The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

This black-and-white illustrated, ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large package containing a toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Milo drives through the tollbooth’s gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets characters such as the watchdog named Tock, the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, the not-so-wicked “Which,” and King Azaz the Unabridged who gives Milo the mission of returning the two princesses Rhyme and Reason to the Kingdom of Wisdom.

My take: 5 stars and a

There is not enough to say about this book. It is a wonderfully enchanting play on words. It is full of life lessons and unforgettable characters. In short, this is a book that everyone who loves books should read, own, discuss, and read again.

Highly prized and recommended.

2015 Book Challenge

Found a link on my Bibliophile reading group to a very doable book challenge for this year. I will update it throughout the year, as the books are read.

A book with more than 500 pages – The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A classic romance
A book that became a movie
A book published this year
A book with a number in the title
A book written by someone under 30
A book with nonhuman characters
A funny book
A book by a female author – The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe by Betsey Osborne
A mystery or thriller – Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
A book with a one-word title
A book of short stories
A book set in a different country
A nonfiction book
A popular author’s first book
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
A book a friend recommended
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
A book based on a true story
A book at the bottom of your to-read list
A book you mom loves
A book that scares you
A book more than 100 years old
A book based entirely on its cover
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
A memoir
A book you can finish in a day
A book with antonyms in the title
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
A book that came out the year you were born
A book with bad reviews
A trilogy
A book from your childhood
A book with a love triangle
A book set in the future
A book set in high school
A book with a color in the title
A book that made you cry
A book with magic
A graphic novel
A book by an author you’ve never read before
A book you own but have never read
A book that takes place in your hometown
A book that was originally written in a different language
A book set during Christmas
A book written by an author with your same initials
A play
A banned book
A book based on or turned into a TV show
A book you started but never finished

How I read more than one book at a time

It’s really not that difficult to read more than one book at a time. And don’t worry that you will get confused by the storylines or mix up characters. Unless you are reading two similar books, that doesn’t happen as easily as you may think.

Here are some tricks that I use when reading more than one book at a time:

1. Have a primary book.
This is usually the book that I am reading for my Wednesday night book club. We very frequently read one book per week, so this is the book that I must concentrate on if I am to get it read. I read this during breaks in my day and in the evening instead of watching television (unless one of my “must see” shows is on, of course).

2. A book while walking.
You would not believe how people make fun of me because I read while I walk! I walk in my neighborhood, know the streets well, and always face on-coming traffic, which is sparse. It is not dangerous under those conditions. And it helps to pass the time while I am getting a health benefit. I always choose a paperback for this, since they are lighter to carry. I walk about an hour, so I can cover quite a few pages in this precious, uninterrupted time.

3. Choose a secondary book on a mobile device.
If my primary book is fiction, I will choose a non-fiction here. Some non-fiction that I have read lately include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, “Killing Kennedy”, “Killing Lincoln”, and “The Witness Wore Red”. Likewise, if your primary is non-fiction, choose a fiction book. It is very easy to keep subject matter and characters separate when the genre is so different. I read these when I am waiting in line, at the doctor’s office, or any other time I am away from home with down time. That’s why it’s important that this book is located on your mobile device.

4. Audio book.
I have to admit that I am not a good audio book “reader”. My mind wanders and my heart is just not into it. Usually, I am multitasking while a book plays in the background, so that is not a good thing when retention is needed. This is great media, however, for a memoir or a book of comedy, like Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”.

See? That’s four books at a time!

And if you feel up to it, add this:

5. Before bed.
This is a wind down time when you need just a few pages or so to help you transition from sofa to bed. For this, I suggest short stories, like Flannery O’Conner’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” or Shirley Jackson’s “The Magic of Shirley Jackson”. Read a story or essay a night, and you will be finished before you know it!

You are up to 5 books now!

Get to reading, reader!!

Reading list for August

Let’s see if I can get my act together and pull together a reading list for this month. That will give me some good structure for an otherwise fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants reading.

Here are books to read for my Wednesday night book club:

  1. The Giver by Lois Lowry

  2. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons

  3. Not To Disturb by Muriel Spark

  4. Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

  5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

  6. Dolci di Love by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Here are books I need to read for my Bibliophile Reading Challenge (which ends at the end of August):

  1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Detour #6 on the Challenge (still to be announced)

Books that have caught my eye:

  1. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman
  2. Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

That is 10 books, and I think that is very doable!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris until she meets Etienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna and readers have long awaited?

My take: 2.5 looks
Nice teenage love story. Anna has just been uprooted from her school, her city, and her country to spend her senior year in Paris. The fact that her father is a famous author of books Anna doesn’t care for was amusing to me. He is trying to give her more culture, when it’s he whom needs it!

With just the right amount of snarkiness between teenage girls, a perfect love interest, and a whole year of getting the know the people and sights, this was a very light, albeit sophomoric, read.

Not a book I would normally choose, I chose it to meet a challenge requirement for a landmark on the cover, in this case, the Eiffel Tower. I recommend the book if you liked the Twilight Series and got tired of vampires, or if you are in junior high school. The book is perfect for that set.

Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

For twenty-eight years, things have been tripping along nicely for Cannie Shapiro. Sure, her mother has come charging out of the closet, and her father has long since dropped out of her world. But she loves her friends, her rat terrier, Nifkin, and her job as pop culture reporter for The Philadelphia Examiner. She’s even made a tenuous peace with her plus-size body. But the day she opens up a national women’s magazine and sees the words “Loving a Larger Woman” above her ex-boyfriend’s byline, Cannie is plunged into misery…and the most amazing year of her life. From Philadelphia to Hollywood and back home again, she charts a new course for herself: mourning her losses, facing her past, and figuring out who she is and who she can become.

My take: 3 looks
Love Cannie Shapiro! She is smart, witty, sassy, talented, and (ahem) PLUS SIZED! Jennifer Weiner hits a high note for women everywhere who love dessert, hate mirrors and loathe bathing suit shopping.

Cannie has a few unique issues, though. Her father abandoned her family when she was old enough to remember how it felt to be loved by him. Her mother is an out-of-the-closet lesbian living with her first partner, and her ex-boyfriend is writing about her in Weiner’s version of Cosmo.

On the plus side (pun fully intended), she has a wonderful job at a top publication, a stalwart best friend, a new friend who happens to be Hollywood’s biggest A-list star, and a so-ugly-it’s-cute dog with a less-than-flattering slang name.

While some of this felt a bit contrived (I totally didn’t buy the mom being a lesbian), most of it was quite wonderful. Her shock at the “big news” (no spoiler here!), her longing and second-guessing about breaking up with Bruce, her so-real comments at the weight loss meetings, and her all-encompassing rage at the end…all felt very palatable. Cannie was a real person to me, bringing tears to my eyes toward the end. That is the sign of a true reader buy-in, and I thank Jennifer Weiner for a great few hours on a Saturday afternoon!

This is the epitome of a by-the-beach-or-pool-chick-lit-ice-cream-sundae-read and I recommend.