Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Geometry With Scissors

Mathematics textbook + Reading With Scissors = x.

Solve for x.

Ah, here ya go!

Thank you, Pythagoras.

Available for your favorite math lover at the Woodlands Fall Festival and Market  at 
Christ Church United Methodist
this Saturday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sneak Peek 2 - Woodlands Fall Festival and Market

Hands up. How many of you remember textbooks like this from your high school or college days. Yep, just about all of you.

Books like this remind me of some of my favorite people. I was lucky to have been taught by some wonderful English teachers. They have made me a life-long reader, which is a gift indeed.

If there's a language arts teacher on your gift list, here's a great addition to his or her bookshelf.

Available this weekend at the Woodlands Fall Fair and Market at Christ Church United Methodist. Come and get it!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sneak Peek - Woodlands Fall Market & Fair

It's craft fair time again.

On Saturday, Oct 26, Reading With Scissors will have a booth at the 2014 Woodlands Fall Market & Fair at Christ Church United Methodist and to whet your appetite, here's a sneak peek of a book I just finished.

Normally I don't leave dust jackets on books, but this time I made an exception. Here's what the book looks like on the outside.

and here's what it looks like on the other side.

C'mon. You know it's funny.

The show starts 9 a.m. Christ Church UMC is at 6363 Research Forest Drive, The Woodlands, TX 77381.

Come see me!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Roots

Title: Roots
Author: Alex Haley
Format: Audible
Reading Dates: 30 Apr 2014 - 24 Aug 2014
Rating: *****

I am a saver, and I try to capture everything. I’ve got boxes and boxes of old letters and my notes from college. (Have fun at my estate sale, everyone! The treasure you’ve been waiting for!) I bought an extra hard drive to save all of our pictures. I’ve started digitizing all my old home movies. And I like to save TV shows, too.  It’s funny for me to think that my kids have always lived when it’s possible to record what’s on TV. I still have tapes from their childhood in a drawer somewhere with old shows on them sitting next to VCR to play them (More treasures!). These days changes in technology have made it so easy to record TV—click a single button on your phone(!) to record a show—that you can imagine why the To Watch list on my DVR is perpetually growing.

But there was a time, young friends (and all my old friends here can attest to it), when the only way to see a program was to be sitting in front of your TV when one of the three networks played it the one time they would ever play it. If you missed it, you missed it. And there wasn’t a Wikipedia or an IMDB to go to the next day to read the episode recap. If you wanted to see a show, you scheduled your life around it.

So it was in the summer of 1977 when Roots, the mini-series aired. You knew it was an event because everyone I knew—without exception—made certain they were in front of their TV while it was on. Meetings got rescheduled and lessons postponed so we could all watch.
It was that big of a deal.

The times probably had something to do with it. I was sixteen that year. I was a baby when the Civil Rights marches were happening and only a few years older during the horrors of 1968. Growing up in an all-white town, those events weren’t something that really seemed to affect me that much. We were a patriotic crowd. During the bi-centennial the year before we ate from bi-centennial plates with bi-centennial forks that we bought with our bi-centennial quarters. America was the grandest place on earth! Slavery was a word I had learned in school, but it was a word I knew in order to pass a history test, nothing I had really thought about deeply.

Roots was the first time the truths of slavery became real to me—the fetid horror of the slave ships, the ever-present brutality, the rending of families. I was living in the era of women’s liberation when the mantra we girls were cutting our milk teeth on was that we could be anything we wanted to be, and that message was brought into stark contrast by the total lack of control a slave had over her life and her body was stunning.

The last several years I’ve been in a race to read as many books as I can in 365 days, but this year I decided was going to be the year of the long books. I wanted to read epics that I had skipped previously because they simply would take too long to read. I had purchased Roots from much earlier, but now it was time to pull it off the virtual shelf and give it a listen.

Simply put, Roots is a great audiobook. Tremendous story by a really terrific narrator. His voices were so right for each of the characters that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a play instead of a book. I still had flashes of the story from nearly 40 years before rolling around my head and I was surprised at how much I did remember—Kunta’s horrific sail across the Atlantic (and Ed Asner’s bad wig), Kizzy’s separation from her family, and of course Chicken George, but reading the book brought new details and insights that I had never known or forgotten, especially the details of Kunta’s life in Africa before he was stolen away.

One of the parts I do remember was at the end when Alex Haley went to Africa. I wondered how it would be handled in the book and his whole explanation of how he fit into the story and how he had come to write the story was any genealogist’s dream—true satisfaction with a healthy dose of humility as you realize all those stories—real lives and heartaches—that had come before you.
If you want to listen to a good book that will entertain you and make you think all at the same time, download Roots and start listening. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: The Goldfinch

Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Format: Kindle
Reading Dates: 14 Jul 2014 - 23 Aug 2014
Rating: ****1/2

There’s this weird thing that happened to me when I read The Goldfinch, and I don’t know how much I’m supposed to tell about the beginning of the book, so, let’s try this. There is this part near the start when the protagonist, Theo Decker, as a young boy, has a chance encounter with an old man. The old man starts to mumble away about long ago times and asks whether Theo remembers them. Then the old man says something about knowing the boy’s mother when she was young.

So immediately I started thinking that this book was going to be some kind of fantasy novel with perhaps time travel or something similarly magical involved. Theo goes away from this unexpected meeting and the rest of the novel starts. Theo has to deal with some trauma early, but no magic appears. I was reading quickly through that part of the book because I knew the magic part had to start happening soon after. Then the next big thing happened and but that didn’t bring magic either. I was literally halfway through the book when I realized that there’s no magic happening here. It was all going to be real. (Although somewhere deep down inside me even at the very end I kept waiting for at least one of the other characters in the book to finally admit s/he was a witch/warlock or a werewolf or a vampire or something other than a regular person.)

The hard part about reviewing this book is that it never met my expectation of what it was going to be and so there was this bit of me that was disappointed even though this was a really good book. It was one of those books that I wanted to grab whenever I could because I couldn’t wait to read more. The story was well-drawn and suspenseful and the characters complex and dimensional.

But the thing that was most striking about the book was the literary flair that xxx brought to the table. Every sentence was jam-packed with insights, similes and metaphors that I found myself reading over and over again because they were so good. And when I say jam-packed, I mean jam-packed. Every sentence. Every paragraph. If I had highlighted all the ones I wanted to remember later, most of the book would have been bright yellow. It was as if Tartt turned on the firehose in the first chapter and didn’t turn it off until the last sentence.

So I recommend this book—entertaining story, great writing—with only one caveat. If you’re looking for magicians or time travel, this isn’t that book.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Dr. Mütter's Marvels

Title: Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
Author: Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
Format: Paperback
Reading Dates: 04 Sep 2014 - 28 Sep 2014
Rating: *****

Watch out Erik Larson, you've got some serious competition in Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. I thoroughly enjoyed her new book, Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, an excellent example of narrative non-fiction.

Although well-known in his time, I had never heard of Dr Mütter before reading this book. Aptowicz's story, however, made him jump off the pages. She followed the familiar pattern of short chapters with punchy endings that make you want to jump to the next chapter as quickly as possible. While many others have tried this formula and can make it seem tiring, Aptowicz really nailed it. The cliffhangers never seemed contrived and really did move the story along.

I'm not sure I would characterize this story as one of "intrigue," but "innovation" definitely! And though mentioned briefly at the beginning, the "Marvels" of the title aren't really discussed until the end, but I enjoyed Aptowicz's narrative in her acknowledgements as she described how she learned about Mütter and his marvels. Now I think I'd like to see them, too--and that's how you know you've found a really good author. I'm looking forward to more, Ms Aptowicz!