Thursday, March 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

While acknowledging that we can't judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardover vs softcover? Trade paperback vs mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

Ok, I will admit, I am a sucker for a neat looking book. I am attracted to the gorgeous cover art of the likes of Wendell Minor ("Then Came Heaven" by LaVyrle Spencer and William Ireland ("Evening Class" by Maeve Binchy). It was the cover art that drew my eye to the Jan Karon "Mitford" books which, of course, turned out to be absolutely lovely books.

I don't care for books with artwork from movies. In fact, I don't really like reading a book if I have seen the movie. Bad memories of an oral book report on "Mutiny on the Bounty" circa 1964. I have a copy of "Chocolat" that has a photo of Juliette Binoche on the cover. I have to say that, as much I like Ms. Binoche as an actress, I don't like the cover of this book.

Hard back vs paper back? Well, I really prefer hard backs if they aren't too thick. They just hold up better because I tend to carry a book with me every place I go and they are more propable. If they are too large, however, they are difficult to hold with my weak wrists. I do buy many paperbacks, however, and have to admit that they are more "purse-able". I think it just depends on how the mood strikes me and whether the book will become a permanent part of our little library or perhaps passed around to friends.

The typeface is another matter, however. It needs to be dark and easy to read. While I am not quite to the point of buying "large print" books, I can see it out on the horizon. Another negative about the "Chocolat" book -- small print on the greyish side.

All of this has to do with the initial attraction to the book, however. Once I have read the dust jacket or an excerpt from the book (mostly done while standing in the store juggling all the magazines I tend to buy), I know whether I am going to enjoy the book in spite of the cover art. I have reshelved many "cool looking" books because they just weren't for me. Unfortunately, I have probably never taken a second look at some great books because the packaging just didn't grab me.

I read/collect children's books and I am drawn to the illustrations -- who isn't. Again, however, if the story falls flat, I won't purchase the book just for the art -- it has to be a complete package. Like jlshall, I wish adult books could be illustrated -- they should be illustrated. I like the street maps in the Mitford books -- they create a visual for the reader that really puts you into the book.

At the end of the day, however, it is the content that matters and once I am "into" a book, the cover matters not a whit. All the decoration in the world won't "make" a book nor will lack of decoration doom it.

Great covers do make book shopping fun though and I am sure turn a good profit for the dealers.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

My seventh book for the Young Reader's Challenge is "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry. It is a Newberry Award Winner published in 1989 by Yearling, a division of Random House.

"Number the Stars" is the story of 10 year old Annemarie Johansen who lived in Denmark in 1943 after Denmark had surrendered to the Nazis. She lives with her parents and her younger sister, Kirsti in an apartment in Copenhagen. Her best friend is Ellen Rosen who lives upstairs. They are fast friends and would do anything for one another -- and do.

This book is different from "Letters from Rifka" in that it shows more fear, more danger and more heroism. In the beginning, Annemarie sufferes deprivation to a point -- childish things like pink cupcakes -- but she is fortunate that her family is intact, except for an older sister, Lise who died in a vague "accident". She and her friend, Ellen, go to school and life continues pretty much as usual until one day -- the Jewish New Year -- when things change. Ellen's parents leave for a while to an undisclosed location, Annemarie, her mother, her sister, and Ellen make a hasty trip to visit her Uncle Henrik in the country. Annemarie could sense the tension and danger and was becoming very aware that the world they new was changing quickly and not for the better.

When they arrived at Uncle Henrik's, Annemarie realized that there was a serious movement going on and that her family was part of it. Her family was involved in the hiding and transporting of Danish Jews across the ocean to Sweden. Ellen was reunited with her family and then embarked on a quick but very dangerous journey in the false bottom of Uncle Henrik's fishing boat.

Annemarie's family realized that she was being very brave and so they gave her bits and pieces of information. She was growing up quickly and had many questions. She learned that her sister, Lise, was part of the resistance movement along with her fiance, Peter, and was killed while fleeing from a meeting. Annemarie learned that her Uncle Henrik had been helping people flee for a while and he told her of the tactics he had for not getting caught.

The last chapter of the book has the Johansens together two years later. The war was over and life was returning to normal. Annemarie hadn't forgotten her friend and was looking forward to being reunited with her at some point in the future.

The afterword is quite interesting because it explains the book -- what is fiction, what is not, what is documented historical military fact.

This book is well written, flows flawlessly, is edgy and tense without being unbearably sad or grotesquely graphic. You know, without a doubt, that the Rosens are safe and will return home at some point and you can feel the relief of the end of the turmoil.

I would recommend this book for the older reader in our age group. It is very readable, the content is not objectionable, you can feel Annemarie maturing and her parents realizing that they can trust her with precious information. I might even read it again, myself.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

________ would have been a much better book if_____________

London would have been a much better book if it hadn't been so long! Still not done, still enjoying it, don't know what I would cut out but it is really, really lengthy and I am, apparently, really, really slow.

Would recommend, though.
"An American Haunting"

Our cable tv service and our internet service is bundled through our cable tv service. It can get pricey so, a few weeks ago we got a call from the cable company with a promotional. I just assumed that A wouldn't be interested so I brushed them off. Well, much to my surprise, he WAS interested so I called them back, apologized and listened to their their pitch. They were going to lower our bill and include one movie tier. A was shaking his head "no" -- he doesn't believe in subscribing to premium movie channels. I was hesitant, the salesman on the other end of the phone was trying hard so he just threw in everything they had to offer for the same low price which wasn't low but it was quite a bit lower than what we were paying without any premium channels. I made the administrative decision to go for it.

That doesn't mean there is anything on to watch.

A doesn't like light comedy, it seems. So, we have been catching a lot of action movies, thrillers, documentaries.

The latest thriller was "An American Haunting". A movie in the same vein as "The Others". I really liked "The Others". I would say it was more startling than scary. "An American Haunting" however was just downright scary to me. Startling, also, but scary. I don't know if it had to do with the late hour we were watching it or what but it was scary.

If you are looking for a scary, ghostly movie for your next movie marathon -- try this one. It won't disappoint.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

October 8, 2008

Today we went to my son and daughter in laws house for a playdate with our grandson, Nathan. We also had lunch. I was expecting sandwiches but it was a full blown, sit down, use the good glasses dinner. It was fine. Toward the end of the meal, Master Nathan was swept off to his room to change him out of his sweater which was getting way too warm and give him a quick wash up. When he returned, all squeeky clean and rosy cheeked he was proud to announce, via his new T-shirt, that he is the "Best Big Brother".

So, Nathan announced the impending arrival of the newest member of the Brinkley clan. Now, we don't know yet what kind of member -- it could go either way at this point -- but it is definitely baking because I saw the sonogram pics. It doesn't matter, though, because it will be precious and loved and doted on and welcomed.

I just wish I had taken a picture! I even had the camera with me! What better baby announcement than Nathan!

What an exciting summer!

Friday, March 07, 2008

"Bunnicula" by James Howe

The sixth book that I have read for the Young Readers Challenge is "Bunnicula" by Deborah and James Howe.

For those of you who enjoy reading aloud to your children, I would recommend this book, as well as the sequels. The age group that it would be appropriate for would be 8-12, the elder of that group reading it on their own, obviously.

This is the most hysterical book I have ever read to my own children. While it is a children's book, the humor will appeal to adults and will send you into fits of laughter -- and the kids will look at you like you are crazy. Just remember to read the forward -- it will set the tone for the entire adventure.

The book is about the Monroe family, Mom, Dad the two boys and Chester the cat and Harold the dog. It is presented from the viewpoint of Harold. The family is very educated, sophisticated and so are the pets.

"At this point, I feel I must explain something. In our family, everyone treats everyone else with great respect for his or her intelligence. That goes for the animals as well as the people. Everything that happens to them is explained to us. It's never been just "Good boy, Harold," or "use the litter box, Chester at our house. Oh no, with us it's "Hey Harold, Dad got a raise and now we're in a higher tax bracket," or "come sit on the bed, Chester, and watch this Wild Kingdom show. Maybe you will see a relative."

So, you can see that Chester and Harold had quite a bit of adjusting to do when the Monroes brought home a new family member -- Bunnicula -- a bunny. Now, Bunnicula has some peculiar behaviors and Chester decides that he is going to get to the bottom of it. He has a theory and decides to test his theory which only gets him in deep trouble. Harold is torn between his loyalty to his old friend and his empathy for his new friend.

This isn't your usual, run of the mill dog and cat story. It is intelligent, hysterical, poignant and isn't the least bit difficult for an adult to get into while reading to the kids.

I would definitely recommend this book and I enjoyed reading it again, myself.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

"Who is your favorite male lead character. And Why"

I would have to say that my favorite lead male character is Father Tim, the main character in the Jan Karon Mitford series. Why? Well, he is so REAL. Even though he is an Episcopal priest, he has all the strengths, weaknesses, temptations, doubts as us regular folks. He isn't preachy and really shows the human side of life. He is kind and gentle, he has diabetes and loves food which shows his vulnerability. All in all, he is just a real down to earth character -- picture an aging Dan Aykroyd.

The second favorite would be Blackie in the Barbara Taylor Bradford "A Woman of Substance" series. He is another gentle, loyal soul that isn't afraid to show the frailities and strengths of the human spirit. I saw the movie before I read the books -- I enjoyed the books more -- but I have to say that when I read the character of Blackie all I saw in my mind's eye was Liam Neeson! That isn't bad either!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Gift -- A Novel

"The Gift--A Novel" isn't the sort of book I usually go for. In the first place, it is short, only 153 pages. I usually read longer books either in the form of historical fiction or serial works. I picked this one up on the bargain counter at B&N -- can't resist the bargain counter.

It takes place in 1952 during the Korean War. It is set in Manhattan -- an Irish neighborhood that is neither properous nor colorful. It is Christmas and the main character, Peter, a seventeen year old sailor home on leave is facing a very dismal holiday. His girlfriend has written him a "dear John" letter which he intends to talk to her about; his father is sullen and introspective, nothing new there; his mother is struggling with too many children and not enough money; and he is facing being shipped off to Korea. All of this is punctuated by the fact that Peter feels that he doesn't know his father at all and he isn't sure if his father really loves him.

The whole book takes place over just a few days but it is a few days filled with loss, discovery, "coming of age" and a gift. You will have to read the book to see what the gift is because I won't tell.

I would recommend this book.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Who is your favorite female lead character?

I guess I would have to say Emma Harte of "A Woman of Substance" and the sequels. Emma is gutsy, resourceful, slightly promiscuous -- all wonderful traits! I read the entire series and continued to like her through all of them.