Thursday, June 18, 2009

Celebrating the End of Middle School

Julia celebrated the end of Middle School with her grade 8 prom a couple of nights ago. Here she is, looking very grown up in the dress and wrap I'd made for her. For those of you who had wondered why I've not had any "Sunday Craft Updates" for a while, the reason is that I was not allowed to divulge any details of the prom outfit until after the event.

Grade 8 has gone very well for Julia. It culminated in her school's annual end-of-year ceremony today, where she learned that she graduated on the honour roll. It's been a fun two weeks for her. As soon as exams finished, the whole grade 8 class went on a trip to Quebec City and Ottawa that included a white-water rafting experience. Then there was prom followed by after-prom parties, and now summer vacation begins!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

48-Hour Book Challenge: Summary

The 48-Hour Book Challenge hosted by MotherReader is done! Here is the final summary:
  • Hours spent reading: 16
  • Hours spent blogging and writing/reading reviews: 2
  • Books finished: 4
  • Pages read: 1268
These are the books I read:
  • Good to a Fault, by Marina Endicott
  • Eye of the Crow, by Shane Peacock
  • Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, by W. Bruce Cameron
I also convinced Kate, my 10-year-old, to do some extra reading this weekend, and she completed 4 hours. She suggested we donate to our local Humane Society, for each hour we've read. For each of her hours, she will donate 50 cents from her allowance and I'll match her donation, and then I will donate $1 for each of my own hours, for a total of $20.

I enjoyed the weekend immensely (even though I have a lot of unfinished housework waiting for me now), especially having my friend Sharon join me for a few of those hours. It is great to be able to read with good friends, without feeling the obligation to make small talk during the process, but being able to exchange recommendations and ideas with them afterwards.

I am also happy to have discovered this challenge and MotherReader's blog. Many of the other bloggers doing this challenge seem to be particularly interested in children's and young adult books, and a good number regularly review books in these categories. I mainly read literature (especially Canadian literature) and mystery myself, though I do read a good number of children's books recommended by my kids. However, these days, I'm always on the lookout for good young-adult novels for Julia. I only managed to read a small sample of the many reviews posted during the 48-Hour Book Challenge, but I'm looking forward to going back to some of the blogs in the next week.

It was a great weekend of reading, and I certainly hope to do it again next year!

48-Hour Book Challenge: Update #4

I spent my final 3 hours reading W. Bruce Cameron's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. As the mother of a teenager and a preteen, I found this book absolutely hilarious and sadly all too true. Here's a typical morsel of wisdom from Cameron: "The teenage years represent a formative period in which your daughter goes from wasting money on childish things to learning how to waste money like an adult. Your job is to fund this process." I tried to persuade Todd to read this book, as it is written from a father's perspective. However, he probably feels he is too busy surviving the arduous process to read the survival guide.

While we're on the topic of how to cope with a teenager, a truly useful book is Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall? This book had been recommended to me by a number of people, and it offers good, practical advice, written in a succinct manner. Of course, even after all this reading, I still don't feel like I understand the mind of a teenage girl (despite the fact that I was one a few decades ago). If you ask Julia, she'll probably tell you it's equally difficult understanding and coping with parents.

48-Hour Book Challenge: Update #3

I've read another 4 hours now (3 yesterday evening and 1 this morning), for a total of 13 hours. There are still 8 hours left in my 48-hour challenge, but I have to squeeze some exercise and chores (maybe even a shower and meals) in there as well. In those 4 hours, I read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.

Blink is about how people make decisions, and it contrasts the decisions made from "snap judgments" and those made from prolonged, rational thought. The book is mainly a collection of anecdotes. I'd read Gladwell's Outliers earlier, and there is similar criticism of both, that Gladwell is not providing original research, that he doesn't show the whole story, that some of the conclusions are flawed. However, I enjoyed both books immensely. Whether or not I agreed with every conclusion he draws, he made me think about details I'd missed and re-examine assumptions I've made about the way I perceive the world.

I loved, in particular, the closing story about trombone player, Abbie Conant, who faced an enormous struggle in the classical music world because she was a woman. The whole story, as written by her husband, is here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update #2

It is almost 5pm, the halfway point in the 48-Hour Book Challenge. I managed to read for another 4 hours today, and a friend will be arriving shortly (with her own stack of books) to join me for the evening. I'm pretty pleased with the number of hours logged so far, considering that I also squeezed in the following tasks: hosted a sleepover party for a bunch of teens (not so hard, since my job was mainly to put out food and then stay out of the way), finished two loads of laundry, went for a 40-minute walk, and interacted (a very small amount) with the rest of my family.

I finished Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault, one of the books on the Evergreen list that I'm tackling. The story is about a middle-aged woman who takes in a family after she accidentally crashes into the car they have all been living in, and the mother is discovered, while being examined in the hospital, to have cancer. The novel explores the notion of being "good" and what it means to be selfish or selfless. It's an engaging story and well worth a read, though it didn't have the same impact for me as some of the other books (like The Cellist of Sarajevo) on the Evergreen list.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update #1

Yesterday evening, I managed 5 hours of reading, which was actually more than I'd hoped for. The bad news is that I stayed up until 1am reading but woke up at 6am, as I do every morning, and couldn't back to sleep, so I'll have to see if I can focus today. I got halfway through Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault before opting for something lighter. I then finished Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock.

Eye of the Crow tells the story of the 13-year-old Sherlock Holmes's first case and shows how his origins lead to his developing into Arthur Conan Doyle's famous character. Kate read this book as part of the Silver Birch program and recommended it to me. I've read all the original Sherlock Holmes books, seen many of the Basil Rathbone movies, loved the Jeremy Brett TV series and dragged my family through the Sherlock Holmes museum when we were in England a couple of years ago. I thought Peacock did a great job of developing an interesting plot, forming a faithful characterization of the young Sherlock Holmes, and recreating the atmosphere of 19th century London. Kate found some of the scenes rather scary but loved the novel, and I hope this will inspire her to read the real series when she's older. It looks like Peacock plans to develop this series further, as there is now a second book, Death in the Air, available.

Friday, June 5, 2009

48 Hour Book Challenge: Starting Line

I'll be starting the 48 Hour Book Challenge at 5pm, Eastern Daylight Time. The goal is to read as many hours as I can before 5pm on Sunday! I'm starting with Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault and Shane Peacock's Eye of the Crow.