Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

Category: Books (page 1 of 2)

Reading Challenge: Current Books

This is the list of books I’m currently reading in case you want to read along:

  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – On the list
  • Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – On the list
  • Dear Cary: My Life with Cary Grant by Dyan Cannon – On the list
  • Good Stuff by Jennifer Grant
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot – On the list
  • The Biography by Jerry Hopkins
  • The Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
  • The Mental Floss History of the United States by Erik Sass, Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur – On the list
  • Careless Love by Peter Guralnick

And, books I’ve finished since the challenge began:

  • Ghost of a Gamble by Sue Ann Jaffarian
  • Ghostly Paws by Leighann Dobbs
  • Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern – On the list
  • Dummy of a Ghost by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Cold Sassy Tree

There are times when you read a book so touching that it stays with you long after you close the back cover. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns is one of those books. I checked the Cold Sassy Tree audiofile out of my local library. Listening to Tom Parker (aka Grover Gardner, who read Mark Twain’s autobiography) I was mesmerized.

Mr. Parker’s voice carries to to Cold Sassy in July, 1906.  The voice may be Mr. Parker’s, but the story belongs to 14 year old Will Tweedy.  As the story begins, Grandpa Blakeslee has arrived at Will’s house with some news.  Everyone is worried about Grandpa Blakeslee, as it has just been 3 weeks since his wife, Mattie Lou, died.  Since he won’t let his daughter’s take care of him and he won’t hire anyone, he has an idea.  Grandpa intends to marry Miss Love Simpson – his store’s milliner and a Yankee to boot!  Needless to say, this causes a ruckus that drives the story all the way to the end.

This book will make you laugh and cry.  If you listen to the audiobook, you’ll be at the edge of your seat.  Mr. Parker’s voice is perfect for a story that takes place in Georgia in 1906 and he lulls you along, believing that you know these people.  The story is well thought out and written by Olive Ann Burns.

It isn’t often that a book does this and I don’t say it lightly, but this book has renewed my faith in God and humanity.  It touched me that much.

Shadow of the Wind

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I read 435 words per minute with an 85% comprehension rate. This trait served me well in college when I needed to write a paper and left the research until the last minute. I could devour books and other research material in rapid time and leave myself plenty of time to write.

While reading Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, this trait was a detriment. I wanted to savior every word, every description, every page turn. I found myself both trying to find out what happens next and wanting to slow my reading to enjoy the journey.

Shadow of the Wind is rich with descriptions of Barcelona, Spain that you can almost taste the air as you turn the pages.  Every step you take with Daniel, the narrator of this lush adventure, you feel as if you’re truly there, seeing what he sees.  The story starts in 1945 with Daniel and his father visiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  Inside the great library, Daniel adopts The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.  The book so touches his sole that he goes in search of the author.  What he finds takes him on a journey of love, loss, life and death.  Each turn of the page takes you one small step closer to solving the mystery and just when you think you have it all figured out, Zafon throws in a curve you didn’t see coming.

When I finished reading Shadow of the Wind, I set out to purchase another Zafon book.  The author’s talent seems to have no bounds.  I highly recommend Shadow of the Wind.

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Book Review: The Chilli Queen

Last Thursday, having found myself in Milwaukee with two hours to kill and no idea how to kill them, I went to a Barnes & Noble to find a book to read.  I had been listening to Sandra Dallas’s “Buster Midnight’s Cafe”, so I figured I would find another one of her books to read.  I found The Chili Queen: A Novel and I could not put it down.  The slim novel – only 304 pages – is packed with humor, love and, truth be told, a little horror.

I should probably mention right up front that I’m not really into westerns and I usually don’t read books that go back in time any farther than the 1920’s.  But, The Chili Queen draws you in and makes you want to know what happens next.  The best is how Sandra separates the story from one person to the next.  There’s enough twists and turns to keep you hopping.  I’m usually pretty good at detecting the twists before they happen, but one twist at the end had me catching my breath.

If you like your mystery surrounded by a little humor, The Chili Queen will not disappoint you.

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn and the use of Nigger

Have you heard the reports that two men have edited the Mark Twain Classic Novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and removed the word Nigger and replaced it with Slave?

I admit, it isn’t an easy word for me to type.  I find it completely offensive.  In fact, I don’t listen to much of Richard Pryor’s stand up because he uses that word.  I love me some D.L. Hughley and I cringe every time it crosses his lips.

And, I am white.  I mean I am whiter than white.  I am pale, burn in the sun white.  I am a black person’s nightmare – where they dream that they woke up white and they discover it isn’t cool white, it is nerd white.  And, when I do the white woman happy dance, my black friends just shake their heads and wonder how I manage to dress myself in the morning.

So, I’m not going to say something stupid, like some of my best friends are black, because – well, it isn’t true.  I have some close black friends and some not so close black acquaintances.  But, if you looked at all the pictures of my Facebook friends, you would see a whole lot of vanilla before you ran across chocolate.

You won’t hear me say the word Nigger.  I think in my adult life it might’ve crossed my lips maybe four, five times – all in the context of a conversation and never yelled at someone.

And, yet, I don’t want the word removed from Huck Finn.  I don’t see the point.  Is it a hurtful word?  Yes, it is.  Did Mark Twain mean for it to be hurtful?  I don’t believe so, I believe that he was merely using the right word for the time in which he wrote the novel.

If we remove a word from history, then we lose something.  I’m not sure I’m putting this into the correct words, but I believe that a classroom full of children that have to read the word Nigger is an opportunity to teach them about what it was like to have been a negro in America back then.  It is an opportunity to teach them how words hurt – how calling someone a name could potentially hurt that person more than if you broke their arm.  A broken arm will heal, but a broken spirit will not.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, I’m an out lesbian.  I am as out as I am white.  I’ve been called a dyke and it hurts.  Just when I think that everything is all cool, someone will call me a dyke and I’m reminding that I’m different – that I don’t really fit in with everyone around me.  I wonder, sometimes, if that’s what it is like to be black in America.  Does a black person ever forget that they’re black?  Blacks are only 26% (feel free to check my figures, this is an estimate) of the America population, which probably means that whenever they stand in a room with four people in it – 3 of them are white.  I wonder what that is like for them.  I mean, when I stand in a room full of strangers – no one knows I’m a lesbian, but when you’re black, well, that’s pretty hard to hide.

Anyway, I’m taking a long way to say the following:

  • Censoring a novel because one word or more are offensive today is wrong.  We shouldn’t take out the parts we don’t like.
  • Allowing our children to have open discussions on name calling in a safe classroom setting could be a good thing – if handled correctly.
  • Richard Pryor came to the conclusion that saying Nigger was wrong, before he passed away.  I wish D.L. Hughley would do the same thing – the stop saying the word, not the dying part.
  • I’m a lousy dancer.

I’d love to know what you think.

Get Sarah Palin’s New Book FREE!

I was checking out a list of book signings and I saw the below ad.  I’ve never heard of Townhall Magazine.  According to its website, it “is the monthly news and opinion journal from the same team of right-thinking reporters, opinion makers, insiders and political leaders conservatives have trusted for 15 years.”  Andrew Breitbart is one of their contributors, if that means anything to you.  The subscription costs $34.95, which is (according to the site) 42% off the cover price.  And, now the ad…

So, here’s my question…Does Townhall Magazine’s giveaway of Sarah Palin’s new book count toward the amount of her books sold? I mean, how many subscriptions will they sell using this promotion? 100? 1,000? 10,000? And, if Townhall Magazine is purchasing them to give them away, how does that translate into the sales figures for Palin’s book? What if they receive one million subscriptions? Does that mean Sarah Palin’s book sales go up by a million?

This is a serious question.  I’m not trying to knock Palin’s book or the magazine, as I have read neither.  I’m just really curious as I have not seen a magazine use a book giveaway in this manner.  Yes, magazines give away books, but they’re usually books produced by the magazine’s own publisher; one example would be Consumer Reports will giving away their buying guide with a paid subscription.   I’ve seen others, but of course while I’m writing this, I can’t think of any.  If you have, please feel free to mention them below.  If you know whether or not this counts as part of her sale totals, please comment that as well.

Oh and if you are just dying to get your hands on a subscription of Townhall Magazine, but you all ready have Palin’s book – they offer other choices, as well.

Happy Reading!

This Week at Top Of My Head…

Here’s what I’m reading and playing this week at Top Of My Head…

What I’m Reading, Playing and Listening to…

I used to post links to the books that I am reading.  I’ve gotten out of that habit, so I decided to start it up again.

What I’m Reading…

What I’m playing…

What I’m Listening to…

The Laceyville Monkeys, Say the Right Words

“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s the old saying that my father taught me way back in the last century when I was a little girl. For the most part, my father was right. Words never hurt me physically, but whenever a harsh word was sent my way, pain would resonate longer. Words may never break your back, but they can break your spirit. This is the lesson I believe Harriett Ruderman wants children to learn in her book, The Laceyville Monkeys, Say the Right Words.

The Laceyville Monkeys are a trio of amazing monkeys that can sing, perform gymnastics and dance. However; if you don’t say the right words, the monkeys will not perform for any audience. With charming illustrations by Beverly Luria, Ruderman has created not only a world that will delight children, but passes on the very valuable lesson of choosing the right words. The rhyming tale is certain to delight children and parents alike.

Miss Hepzibath Mott arrives in Laceyville with her three monkeys; Eva – the ballerina, Sheva – the singer, and Keva – the gymnast. To begin their delightful performance, Miss Hepzibath Mott says the right (and kind) words. She wishes to enter the trio in the big talent contest, but Granny Scott has other plans. On the day of the contest, she sneaks the monkeys out of the house and enters them into the contest. However; Granny Scott has never learned the lesson of using the right words and the monkeys refuse to perform. Without giving too much away, you can be rest assured that your children will be enthralled with the wonderful ending.

The book’s colorful pictures and rhyming words will teach the lesson of kindness that will stay with your children long after the back cover is closed. In this day and age of harshness, perhaps a few adults could read the tale and learn the lesson as well.

The Hole In The Sky

The Hole in the Sky has on its cover an amazing piece of artwork. Created by Katherine Navarette, it is worthy enough to be framed and hung on the wall. When you open that beautiful cover, the front piece contains a map of Murantenland drawn by Joan Swan. The book includes two ribbons for marking your place, perfect for reading along with your child. The included ribbons will stop a reader from turning down the corners to mark their place – a personal pet peeve. When you read the copyright page, you learn that the book is made from mixed sources – well managed forests and recycled paper.

The presentation of the book from its beautiful cover to the map to the book mark ribbons would be a disappointment if the author, Barbara A. Mahler, had not written a story to warrant such an amazing presentation.

The Hole in the Sky is about 13-year old Kaela Neuleaf. She lives with her father, who is a rather sad man after the death of her mother. Kaela is your average teen. She has struggles in school, wondering where she belongs and she dreams of something magical happening to her. Kaela is not alone in her awkwardness; she has her cousin, Shawn, who wears glasses and gets picked on – a lot.

The magical appears to Kaela and Shawn in the form of Netri. Netri is from Murantenland and he helps them go through the hole in the sky. Kaela, it has been determined, is the red haired girl mentioned in the prophecy that will end it all.

The Hole in the Sky was written for 8 to 12 year olds. However, any parent would enjoy reading the book right along with his or her child. There are many themes of love and loss throughout the book that lend themselves to wonderful, thought-filled discussions with your child. The book made me wish I had a young daughter and we could read it together.

A bit slow in the beginning, the story soon picks up speed and carries the reader through an impressive ride through a beautiful new world. When the young reader comes to the end, she will have learned lessons about love and healing. The best part is that the story weaves the lessons in a manner that is not preachy. The Hole in the Sky is the first book in a trilogy. After closing the back cover, I was wishing the second book was available and I believe you will wish the same.

Happy Reading!

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