Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rhymes With Magic

Thrilled to be featured by Heather Eddy on the Rhymes With Magic blog!

Lots of people ask me how I learned to fold and I always point them to Heather's fabulous tutorials. I bought a couple of them and a bunch of RDCBs a few years ago and it was Katy-bar-the-door.

Check out Heather's pretty heart!

She even has a pattern if you want to fold your own. Check it out and thanks for the shout-out, Heather!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Format: Audible
Reading Dates: 31 Dec 2013 - 31 Jan 2014
Rating: ****1/2

First and foremost, big props to the narrator of this audiobook, Allan Corduner, whose performance was right on target with all the voices and accents. I bumped up my rating of the book just for that. It was one of those audiobooks with a combination of compelling story and riveting narration that makes you want to get in your car and drive and drive just so you can listen some more.

Narrated by Death himself, The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl living in Nazi Germany with her foster family and a hidden Jew in the basement during the early years of World War II. Liesel is obsessed with reading and with books, which sometimes seem to be the only comfort in a crazy world. She reads them. She writes them. She steals them. She gifts them. She receives them.

As I read this book, I couldn't quit thinking about Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi, which I read many years ago. Both are stories of what life was like for the every day German during the war--not the soldier, not the Nazi, but the regular guy who just wants life to be normal. Initially for Liesel her life is not much different than usual, but when her family takes in a dispossessed Jew who has a backstory with her family, that all changes.

When I finished listening to the last of the book, I wanted things to end a little tidier, a little happier, but why should books be different from real life? This is a really great audiobook and one I highly recommend!

Book Review: A Breast Cancer Alphabet

Title: A Breast Cancer Alphabet
Author: Madhulika Sikka
Format: Paperback
Reading Dates: 15-21 Jan 2014
Rating: ***1/2

I'm trying to figure out how I got this book. I mean I know I got it from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, but I don't remember selecting it and it's not normally the kind of book I'd select. That being said, I decided to dive in anyway.

Madhulika Sikka is an editor for NPR News who chronicles her experiences with breast cancer in The Breast Cancer Alphabet. It's not your normal chronicle however. The book is comprised of 26 very small chapters, each a couple of pages long--one for each letter of the alphabet. All the way from "A is for Anxiety" to "Z is for ZZZs." Her intended audience are those women newly diagnosed with breast cancer who are trying to figure out how the hell they just ended up in Cancerland, that "strange land of surgeries, and drugs and side effects, and pain and anxiety, and you didn't even have a minute to prepare for it."

Throughout the book you follow Sikka as she chronicles how she learned to deal with her body, her family, her doctors and her pain. Since each chapter is so small, it's easy to get through them quickly. Their brevity also means that they aren't deep, soul-searching kinds of chapters, if that's what you're looking for, but you definitely get a sense of Sikka's initial disorientation and her life during treatment, and the postscript follows her out the other side.

Sikka positions her book is as a counter to the idea of the pink-powered warrior that dominates much of the conversation around breast cancer. She argues that she's not a warrior, she's just a woman dealing with a terrible disease, and she counsels her readers that Cancerland is not "a world of fuzzy pink gauze, soft teddy bears, and garlands of ribbons" but a world of indignities that it is "okay to feel indignant about."

As I read the book I kept mentally comparing it to The Emperor of All Maladies, which is one of the best non-fiction books that I've read, a real must-read history of the disease, the research behind it, and the attempts to eradicate it. While A Breast Cancer Alphabet doesn't position itself as that sort of book, it gets lost in deciding what kind of book it wants to be--a memoir or a self-help book. Maybe it's because I read the book from the standpoint of a healthy woman (knock on wood), but I found the memoir parts more gripping and wish she had approached the subject solely from that angle.

Book Review: Assassination Vacation

Title: Assassination Vacation
Author: Sarah Vowell
Format: Kindle
Reading Dates: 31 Dec 2013 - 05 Jan 2014
Rating: ****

Assassination Vacation is another one of those jewels I picked up on a Kindle Daily Deal. I jumped on the offer because I so enjoyed Unfamiliar Fishes a couple of years ago.

I think I enjoyed both of Sarah Vowell's books because I think she might be my twin. My much younger, quite a bit funnier twin that stops to read all the historical markers wherever she goes like me. She's the one who does all the cool things I always wanted to do like write great non-fiction books that bring to light details about historic events that you might not even know about and she gets to travel to cool places to do it. And she was born in Oklahoma!

In Assassination Vacation, Vowell compiles a travelogue describing places she's visited associated with three Presidential murders--Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Now think about it--when's the last time you read a good book on the McKinley assassination? That's just one good reason you should read this book. (And if you just asked yourself "Did we really have a President McKinley?" that's another.)

Accompanying her on her jaunts through museums and graveyards are her sister and especially lovable nephew. Her stories about them bring a personal touch to the book as do her stories about her family history. The way she weaves the stories of her travels, her family, her politics, and the Presidents makes for a cant-put-it-down book, evidenced by the fact that I finished it in 5 days--way shorter than my usual several months average.

If you're looking to learn interesting stuff told in a funny way, you need to read this book. Highly recommended!