Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol Pop Up Book, by Charles Fischer & Paper Engineer, Bruce Foster – Book Review

Anyone who has glimpsed A Christmas Carol: A Pop-Up Book, by Charles Fischer & Bruce Foster knows that it is a delight. I was on my way out when this package arrived, so I took the box with me to meet a friend at Starbucks, and I had barely gotten it out of the box when a woman came over wondering what it was because it looked so pretty from afar.

There are six panels and each of them is wonderfully gorgeous, fun and intricately depicts key scenes from A Christmas Carol – the neighborhood, Marley and each of the ghosts get a panel. I spent several minutes poring over each panel, amazed by the scenes – the people and neighborhoods in each one.

The story is very present in the drawings, but I did wonder how the whole thing could be told in just six pages. So get this, the book has little mini-pockets on each page which miniature booklet with a section of A Christmas Carol, and it is not abridged, so you get the whole story. You can almost consider the book like a play and the panels are the settings for each scene. What I love about this is that it makes it easy to share this book among people of all ages. You can make up the stories and explain the pictures to your little ones, and give more of the story to them as they are growing up. Finally they will want to read the book on their own.  I loved playing with it, and hey if you take it places you might meet some people.

Read More Reviews At: A Sea of BooksBooking MamaCarol’s Notebook

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Check out a video which includes panel close-ups to see what I mean.

Review Copy.

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Top Ten Fictional Characters I’d Want For A Best Friend

I have been following Top Ten Tuesdays over at The Broke and the Bookish for quite some time now.  I love the themed lists they offer, and love even more pondering the answers different bloggers have.  Exploring themed literature is something that I have been taken with these last months, so I was finally able to get myself together enough to respond to this week’s prompt. Fiction has great characters, intriguing characters, characters I understand, and characters by whom I am fascinated. However, they are not all people I necessarily want to have running around in my life.

Trying to find characters with whom I would want to be best friends took quite a bit of careful thought and perusing of the shelves. Anais Nin said, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” I have always loved that quote, and in honoring Nin’s words of wisdom, I tried to create a list of literary friends who bring different things to the table – some friends I chose, I can imagine, would be just as challenging as they are rewarding.

My Fictional Best Friends

Laurie Laurence – Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott- I love Laurie.  Growing up and reading Little Women, I was so devastated when Jo found Professor Bhaer, and Laurie went on to marry Amy.  I still want a redo on that.  I will never believe that Amy and Laurie are each others best match – Louisa was being contrary…but anyway, bygones.  Laurie always struck me as being the trifecta of thoughtful, fun, and definitely there when you need him.  There is nothing that he wouldn’t have done for Jo, or any of the March family – and he proved that again and again.  It also doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes and able to grease a few palms if a sticky situation would warrant such measures.

Sofia – The Color Purple, by Alice Walker – It’s important to have friends whom you admire and who will inspire.  I love Sofia for both these reasons.  LOVE her.  Back in the rural South, in the 1930’s, in what was a man’s world- and a white man’s world at that- Sofia saw herself as an equal.  She worked hard, she loved hard but she also expected respect, and confronted those who would behave toward her otherwise.  I will never forget the conversation that she had with Celie where she lets her know that she understands very well what she did and how she feels about it.  Powerful stuff.  A woman capable not only of deep emotion, but also one not afraid of communicating her truth and vulnerability is one who fosters confidence and growth within a friendship. Sofia is a friend that you want for life.

Scarlett O’Hara – Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell – Say what you will about her  many questionable decisions and life goals, Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler is a scrapper.  Even if you are the friend she can barely tolerate or the friend she doesn’t know she has (I’m looking at you Melanie Wilkes), she will deliver your baby in the middle of a war, keep you from going hungry, kill a man, and get your husband a job so that you don’t have to move and leave your family behind. Sure she wants your husband, but who really needs a husband when you have Scarlett?  Scarlet is the friend who leads by example.  Melanie had inner strength, but she definitely became more of a force in wielding it when she saw the fierceness of Scarlett’s example.  Scarlett is selfish, yes, and maybe misguided, but she is also the one I picture starting a lemonade franchise when life hands her lemons.  You have to love a girl who loves life so much that she will take whatever comes her way and run with it.

Lena – Words by Heart, Ouida Sebestyn –  I read Words By Heart as a girl and vividly remembered things about Lena – her views on life, her family struggles and her own struggle for self-actualization without endangering her family.  When you read Lena’s story and see how smart she is, the lengths she will go to read books, to honor her own worth and integrity, and the sacrifice that she makes for her father, you will love her.  This is one of my favorite books.  She is the friend whose story you appreciate and whose strength of character in difficult circumstance, you admire.

Georgia – The Heart Is Not A Size, by Beth Kephart – Georgia has a huge heart, which she is learning to navigate.  She does her best to take care of her friends and do  the things that they need while also trying to give them the space they need.  She doesn’t always get it right, but that’s not always important either.  She would be the best friend whose warmth you feel, whose intent you know is good, with whom you know that you can act out and she will stand by you until you can wake up and welcome her back to your life where she belongs –  where you are lucky to have her.

Mary Jane – The Wednesday Witch, by Ruth Chew –  Okay. I’ll ‘fess up.  I am totally using Mary Jane for access to James, the magic vacuum cleaner, and Cinders, the talking cat.  Good times with the three of them, oh, and the witch too.  This bunch is a barrel of laughs and always into some mischief.  Hey, a girl needs some partners in crime.

Aibileen & Minny – The Help, by Katherine Stockett – These women risked their livelihoods, and personal danger to participate in and mobilize the women in their community for something that would benefit them all in a big way.  Strong and capable, they don’t let the harshness of life steal their humanity and they know better than anyone what it means and how to be a friend.

Lisbeth Salander – The Millenium Trilogy , by Stieg Larson – It is quite possible that I say this just because there is no way I would want her against me in anyway.  She would also come in handy for any revenge plots needing execution.

Louisa May Alcott – The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O’Connor McNees – Anyone who can survive parenting by Bronson Alcott has all the qualities you will ever need in a best friend.  I also like the period that McNees covered with Louisa and how she allowed herself a little joy in a relationship.  We could have fun chatting about how hot Joseph was and whether she can both run away with him and have the career that she wants.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Winners   Harrowing Historicals & The Monstrumologist Series

Okay, so that was hard.  Most fictional characters have such major issues, that finding good friends among them takes some work.  Who would you want by your side?

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A Hodgepodge of Links (5)

Can we just agree that it is so wonderful that no one expects me to post links in a timely manner?  I have been starring things of interest for months.  Just take from it what you can, and yes I know that is has already been seen and discussed.  🙂

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Had enough?

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Winners – Harrowing Historicals & The Monstrumologist Series

Last month, anyone who commented on one of my Harrowing Historicals posts was automatically entered to win one of two prize packs.  Drum roll please for the winners…

Amy from Just Book Reading won what I call, Prize Pack the Larger, and will receive all the lovely items below:

Stacy, from Life in the Thumb won Prize Pack the Smaller, consisting of:

And… Victoria won my giveaway of The Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo, by Rick Yancey.

Congratulations to the winners!

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You still have a chance to win Crossing the Heart of Africa, by Julian Smith!

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Progress: Notes From A Reading Life – November 28, 2010 [TSS]

Happy Sunday everyone!

One holiday down and one to go.  It’s amazing how much these holidays are anticipated (or dreaded!) and then just like that, they are gone.  I spent a wonderful day hanging out with my family.  I love that we all got up around the same time and basically just ate all day.  Things needed to be tasted, and I was always on hand to help out in that department.

I really didn’t get much reading done while I was hanging with the fam.  This was as I suspected, despite the fact that I had weighted myself down with books. I did play the longest game of Uno ever.  Everyone was relieved when my mom finally won, though I also suspect that we were playing all wrong.  We just had the cards and not the box with the rules.  So we were playing from vague recollections and questionable memories.  Oh well.  It was fun.

Saturday, after leaving the fam, I spent most of the day curled up with a book. I started and finished Blood of My Brother, by James LePore.  I intended to read the first few pages to get a feel for the story, but found it extremely hard to put down for any length of time.  I kept going back to read just a little bit more until finally I was at the last fifty pages, and I couldn’t leave them unfinished.

I also finished up with The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey. This was definitely a horror story, and the monsters were probably the least scary thing about the book. The relationship between Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop is fascinating and the prospect of seeing it further unfold will probably lead me to the next book, The Curse of the Wendigo, sooner rather than later.

I have seriously neglected my non-fiction reading this year. I don’t even think that a third of my reading this year falls into the non-fiction category, and I miss it! It has been an extremely busy year, and with the time that I could spend reading, I chose fiction as my vehicle of escape, but over the week I put a serious dent in Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure, by Julian Smith and Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper’s Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity, by Steve Dublanica.  So far I am loving Crossing the Heart of Africa.  It’s got the right blend of history and information about the countries Smith is exploring in Africa, without being completely overwhelming.  I am so far a bit disappointed in Keep the Change. While it bills itself as an exploration of tipping and its origins and evolution, it reads more like why you should tip and the horrible things service workers will do if you don’t.  As a former waiter, etc, Dublanica’s bias is showing big time.

Continuing my study of Sherlock Holmes, I am reading The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore.   I just started, but I am enjoying the writing and looking forward to discovering what the mystery will be, and seeing if I can tell whodunnit.

Rounding out my reading, is Finny: A Novel, by Justin Kramon. I have been trying to read this book since the summer, but have always had to put it off for one reason or another.  I read the first fifty pages, and the story moves quickly and is easy to get into. Though the circumstances surrounding Finny being bundled off to boarding school broke my heart a little, I am looking forward to her further adventures.

Today I don’t have much of anything planned with the exception of brunch with Allie, and finishing up my shopping for my Secret Santa. After that I plan to come home and do a little reading.  I feel like I will be juggling back and forth between The Sherlockian and Crossing the Heart of Africa.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Crossing The Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure – Current Read & Giveaway

How about you?  What are you reading today?

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All The Best Books (2010) – Sitting on My Shelves Unread (1)

I have been taking a look around at some of the Best Of lists as they start to make their appearance.  It’s always an interesting time of year because in spite of the plethora of books that are published each year, the sames ones show up  on the lists over and over again.  I decided to look to my own shelves to see which of the “best books” are hanging around unread by me according to Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly.

Amazon Top 100 Editor’s Picks

Amazon Top 100 Customer’s Picks

  • The Passage, by Justin Cronin
  • One Day, by David Nicholls

Publishers Weekly – Best Books of 2010

I was also  curious about how my books compared with Oprah’s favorites from the decade.  There are a few that I have, but haven’t read yet.

Oprah’s Ten Favorite Books From The Past Decade

So far, all the books that I have are books that I really want to read.  I tried to pick out one that I wanted to read more than the others and failed miserably.  I have my work cut out for me.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Crossing The Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure – Current Read & Giveaway

What books do you have on your shelves unread that are making the “Best Of” lists?  Any in particular that you are looking forward to reading?  Any on my list that you think I should read next?

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Crossing The Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure – Current Read & Giveaway

As you know, just a few short days a go I was going on and on about what to read next. I was in one of those moods when I had no idea what I was in the mood for. A short trip to the mailbox, and a review copy sent by Harper Perennial ended up being just the thing to provide the cure. I picked up Crossing The Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure, by Julian Smith and read several pages, ok 50 pages, before I had to tear myself away and go do some other things.

The story is fast paced, and I love the history of Ewart Grogan setting out on his walk across Africa in 1898. Ostensibly proposed as a trip to win the love of his fair lady, Grogan was also carrying out a much needed duty to the British government, by surveying the land and reporting back on other European countries set on colonizing Africa. Though Smith’s reasons for repeating Grogan’s feat are vague at best and a bit less noble than Grogan’s in the romance department (somehow he thinks this might do something to cure the cold feet surrounding his impending nuptials),  his skill as a travel writer and as Grogan’s historian have made this an interesting and compelling read at just about 100 pages in. There is definite appeal here for those who like their history with a bit of adventure.

Would you like to give this one a try too?

Harper Perennial has given me a copy three copies of Crossing The Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure, by Julian Smith to share with readers of Linus’s Blanket!  This contest will run through Thursday, December 2nd. Monday, November 29.  It’s open to those with US & Canadian address.  Please fill out the form below to enter – while I welcome comments and thoughts on this post, they will not be counted for entry.  Good luck!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope all of my celebrating American readers have a wonderful day spent with family and friends!

I am fortunate enough that some of my family is nearby, so it’s easy for me to pop up and celebrate with them and not really have much of a plan but to relax, play a few games and eat some good food.

Though family will stake the majority of the claim on my time, I still plan to bring way more books than I can possibly read with me.

The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore
The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancy
Crossing The Heart of Africa, by Julian Smith
Finny, by Justin Kramon
The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, by Melissa Senate

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Progress: Notes From A Reading Life – November 21, 2010 [TSS]

We’ll just see how it goes. I will likely be back before Monday, but if not, see you then!

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Life Sentences, by Laura Lippman – Book Review

I first heard about Laura Lippman when Trish from Hey Lady read What The Dead Know, and loved it so much that she started the Laura Lippman Reading Challenge.  Since then I have read countless reviews on book blogs full of veritable plaudits on Lippman’s work.  I love a good mystery and I am always excited to find a good literary mystery – and an excuse to go browsing in the book store.  As I read through blurbs and considered all the choices, I became convinced that I wanted to start a series from the beginning.  I looked at the order of the books in the front covers and came away with Life Sentences.

As it turns out, Life Sentences, is not a part of a series, but a stand alone work whose main protagonist, Cassandra Fallows, is a failed fiction writer looking to jump start her career by writing a memoir/retrospective of her childhood friends, and the different paths each of them take, especially with respect to Calliope Jenkins, a grade school acquaintance once under suspicion but never convicted of murdering her missing child.

In Life Sentences, Lippman has written a compelling and absorbing mystery with complex characters whose interactions are equally so.  Cassandra’s tension filled relationship with her divorced parents stems in part from the two memoirs that she has written which heavily feature the faults of  her parents marriage, her childhood, and the deleterious effects her father’s infidelity has had on her own marriage and relationships.  Though her memoirs have made her famous, Cassandra might not be the most reliable narrator of past events. As she researches her book, the narrative alternates between chapters of her first memoir, her present day perspective and the points of view of childhood friends who view Cassandra, and the past, from a decidedly different perspective.

Though I ended up really liking this book, it was a bit shaky for me in the beginning.  For a writer, Cassandra isn’t the most perceptive or sensitive person for the job.  Her narrow perspective in her books and life, and almost willful naivete about others makes her hard to feel sympathy for or affinity to.  It’s hard, as the reader, not to react as one of the people whom Cassandra mishandles in her memoir.  Also, the majority of characters are black, something mostly learned after the fact – like a surprise, which unfortunately makes learning their racial identity seem a little sensational.  I think Lippman was trying to underscore the rarity of such relationships in 1960’s and maybe even present day Baltimore, but to me it seemed forced.

Lippman’s characters have dense lives and much is touched upon besides the burning question of what happened to the missing child.  Lippman incorporates past and present day Baltimore race relations,interracial relationships and friendships, infidelity, the father/daughter bond, the trickiness of memory and who the ages old question of has that right to tell stories.  Lippman deftly handles all subjects so no one issue is one sided, but instead thought provoking at every turn.  She is also a gifted chronicler of Baltimore city and county, rich characters in their own right that I especially appreciated after my recent visit. Quibbles aside, Life Sentences is ultimately a smart and satisfying read and I can’t wait to delve into the rest of her stories.

Read More Reviews At: Word LilyCaribousmom

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Recent Acquisitions: Looking For Sherlock Holmes

Jen (Devourer of Books) and I decided to take on the legendary Sherlock Holmes for our next podcast exploring the classics, What’s Old Is New.  The plan is to read up on some Holmes to get an idea of what makes him a literary figure that stands the test of time, if in fact we find he does.  Along the way we will also be chatting with long time Sherlock Holmes fan, Heather from Age 30+…ALifetime of Books & Graham Moore, author of The Sherlockian, a novel of Sherlock Holmes forthcoming in December from Twelve Books.

Here are some of the Sherlock Holmes related books and novels that I will be examining in anticipation of our podcast.

I have already read, The Hounds of the Baskervilles, which was really fun to revisit.  I loved Holmes growing up so to see his character as an adult has been an eye opener.  I am still enjoying the stories but a little “meh” on the character.  I am just finding him to be really obnoxious.  And can someone please wake Watson up, please?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Progress: Notes From A Reading Life – November 21, 2010 [TSS]

Have you read any new fiction featuring Sherlock Holmes, or any Holmes inspired novels? Anything good?  Do you like him as a character?

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