Uncategorized

Non-Fiction Friday #4

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Often I read non-fiction because I am interested in a subject matter and want to delve more deeply into the details. Or, I have come across something that I know nothing about but my curiosity has been piqued. This time, I chose a non-fiction book on a subject that I really didn’t care about just to understand it more.

Let me back up. I consider myself an animal lover. However, this love has never extended to fish. I cannot tell them apart and I cannot keep track of the different species. Even when I am in the middle of a very expensive trip to an aquarium (never my idea) all I can think is, “Its a fish, another fish, yellow fish, big fish.”

However, I stumbled across a video of an octopus doing all kinds of amazing things. Even with my limited oceanic knowledge, I know an octopus when I see one (in a picture). So, my interest in this nebulous “something I didn’t really care about” steered me toward the octopus.


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The Soul of an Octopus by Syd Montgomery was everything I thought it might be and more. An enjoyable adventure into the world of the octopus that exposed me to so many mollusk-related things that I didn’t even know existed! My favorite is absolutely that the plural of octopus is not octopi (because you cannot put a Latin ending on a word derived from Greek. I know that sounds stupid and basic – even the author puts this fact on page 1 – but to be able to properly refer to an animal is the beginning of knowing one.

This book follows the author on her journey of discovering the Octopus. She meets and becomes friends with all these sweet and playful creatures by volunteering at her local aquarium and later, learning to scuba dive. I have always said volunteering is the best way to learn something. But, the scuba diving part was difficult for me to read since I am terrified of being underwater in the ocean. Still, her perspective was one of such joy that it was understandable finally to me how people could actually want to scuba. I still don’t want to. And, you can’t make me.

In the end, this book was an enlightening read about the fascinating creature that is the Octopus. More importantly, by reading a book written passionately about something that I was really not interested allowed me to go on a new adventure. This was somewhere I had never gone (and don’t plan to!) but I got to experience her love and gain her insight and information through the book. It will never be the same as being in the embrace of an Octopus but since that interests me as much as doing 100 mile run through the desert (not at all, to be clear) this is as close as I will ever come.


Tell me, please!

What adventure do you not understand? Sky diving? Solo Traveling?

Would you read a book about it?

Uncategorized

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz

I picked this book up because the cover caught my eye. And the tag line on the front reads, “The Inquisitor’s Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog.” I was sold. It took me a fair bit of time to get around to reading it but I just finished it and I must recommend it to all of you. It was a lovely story!

inquisitorstaleThe Inquisitor’s Tale is set in 1242 and features three unique children from different backgrounds and a dog. The dog, Gwenforte, is a white greyhound who has died (don’t stop reading! Remember, its a Holy dog!). The peasant, Jeanne, is fierce and honest and has visions that show her glimpses of the future. Jacob is a young Jewish boy and his story touched my heart the most. Then there is William, a young monk with tremendous strength. These children are “magical” or blessed with “powers” but their story really comes from the people who met them.

The combination of the setting, France in the Medieval Ages, and the way the story unfolds was quite reminiscent of Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales. Throughout the story someone is collecting the stories of these children. We hear about them through a Nun, a Brewster, a Librarian, and many other interesting people all of have gathered in a small French inn. The dog’s story and that of the children was woven together so well and so smoothly. But, I also enjoyed the peek into the mannerisms and lives of all the characters who told their tale.

Adam Gidwitz really captures the time period in this book. If you read the note at the end, the author’s explains the inspiration and background for the story. I didn’t need that to help me understand how much work had gone into this book. The whole thing really felt like I was in Medieval France.

This was a really enjoyable tale. I have a difficult time finding well written Children’s Historical Fiction and this is one of the best I have read yet. The fact that it checks the box in my pre-1500’s When Are You Reading Challenge is just the halo on my holy dog.


Tell me, please!

Children’s Historical Fiction – Does it interest you?

nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday #3

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asyouwishHappy Friday! Today’s recommendation is a book I was afraid to read. Terrified, really. As You Wish, Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes was billed as a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of most favorite books and films of all time. I love (love) The Princess Bride. What if there was drama on the set? Did Buttercup start a love triangle? Was Rob Reiner a terrible task master? I have heard…things about Mandy Patinkin. Will this ruin Inigo?!?  When I finally read it I was stunned at the beautiful memories Cary Elwes shared and deeply impressed by his affection for the project. There is not a single tawdry detail or negative bit of drama expressed in this book. If Cary is suppressing some things then good for him.

If you are a fan of The Princess Bride movie you will enjoy this book. Cary walks us through how he won the part of Westley, his training and thought processes during the filming. He also interviews all the major actors and we get to see their perspective and memories of filming. There are wonderful stories of how they got some shots – I especially loved reading about the stunt required for the dive into the sand in The Fire Swamp. Little details that are shared by the cast just added to my love for the movie.

If you have read the delightful book The Princess Bride by William Goldman then Cary’s book will have added delight.


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If you haven’t yet enjoyed the book – stop reading. Go purchase the book.

Its perfection.


Bill Goldman was on set for some of the filming. The book is excellent and I think one of the innumerable reasons the movie is such a hit was the filmmakers really stuck to the story that Goldman wrote and involved him in the making of the movie. Perhaps this is why it doesn’t matter whether you read the book first or watch the movie first. They share one story-soul and compliment each other beautifully.

The Princess Bride is a magical movie and making it was, apparently, a once in a lifetime experience for the cast. If you are a fan, don’t be afraid to read Cary’s book. It ended up being the sit down chat I always wanted to have with the people who made one of my favorite movies.


Tell me, please!

Are you a fan of The Princess Bride book, movie or both? 

 

nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday #2!

A couple of years ago I was having coffee at a friend’s house when a bunch of boxes arrived. I was surprised to find that she had ordered 5 different winter boots to try on and then ship back the ones she didn’t like. Frankly, I was a little appalled. I asked her, “Why would you pay shipping to try on boots when you could just go to the store?” Then, she clued me in to Zappos’ policy of free shipping on delivery and returns. I remember thinking that this company was either amazing or doomed because this did not sound like a smart business – it was too nice!

Since Amazon acquired Zappos in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion, obviously they fell into the amazing category. And now we all know that I do not have a sound mind for business. But, what you don’t know today is just something you can learn about tomorrow!


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Which is why I am featuring Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. After a couple of years of being a happy Zappos customer and reading about Amazon’s acquisition, I wanted to learn more. There are a lot of books that feature Zappos as examples of new business models but I wanted an inside look at the company. The author, Tony Hsieh, is the CEO of Zappos.com, Inc. and wrote this book about how his life path lead him to Zappos and the way Zappos is trying to change the way we do business. Broken into three parts, Delivering Happiness, is written (for the most part) in a clear, direct and often funny manner.

The first part, entitled Profits, is focused on Tony’s early life. It includes some stories of him growing up, his college experience, his first unsuccessful businesses (worm farm) and his other more successful businesses (LinkExchange). I really enjoyed reading about Tony’s formative years and how he came to Zappos. Tony seems to be a very introspective, humble person who cares deeply about the people around him. Throughout the book he talks about mistakes he made and how he learned from them. While he makes casual references, it is clear that Tony is constantly in pursuit of knowledge for personal growth.

The second section, “Profits and Passion,” is more business oriented. If you are interested in starting your own business or improving the business you already work for, this section is right up your alley. “Profits and Passion,” was a little hard for me because I am not interested in running a business. Still, it was full of insightful pieces of information about how Zappos became so monetarily successful while simultaneously being recognized as a “Best Companies to Work For.” From a consumer perspective, I shop at Zappos for their outstanding customer service. But, I also like to frequent businesses that go above and beyond for their workers and vendors. After reading this book and seeing how the company treats everyone they interact with so mindfully, I am probably never buying shoes anywhere else.

The third section is, “Profits, Passion and Purpose,” and Tony outlines how they take things to the next level at Zappos and how this mentality can be used for everyday life and happiness. I especially enjoyed this third section where we see Tony again evaluating, self-reflecting and seeking more information in order to create a life full of happiness for himself, his family and friends and everyone at Zappos.

Delivering Happiness was an informative and enjoyable look at the formation of a new successful business. If you are trying to start your own business or you want to work for a great company I highly recommend this book. If you, like me, are just wondering how people go from an idea to a billion dollar company, this is a fun book to read.

 

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Serious Series Love: 43 Old Cemetery Road by Kate and Sarah Klise

Kate Klise and Sarah Klise are sisters who have written and illustrated more than 30 books. Most of their books are written for children ages 7-10. But like most good fiction of this level, their stories are an absolute delight to read as an adult. My favorite of all their books is the 43 Old Cemetery Road series.

This series is filled with humor for all ages. I found myself laughing out loud as I explained to a second grader some of the puns and funny names! The drawings are intricate and whimsical.  I really enjoy the cast of characters we meet and get to know through letters and articles written back and forth.  And the story line and mystery is always adorable!

The first book is Dying to Meet You. It introduces the reader to a whole cast of main characters.  Seymour Hope, 11 year old son of the absent Les and Diane Hope, can see ghosts and has been left behind at 43 Old Cemetery Road while his parents travel through Europe. Ignatius B. Grumply (I.B. Grumply) is a writer of some fame who is struggling through writer’s block and has rented 43 Old Cemetery Road to try and publish a new book.  The rental agreement tricks Ignatius into caring for Seymour. Little does he know that the house also has a resident ghost, Olive C. Spence, included in the price!

As the series moves along the main characters meet new people and conquer new problems by working together. This would be an easy book to read all at once or a chapter at a time, depending on the age of the reader. Also, I like how much visual information there is to enjoy – not just drawings but different handwriting and newspaper clippings – that make the book special. Personally, I sat down and swiftly consumed all seven one right after the other. I have Serious Series Love for 43 Old Cemetery Road!


Tell me, please!

Have you ever read a series intended for children that you just couldn’t put down?

Challenges

When are you Reading Challenge

I found this great challenge on Taking on a World of Words.  The challenge was simple – read 12 books set in 12 different time periods of world history in 2017.  I didn’t know about it or start it until June 2017 but I love a good challenge!

  • The complete challenge will include 12 books from the following eras:
    • Pre 1500 The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz
    • 1500-1599
    • 1600-1699
    • 1700-1799
    • 1800-1899
    • 1900-1919
    • 1920-1939
    • 1940-1959
    • 1960-1979
    • 1980-1999
    • 2000-Present
    • The Future

So, who feels like joining the challenge this late in the game? If you join, please comment below and make sure and head over to Taking on a World of Words to officially sign up!

nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday # 1!

This is a whole new feature here on SilverButtonBooks! I have been making a more concerted effort to read (and enjoy) more good non-fiction books. With that in mind, I want to shine a light on the non-fiction loves of my reading life with everyone. So, each Friday I plan to feature a scrumptious non-fiction book that caught my fancy. Some will be deep, some will be silly but hopefully all the selections will be informative and enjoyable.

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For my first feature I have to recommend The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. This I my go-to non-fiction recommendation for so many reasons. First, the book may be non-fiction, but it reads like a procedural crime novel. Second, it’s poison right? Who doesn’t want to know more about poisons!? Third, it is so good, PBS even made a documentary film of the book available online! (It used to be on the PBS website but now I can only find it on youtube.) Finally, even if you don’t end up loving the book as much as I do, it is a super fun prop for leaving on your desk then quickly hiding from your colleagues. Mwahaha.

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When taken as a whole, The Poisoner’s Handbook focuses on the birth of what we now call “forensic science.” In the early 1900’s, America was grossly behind our European counterparts in crime solving science.  After a scathing review of New York City’s coroners was published, Charles Norris was named the city’s first Chief Medical Examiner. Together, Norris and his pathology sidekick, Alexander Gettler, developed standards and practices that were eventually adopted and further developed across America.

Individually, each chapter highlights the deadly effects of poisons from carbon monoxide (that stuff coming out the back of them new horse-less carriages), to wood alcohol (damn you Prohibition!), and the classic arsenic (no Old Lace). Like any television show from Bones to my beloved Monk, the chapters introduce us to a victim or victims and then highlights the attempts to solve the mysterious circumstances of their death. Since this book is also set during the early 1900s, there is a wonderful dose of history mixed throughout.

Speaking of history, I must add one caveat. If you are opposed to animal testing, there is a whole lot of it in this book. Just remember, at this time there was no Bob Barker. No one spayed and neutered their dogs. They were everywhere. Remember Sandy from Annie? It was like that. While it did not bother me at all, a friend of mine is adamantly against animal testing and could not read around this facet of the book.

Deborah Blum has a long history with science. Combined with her experience as a professional journalist it is no wonder she so capably takes what could be very boring and makes it fascinating. This book is not as heavy into the science of the poisons as, A is for Arsenic: Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup, and for that I was thankful. Instead, this book is the perfect mixture of history, science and murder.


Tell me, please!

Do you love non-fiction?

If you hate it / avoid it at all costs, tell me why?

And, do you have any recommendations for future features?

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday July 19

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I find myself organized again! Yahoo! And so I can participate in WWW Wednesday hosted by the lovely Taking on a World of Words. This is a great way to talk about

  • What you just finished reading,
  • What you are currently reading and
  • What you will be reading next.

For any of my followers here – you don’t need a blog! Just share your WWW in my comments. If you have a blog, I would love to read your WWW. Don’t forget to head over to Taking on a World of Words and see what everyone else is reading!

What did I just finish reading?

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan were both cleared off of my to be read (TBR) list. Dating-ish by the wonderful Penny Reid was highly anticipated and very enjoyable. And, I miss Veronica Mars. Terribly. Thankfully, Rob Thomas has taken to writing some books with Jennifer Graham. Some insomnia struck me this week and I deviated from my planned TBR and right into my Kindle. I read the first book The Thousand Dollar Tan Line and I am looking forward to the second book.

What am I currently reading?

Now, here you can see evidence of the insomnia. When I can’t sleep I read completely different books then I would during the day. Am I alone in this? It is like my night brain is completely different from my day brain. To Marry a Prince by Sophie Page and Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase were both purchased between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 a.m to entertain (but not overly excite) the brain. However, Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen and Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh were both planned and on my TBR. Her Royal Spyness is part of my participation in another great challenge on Taking on a World of Words called When are you Reading.

What do I plan to read next?

I finally got my hands on a copy of Ten Second Staircase, the next book in the Bryant and May series. I also hope to read A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas for my When are you Reading Challenge (1800-1899). Liar & Spy is by the great Rebecca Stead and will keep me up on my juvenile reading. Likewise, The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine promises to be an exciting story from the author of Ella Enchanted.

So, there is my WWW for Wednesday July 19, 2017. I hope to bring some book reviews this week but I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you read any of these books? And, seriously, am I a total weirdo with the insomnia reading?!?

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

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The Broke and the Bookish‘s hiatus from hosting the Top Ten Tuesday continues so I get to pick my own topic. Today I bring you….

The Top Ten Books I was Required to Read but Still Love

The books below were all required summer reading that I would not have read otherwise or were heavily recommended by someone I admire. I hate being told what to read. To this day, if I am pushed too far to read a certain book I will avoid it. These books were all required reading that I went into with a negative attitude. By the end, I loved them all. They are, in no particular order:

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#1 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My high school English teacher tried to make this all about waking and dreaming (or something) but I knew it was just an epic love story. The lengths Jay went to in an attempt to win back Daisy….sigh.

 

 

 

thecolorpurple#2 The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This was a hard book for me to read but I will never regret meeting Celie. The violence was new to me but it really opened my (then) young high school eyes. I have re-read it several times since and each time I am deeply affected by Celie’s tragedies and triumphs.

 

 

 

the killer angels#3 The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. I was required to read this book before my freshman year of college. I have always loved history but the Civil War….meh. But this book took me on the epic adventure that was the Battle of Gettysburg. I remember finishing the book, looking up, blinking and feeling stunned to find myself safe at home.

 

 

 

lordofflies#4 Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I did not want to read a book about boys who loose their minds when unsupervised. I think this one was before freshman year of high school. I figured this would be fairly boring. Wow. These kids loose their minds. Poor Piggy. This book is still classic novel I casually reference the most as in, “Those kids are one conch short of reenacting Lord of the Flies.”

 

 

littleprincess#5 A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A librarian I admired recommended this book to me. I know she meant it gently but I wanted to please her so much that I knew I had to read the book. I didn’t want to read it. I had seen (and enjoyed) the Shirley Temple movie version and I wanted to move along to something else. But, read it I did. I still love Sara Crewe and her riches to rags story.

 

 

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#6 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My Mom has a magical memory associated with this series and has always encouraged me to read the books. I hated the whole idea and I really despised the television show. To prove to her that I was right and she was wrong, I read the first book. Sigh. Mothers are always right. The whole series is wonderful.

 

 

 

civilaction#7 A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr. This was required reading before my first year of law school. Doesn’t it look bleak and boring? Well, it isn’t. The author managed to takes years of boring motions and court rulings and turn it into a procedural drama. More importantly, it is a really good look at what a class action lawsuit looks like from the civil litigation attorney’s perspective.

 

 

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#8 Separate Peace by John Knowles. This book was required summer reading during high school, maybe before sophomore year. I was beginning to realize that friendships were complicated things and this book captured that feeling exactly.  I didn’t want to read it and now I can never let it go. I still have my used and battered copy.

 

 

 

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#9 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. My Dad would often refer to this book as the, “greatest story of revenge ever told.” He didn’t make me read it, but I didn’t want to let him down when he recommended it. Obligation quickly turned to excitement. Ol’ Dumas can really tell a story.

 

 

 

 

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#10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That’s right people. I didn’t want to read it. My Mom called me one night when I was in college and recommended it, heavily. Of course, I told her that she had no idea how much reading I was doing in college (she has a Masters in Communication and I was being stupid). Did she really think I had time for a children’s book?!? Thanks Mom. Sorry Mom. Let’s all say it together, “Mothers are always right.”

 

So, there you have it. Books that started as obligations and became treasured friends. Do you have any books that started as requirements and became relished reading?

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Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

I argue that since grownups were once children we have locked inside all of us the memories and feelings of being younger. Reading children’s literature takes you back and reminds you of things forgotten or pushed aside during day-to-day adulating. Beautifully written children’s books are for everyone.

But, I feel that a great deal of what we recommend to children is rife with peril and death and grown up concerns. Many times we forget that being a kid is hard. Even children in a stable childhood have everyday worries that weigh on them. There is no amount of money that you could pay me to be thirteen again! We make the mistake of recommending books to kids that we remember being required to read or worse, books we have heard are good for kids but haven’t read yet.

So, I actively seek out good children’s literature that is wholly enjoyable, well written and as free from unnecessary upset as possible to recommend blindly to children. When I am in a position where a parent asks me, “What should my kid read,” I have a bank of great stories and adventures to rattle off. I don’t usually recommend books to children that are anything but an escape because I want to encourage kids to love to read – to see it as the adventure it can be. And, I actively weed out books in which there is unnecessary sadness, loss or (what I think is) manipulative death. Beautifully written books about real feelings are important for everyone, including children, but I think it is a mistake to carelessly expose children to adult feelings and issues.

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Walk Two Moons is on my local school district’s summer reading list for kids third through fifth grade. I picked it up off the shelf out of sheer curiosity and I loved it. In this story we meet thirteen year old Salamanca Tree Hiddle. While traveling with her eccentric Grandparents from Ohio to Idaho, Sal entertains her Gramps and Gram with the story of her friend Phoebe, the disappearance of Pheobe’s mother and a lunatic. Meanwhile, Sal’s own story and her desires to be reunited with her mother unfolds.

 

 

 

In Walk Two Moons Sharon Creech weaves these two stories together so expertly that I could not sleep until I finished the book. Sal’s story, and the one she tells about Phoebe, will stay with me. I love this book even though it made me cry.

Throughout the book we see the quote, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” This was the undercurrent of the story. The author was able to show with every single character that a person has layers, history and experiences that we don’t see on the surface. Everyone has stories, things the whole world doesn’t yet know, and we shouldn’t make assumptions about people.

I am sure that this message is, in part, why the publisher and our school district recommends this book to ages 8-12. But, I disagree. Sal is dealing with regular childhood problems and real world hard problems all at once.  There is no way to really explain without including spoilers but Sal’s world knowledge far exceeds the typical 8 year olds I know. And, while I wouldn’t question reading this in a third through fifth grade class, I don’t like that this is on the summer reading list where, presumably, kids are reading it independently.

I want to be clear. This book is fantastic. I am in awe of Sharon Creech’s ability to put all those feelings and wonderful characters into this beautiful story. When I see this book in a store or a library I will hug it. I can’t hug Sal so I will give the book a good squeeze and try not to cry in public. But, it will not be something I recommend blindly to elementary students to read on their own. Instead, I’ll recommend it to all of you and keep it in my back pocket to recommend to any specific child that needs to know Sal’s story.

Have you ever read a book like this? One that is for the child inside of us but not really a children’s book?