Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations Seeks New Lists

January 21, 2010

In December Peter at Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations published a list of great books for book clubs compiled by a list of book bloggers, including me. He’s been getting great response to that list, along with his multiple other lists for book clubs. Now, he’s hoping to find more book clubs who are willing to put together a list for him. I’ve already created lists for mother-daughter book clubs in four age groups, the first of which went up on his site yesterday. It’s a list of recommendations for mother-daughter book clubs with girls who are 7 and 8. Compilations for readers aged 9 and 10, 11 to 13 and 14+ should be up soon.

Here’s a message from Peter on what he’s looking for:

Open Call for Lists of Book Club Recommendations!

“Hello and happy new year from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations—where you can find books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. 😉

It seems the book club community has recently discovered my book club recommendations. From the feedback, not only are the lists very much enjoyed, but people are clamoring for more.

That’s where you come in. While I’ve read plenty of books, I’m looking to book club members to contribute new lists—themed, annotated lists of highly discussable books.

Can you name and describe 5+ flashlight worthy, discussable books that follow a theme? Maybe ‘7 Great Books that Revolve Around Food’? Or ‘6 Women’s Memoirs That Will Start an Argument’. How About ‘5 Discussable Novels Set in Africa’?

Take a look at the lists I have and give it some thought. If you’re interested, email me at Info AT flashlightworthy DOT com. Thanks so much and have a great new year!

(The guy who runs Flashlight Worthy)
Recommending books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. 😉

December Mother-Daughter Book Club Newsletter Now Available

December 14, 2009

A couple of days ago I sent out the December newsletter for subscribers at Mother Daughter Book Club.com. This month’s edition has ideas for gifts for book lovers, including tea bags with literary sayings and reading-themed jewelry. I’ve also included reviews of Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko and Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo, both of which I highly recommend. You’ll also find an essay on writing poetry by Sage Cohen, author of Writing the Life Poetic, and an article about shifting the holiday focus to giving, by Maggie Macaulay of Whole Hearted Parenting.

And you’ll find new info about my book reviews at Reading Local Portland. Interested in signing up so you can receive the newsletters direct to you mailbox each month? Just visit the subscription page and follow the instructions.

Check Out This Review at Books4YourKids.com

December 7, 2009

Tanya at Books4YourKids.com is reviewing Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs on her site today. It’s really gratifying to read what others say are the most helpful aspects of Book by Book, and Tanya has written a very thorough review. While you’re checking out what she has to say about my guidebook, you may also want to peruse her other book reviews and comments. You can click on links that take you to her reviews by title, author, reading level and genre. I find it’s not always easy to find book recommendations by age group on the Web, but Books4YourKids.com does make it easy. And I think it’s great that she’s got atypical lists of books such as Read Out Loud for Kids 7+, and Books that Your Kids Should Read but Probably Won’t Unless You Read with Them. Today I added Books4YourKids.com to my permanent links. It’s a great place to visit over and over again for ideas.

On another note: tonight Catherine and I are attending our book club meeting. We’ll be talking about the Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. Stay tuned to find out more about this book and our discussion.

Mother-Daughter Book Club Meeting Last Night—How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

November 10, 2009

Garcia Girls

Last night Catherine and I went to our mother-daughter book club meeting. We had so much fun before the discussion began that we didn’t sit down to talk about the book until we had all been at Ellen and Franny’s house for nearly two hours! Since the girls started high school, we’ve cut back to meeting about once every six to eight weeks, but we do miss each other in the interim. Most of the girls see each other at school, but the moms don’t seem much of each other at all. And there’s no other place that the whole group gathers together at the same time.

After we polished off bowls of chili accompanied by salad and cornbread (yum!), it was time for book discussion. We read How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez. We weren’t sure how discussion was going to go, because we knew the book brought up tough issues to read about: mental illness, sexual promiscuity, drug usage and more. Some of the moms especially were not comfortable reading about such dark, emotional issues. But when we got into the discussion, we found the girls had not really focused on those points too much. They’re used to reading and analyzing texts with those issues in them for school, and they don’t have life experience yet to be truly affected by the despair some of the adults picked up on.

Most people didn’t like the way the book was told from the present in the main characters’ lives, back to the past. They believed they could have been much more sympathetic to the four Garcia girls as adults, if they had known more about their lives as children first. I thought most of the chapters were beautifully written, capturing human emotion exceptionally well. But I also thought the book read like a series of short stories connected by a common thread. I found it much easier to appreciate the whole book when I looked at it that way.

I’m sure the author wasn’t thinking of a young adult audience when she wrote this book. We chose it because it was on the reading list for the literature class at one of the girl’s high school. I was reminded during our discussion of the reasons I usually recommend against choosing books from a school reading list. For one thing, those books often contain dark, emotional conflicts that show the characters’ growth over the course of the story. It’s perfect for analysis, but not always perfect for book club. Also, reading school books for book club can mean that your fun group meeting turns into just another assignment.

While we did have a lively, meaningful discussion about How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, I don’t recommend it as a mother-daughter book club book. Next up, we’ll be going in a different direction as we read The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff.

New Book Review—Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

October 8, 2009

Goth Girl Rising

Kyra is back from the mental institution where she spent six months after her dad thought she wanted to kill herself. She’s been released to return home and go back to high school, because she’s not considered a threat to herself any more. But that doesn’t mean life is easy. Her dad, whom she calls Roger, is keeping a tight leash on her, she hates school and gets in trouble her first day back, and she’s very angry. Angry at Roger, angry at her mother who died of cancer a few years ago, and most of all angry at the guy she calls Fanboy, who told Roger she may be suicidal and got her sent away in the first place.

While Kyra was away, Fanboy has suddenly gone from being a geek to being popular with a lot of the kids in school. He’s publishing his graphic novel serially in the pages of the school journal, and he’s getting a lot of attention for it. Before, no one really knew Fanboy except Kyra. She gave him advice about his graphic novels, and she thought they may become more than friends. But now that Fanboy seems to have dropped her and moved on, she’s bent on getting revenge.

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga is not an easy book to read, mostly because Kyra is such a hard character to like. Her emotions are raw, she bucks all authority, and she’s what every parent doesn’t want to have for a child: a smoking, cursing, school-skipping, car-stealing, in-your-face girl. Yet, interspersed between the chapters with Kyra’s voice are vignettes of a small poem that builds as the book goes on. It’s Kyra’s memory of her cancer-chemotheray-ravaged mother’s last days. These vignettes give you a glimpse into the pain and guilt that Kyra has never dealt with since her mother’s illness and death, and you begin to see what’s behind her self-destructive behavior.

While Goth Girl Rising is a continuation of the story from The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, this book stands on its own and you don’t have to have read the first one to appreciate it. This book is definitely for older girls, I’d say 15 and up. The teens use foul language, are sexually promiscuous, drink alcohol, smoke, and make very bad decisions based on faulty information. It all feels painfully real, and the situations should provide great discussions between mothers and daughters and book club members.

New books to recommend

September 11, 2009

Yesterday I attended the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association conference and got to sit in on some very interesting workshops. I also eagerly wrote down recommendations from the region’s booksellers on some of the top reads they are recommending to customers these days.

I concentrated on books for middle grade readers and young adults, since the books presented there cover all genres and all age groups. Among the highlights? Here are the new ones I’m putting on my list after hearing what the speakers had to say:

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead was billed as a “perfect book” and great to read aloud. It was named an Amazon best of the month for July this year. Here’s what Amazon’s reviewer had to say: Shortly after sixth-grader Miranda and her best friend Sal part ways, for some inexplicable reason her once familiar world turns upside down. Maybe it’s because she’s caught up in reading A Wrinkle in Time and trying to understand time travel, or perhaps it’s because she’s been receiving mysterious notes which accurately predict the future. Rebecca Stead’s poignant novel, When You Reach Me, captures the interior monologue and observations of kids who are starting to recognize and negotiate the complexities of friendship and family, class and identity. Set in New York City in 1979, the story takes its cue from beloved Manhattan tales for middle graders like E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, and Norma Klein’s Mom the Wolfman and Me. Like those earlier novels, When You Reach Me will stir the imaginations of young readers curious about day-to-day life in a big city. –Lauren Nemroff Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly was recommended as a great “slice of life story, very original.” Booklist gave this a starred review. Here’s what they had to say: Growing up with six brothers in rural Texas in 1899, 12-year-old Callie realizes that her aversion to needlework and cooking disappoints her mother. Still, she prefers to spend her time exploring the river, observing animals, and keeping notes on what she sees. Callie’s growing interest in nature creates a bond with her previously distant grandfather, an amateur naturalist of some distinction. After they discover an unknown species of vetch, he attempts to have it officially recognized. This process creates a dramatic focus for the novel, though really the main story here is Callie’s gradual self-discovery as revealed in her vivid first-person narrative. By the end, she is equally aware of her growing desire to become a scientist and of societal expectations that make her dream seem nearly impossible. Interwoven with the scientific theme are threads of daily life in a large family—the bonds with siblings, the conversations overheard, the unspoken understandings and misunderstandings—all told with wry humor and a sharp eye for details that bring the characters and the setting to life. The eye-catching jacket art, which silhouettes Callie and images from nature against a yellow background, is true to the period and the story. Many readers will hope for a sequel to this engaging, satisfying first novel. Grades 4-7. –Carolyn Phelan

Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin was recommended as a good cross-generational read-aloud book. This also got a starred review from Booklist. Here’s the review: In this enchanted and enchanting adventure, Minli, whose name means “quick thinking,” lives with her desperately poor parents at the confluence of Fruitless Mountain and the Jade River. While her mother worries and complains about their lot, her father brightens their evenings with storytelling. One day, after a goldfish salesman promises that his wares will bring good luck, Minli spends one of her only two coins in an effort to help her family. After her mother ridicules what she believes to be a foolish purchase, Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon, who, it is told, may impart the true secret to good fortune. Along the way, she finds excitement, danger, humor, magic, and wisdom, and she befriends a flightless dragon, a talking fish, and other companions and helpmates in her quest. With beautiful language, Lin creates a strong, memorable heroine and a mystical land. Stories, drawn from a rich history of Chinese folktales, weave throughout her narrative, deepening the sense of both the characters and the setting and smoothly furthering the plot. Children will embrace this accessible, timeless story about the evil of greed and the joy of gratitude. Lin’s own full-color drawings open each chapter. Grades 3-6. –Andrew Medlar

I’m going back to the conference this afternoon, so I hope to have more recommendations afterward.

The Pleasure of Re-Reading Books

March 20, 2009

bonesetter1 sensibility

I’ve already read each of the books chosen for April in my two mother-daughter book clubs. I remember liking The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen when I read them, but it’s been years since I finished those books. I usually have so many titles to read (you know the old adage, so many books, so little time) that I rarely pick up something that I’ve read before. But sometimes it’s worth revisiting the gems of the past. Each time I do, I learn something or notice a detail I didn’t get before. And, because this time I’m reading each of the books to discuss with one of my daughters, I will think about things that may have meaning for them as well. I look forward to finding out what that may be.

After today, I’ll be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks. My kitchen remodel is almost finished, but the last bits are either forcing me from my home (refinishing the wood floors) or have me running around moving things all day long (replacing carpets). I plan to have time to read, though, and I’ll be back in April with another batch of book reviews in addition to the ones I’m reading for book club and news from other groups with fresh ideas for you.

Book Review: If I’d Known Then, Women in Their 20s and 30s Writer Letters to Their Younger Selves

June 24, 2008

Have you ever wished you could write a letter to yourself when you were younger to give yourself hope or encouragement to get through a difficult time? That’s what the 35 women did who appear in If I’d Know Then, Women in Their 20s and 30s Write Letters to Their Younger Selves by Ellyn Spragins.

Readers will recognize many of the writers as well as receive introductions to remarkable women they may not have heard of before. The letters are all heartfelt, with the authors talking directly to the young girls they once were. It’s a wonderful reminder that no matter how famous or wealthy or popular someone is, we all share many of the same insecurities, doubts, fears and self-imposed limitations.

This book is part of the What I Know Now series, and I think it’s a great addition for younger readers. I was particularly struck by the story of  Mindy Lam, who was labeled an unlucky child when she was born in China and treated harshly during her childhood. She overcame incredible hurdles to come this country, learn to speak English and find a way to support herself before stumbling upon an idea for creating jewelry that has made her successful beyond her imagining. All the stories are inspiring.

Moms in a mother-daughter book club can write letters to their younger selves as a meeting activity to inspire discussion. And girls could also think about issues they’re dealing with now that they may see differently in a few years.

I believe girls aged 13 and up would enjoy reading If I’d Known Then.

The World that Made New Orleans

April 10, 2008

I attended an author’s talk last night at Portland State University. I almost didn’t go, because I’m usually cooking, helping with homework and generally tired at night. But I’m glad I made the effort. Ned Sublette talked about his new book, The World that Made New Orleans. Sublette, who is a musician as well as an author of history, sprinkled his conversation with current tales of New Orleans as well as the historical facts the book concentrates on (the period from founding through 1812). I was fascinated listening to him talk about the Africans slaves and free people of color and their music. As New Orleans has become less of a major hub for commerce in the United States and more what some consider a theme park for tourists, it’s easy for people to forget about the crucial role it has played in the ongoing history of our country.

I bought a copy of the book and can’t wait to start reading it.

Blog on New Mother Daughter Book Club

April 1, 2008

I’ve been following a blog called Booking Mama, where Julie Peterson is writing about a new mother-daughter book club that she started with her daughter a few months ago. The book reviews are great, and Booking Mama’s descriptions of her mother-daughter book club meetings are really good too. The girls in the group are 8 years old, and if you have younger girls in your group this is a wonderful place to get ideas of what to read and discuss.

I also enjoy the reviews of books for adult readers that are included on the site. Julie reads even more than I do! Here’s a link to the Booking Mama blog so you can check it out.

Booking Mama.blogspot.com