step in to judge for them any time at all! One of these days, I hope to be a participant in a Cook the Books contest.

But wait, there's more! As you know, I participate in book memes and one photo meme. Did you know that there are food memes? Well I didn't. But as I was reading the posts on each entrant's blog, I learned that there are things like Pasta Nights and Heart Cooking. I haven't explored these, but the entry posts for French Lessons linked to several memes that looked good.

After the holidays, I'm going to do some research, and then I'll post about the food memes. Just what I need, more excuses to cook and blog.

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20 November 2009

Getting Involved in the Blogging Community

It's getting to feel a lot like the holidays around here, and there are many ways to get involved online. I was updating my blogging calendar yesterday and was excited at all the ways the community is celebrating.

First up we have Buy Books for the Holidays, which is something that most of us would be doing anyway. It's a great way to promote literacy, the love of reading, and perhaps your local indie bookstore. Short on ideas? Go to the event's blog and you'll find suggestions for almost everyone on your list.

After you have your books all in order, you'll need to eat. You might want to consider joining in on the Progressive Dinner Party. Nicole from Linus's Blanket, Amy from My Friend Amy, and Julie from Booking Mama are our hosts and organizers. Everyone is invited, and I bet the food will be fabulous. Don't forget to RSVP.

Kailana from The Written World and Marg from Reading Adventure are hosting their annual Virtual Advent Tour. For the fourth year, in the month of December, we'll be treated to posts about holiday traditions, the love of winter, and whatever else each tour participant wants to write about. Last year we got recipes, great photos, funny stories, and more. Don't let the title throw you off -- you don't have to celebrate Christmas to host a stop on the tour.

What's a holiday without cookies? Kathy of Bermuda Onion and Julie of Booking Mama (notice how she's involved in all the food events!) are hosting the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. If you haven't been following along, you've missed some great recipes, so check out the posts and start your grocery list. Not only are there books and treats to win, but there will be a huge virtual cookie swap on November 27. Get out your cookbooks and let's get baking.

There are also three upcoming reading events.

First up is the Thankfully Reading Weekend. This is being hosted by Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves, Jen of Devourer of Books, and me and runs from November 27 to 29. You don't have to be American to participate. The sign up post and description are at the Book Blog Social Club site.

Next is the Can't Do Dewey's Read-A-Thon hosted by Bethany by Dreadlock Girl. This will take place on December 5 and should be a lot of fun. A lot of people have already signed up, don't' miss out.

Finally, get your books in order cause Michelle of Galley Smith is hosting the first ever Seriespalooza during the week of December 14. The idea is catch up on your favorite series, start a new series, or revisit an old one. This is a great way to get some focused reading under your belt before the year ends.

Phew! What a month coming up on the blogs! I bet there is at least one event here that is perfect for you. Which ones are you signing up for?

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19 November 2009

Thursday Tea: Watching Sense & Sensibility

As part of the Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie's Written Word, I want to take a look at the film versions of Sense and Sensibility. I think this is my second favorite Austen book (Pride & Prejudice is my favorite).

The BBC actually produced two versions of S&S. The first was released in 1971 and is available to rent. I've seen it, but I don't really remember what I thought of it. The 1981 BBC production starred Irene Richard and Tracey Childs as the elder Dashwood sisters. This is a rather melodramatic version, as you can see from this example from episode 4. I couldn't find a shorter clip, but there is no reason to watch it all. In fact the entire TV miniseries is a bit hard to take.

The next version was the Hollywood film starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman. This is a really nice film, and I've seen it many, many times. Unfortunately, I think that Hugh Grant is just terrible in this movie, although I love the other actors.

My favorite version so far is the PBS Masterpiece Classic production from 2008. It was wonderfully acted and beautifully filmed. If you haven't seen it, you should consider renting it. Here is the trailer for the first part.

And just for fun, here's the trailer for the new book Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

The Tea. I'm drinking the decaf version of Stash Tea's Double Bergamont Earl Grey Tea. It is "a great late afternoon or early evening tea. It goes very well with shortbread and cream scones." I love Early Grey and this is one of the better blends.

The Assessment. I can easily see the Dashwoods drinking Earl Grey Tea, even in their reduced circumstances after they move to their cottage. I'd say I have a good match this week.

Have you seen and of the Sense and Sensibility movies? Are you going to read the Sea Monsters book? Next week is the last installment in my Austen on film series.

Thursday Tea is hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Here's how it works: Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.

Source: Rented (see review policy).
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.
Challenges: Everything Austen

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18 November 2009

Wordless Wednesday (November 18)

Red Berries, Fall 2009

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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Short Review: Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm was recommended to me by my niece when she was in seventh grade. This book shows how wonderful middle reader/young adult historical fiction can be.

Many young girls have read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and through those books developed a romantic vision of pioneer life. In contrast, Holm presents a tougher picture and sets her story a little later in Washington State.

In 1899, May Amelia is the only girl in her small settlement on the banks of the Nasel River. The twelve-year-old has seven older brothers and prides herself on being able to fish and run and work as well as any boy. Nevertheless, now that her mother is pregnant, May Amelia wishes for a sister.

When her grandmother comes to help out the family, May Amelia's world is turned upside down. In desperation and grief, the girl makes a startling and brave choice to change her life.

The novel's authenticity stems from the real-life diaries of one of Holm's great-aunts. The story is moving and emotionally deep. May Amelia and her bothers are so well developed that it is easy to forget that the book is mostly fiction. The novel takes a frank and matter-of-fact look at some of the true hardships of pioneer life: contact with Indians, the roughness of the logging camps, the reality of kept women, early death, and unhappiness.

It is no surprise that Our Only May Amelia was the recipient of several awards and honors: Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000; National Council for Social Sciences and Children's Book Council; 2000 Newbery Honor Book; and 2000 Notable Children's Books (ALA). I recommend this for readers of all ages who like a strong female character, who enjoy historical fiction, and who would like to learn more about pioneer life in the Pacific Northwest.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition read by Emmy Rossum. Rossum did a great job characterizing the young May Amelia and conveying a wide range of emotions.

The cover is from the original 1999 HarperCollins edition. (Source: Borrowed; see review policy)

Our Own May Amelia at Powell's
Our Own May Amelia at Amazon
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Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's O.

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