Nightstand, Thursday July 17, 2008

Books on my nightstand, in descending order with the top book being what I read in last night:

1. All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor. This copy and all the others in the series were donated to our library used book sale last Spring. I immediately remembered they were old friends of mine. This is one of my favorite children’s lit series from my childhood, and finding them again all the way over here in The Netherlands was spooky…I had almost forgot about them, and just when I needed a reminder of the comfort books can and should always bring to me wherever I am, there they were. I can still picture myself walking into the mostly empty middle school library in Ansonia, Ohio, and running my fingers over the spines of the All-of-a-Kind books, hardcover and full of caring, thoughtful adults helping the five little Jewish girls grow up in the tenements of the East Side in New York City at the turn of the century. It is a Dell Yearling edition and smells so familiar, dusty and slightly sweetish and kind of like stale caramels. Pristine condition, the previous owner’s sticker on the front says it came all the way from A. Taerlingstraat 1, 3235 BA Rockanje, Nederland. My Little House books still smell like this, too. Surprisingly well-written, loving descriptions of Jewish Sabbaths and holidays and the tiny universe of the sisters is so thoughtfully described down to the salty crunch of Henny’s pickle from the street vendor on shopping day. I’m about 3/4 the way through, I don’t really want it to end, it’s such a comforting way to end the day, a curl-up-under-the-quilt kind of read. I’m on the chapter where Sarah gets in Trouble. I had to put it down at that point, page 104.

2. The World in My Kitchen by Colette Rossant. One of my new foodie memoirs for the high school library. Almost finished with this one, page 186.

3. Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness by Kathy Freston. I’m sad to say that I gave into the hype around this one and bought it, hardcover, for 26.99 Euros, granted with a 10% off teacher discount at American Book Center in Amsterdam by flashing my ASH ID badge, but still, a ridiculous extravagance. This woman has absolutely no qualifications for writing this book. She’s a former model and Oprah loves her. I was intrigued, made it to page 105 without gagging…much. I may be done with this one.

4. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I bet he wishes he owned my domain name. Hilarious so far. I borrowed this copy from my colleague Ellen, oh, in February or so. I need to finish it, all 124 pages, and return it this summer. It has gorgeous endpapers…I had an instructor at Syracuse University in upstate New York who taught our Children’s Lit course for the MLIS program, and she gave us all permission to lavish attention on the end papers of books, kid’s books in particular having some memorable ones. I’m on page 19, don’t know why, I think it keeps getting buried.

5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I bought this one, a first edition, to add to our collection. I had to tell Aaron to stop reading Sedaris in bed because his snorts of laughter were keeping me up. The difference between Barrel Fever, which I just finished, and this one are so interesting…Barrel Fever is like riding a bucking bronco, you’re thrown this way and that mostly for the thrill of the moment. It’s only at the end where you get the Sedaris-focused, autobiographical essays, “Santaland Diaries”, etc., that his wit and empathy and dead-on comic timing shines. When You Are Engulfed in Flames is truly written by someone who has found his groove, the stories grow out of his actual experiences rather than the fictional oddball narrators of the Barrel Fever essays, the laughs are perfectly timed, the stories are written for the satisfaction of telling a good story, not necessarily an outrageous one. I’m on page 62, essay called “Road Trips”. I can’t wait to pick this up again.

6. A Singular Hostage by Thalassa Ali. I should love this book, “In a land of exotic splendor, a young Englishwoman finds herself guardian of an orphan child believed by a dying Maharajah to be endowed with magical gifts (back cover)”. What’s not to potentially love? Historical romance with baby-intrigue, right? I should be swept away every time I open it to the hot, spicy world of Anglo-Indian tent cities. I bought it based on solid reviews, I’m sure they were solid but I’m afraid to look, for the high school library. However, I’m bored by it. The heroine is a whiny, heroine-wanna-be-but-not-interesting-enough, and the secondary plot that at some point needs to meet up with the wanna-be plot (I’m on page 136 and it hasn’t happened yet) is about this baby boy stolen from his family by a elderly, sickly Maharajah who won’t feed him or take care of him but believes the baby will cure him. Or something like that. I haven’t tried it again for a couple weeks now. It’s time may have come, and the crappy thing about this is I bought the entire trilogy based on the reviews. You win some, you lose some.

7. Dreamhunter: Book One of the Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox. YA fantasy. Fabulous. I’ll write more about this one, I plan to booktalk it and finish it today. I started it a while ago, but got niggled into dipping in and out of all the other ones. Time to focus.

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