Monthly Archives: July 2009

Google Books Game

Google Books logo

Google is hosting a game. Answer a few trivia questions each day by searching Google Books for the information you need, (it’s easy and actually really fun), and answer a short essay question for a chance to win a Sony Reader. (US only)

Also, the first 20,000 people to play the game will get a  Google Books laptop sticker.

Check it out: 10 Days in Google Books Game


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Filed under books, contest, fun links

I Used To Know That


This series of books from Reader’s Digest are fantastic. I read and reviewed i before e (except after c) by Judy Parkinson last year.

This year I had the opportunity to review My Grammar and I…Or Should That Be Me? by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines, as well as, I Used to Know That by Caroline Taggart.

My Grammar and I is the most thorough yet accessible guide to speaking and writing correctly that I’ve come across; deserving a spot on the shelf next to my battered, dog-eared, highlighted copy of Elements of Style.

One of my favorite sections in this book was the extensive list of what you call certain groups of animals and insects. So while we all may know “school of fish”, “herd of deer”, “colony of ants” and “flock of birds”, here are a few that might be new to you:

An army of caterpillars (That’s a lot of boots!)
An intrusion of cockroaches, (Too appropriate!)
A murder of crows, (Alfred Hitchcock, anyone?)
A parliament of owls, (Such wise decision makers!) … and
A prickle of porcupines (How cute!)

This book is full of practical and fun information and would be a great addition to anyone’s reference bookshelf.

The second book, I Used To Know That – Stuff You Forgot From School, is exactly that. There was a lot in this book that I never even learned and had the chance to forget! … It’s pretty amazing how much learning they packed into this slim book, and it’s well organized, too. This one will be getting a lot of use at our house, particularly the Math section when I need to help our kids with homework. (Have you ever forgotten how to divide fractions? It’s not pretty.)

Below is an article from the author which I have been authorized to share. Enjoy!

Ten Trivia Facts You Probably Used to Know
By Caroline Taggart,
Author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

You know how it is — the kids come home from school full of enthusiasm for a new subject, ask you to explain something, and you think, “Oh, yes, I used to know that.” When I started to write a book on things you’d forgotten from your schooldays, I realised that I half-knew lots of stuff. I’d heard of phrases and clauses, but did I know the difference between them? I had a vague idea about photosynthesis — it’s to do with how plants grow, isn’t it? But doesn’t being green come into it somewhere? And then there was the War of 1812 — what was that all about?

So there are three Top Trivia Questions to start with; I’ll answer them and then I’ll give you seven more. That way, even if you can’t answer the kids’ questions, you can quickly change the subject and throw in some knowledge of your own.

  1. Language: What’s the difference between a clause and a phrase? These are the building blocks of a sentence. The difference is that a clause contains a subject and a verb. It often stands alone as a simple sentence (He loves dogs), but may also be part of a longer sentence (He loves dogs, but he doesn’t own one). A phrase is a group of words in a sentence that does not contain a subject and a verb (In the afternoon, he took his mother’s dog for a walk).
  2. Biology: What is photosynthesis? It is — as we suspected — to do with how plants grow. It’s the process by which they convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, using the energy they absorb from light by means of a green pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is stored mainly in the leaves and is the reason most plants are green. Photosynthesis releases oxygen into the atmosphere, enabling the rest of us to breathe.
  3. History: The war of 1812, between the U.S. and Britain, actually lasted nearly three years, from 1812 to 1815. Britain was already at war with France (under Napoleon) and the U.S. sided with the French. American ships, trying to break a blockade that would prevent supplies from reaching France, were being seized by the British, who then coerced American seamen into the Royal Navy. On top of that, the U.S. was disputing British control of territories in Canada; New England’s support for Britain complicated the issue further. This war — the last time the U.S. and Britain fought on opposing sides — ended in stalemate when the British defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and subsequently lifted their blockade.
  4. Literature: Where does the expression ‘It just growed’ come from? It’s a misquotation from Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-96), a fiercely anti-slavery novel published in 1852, when this was the political hot potato in America. The most famous character is the slave girl Topsy, who didn’t know where she came from (i.e. didn’t realise that God had made her) and said, ‘I s’pect I growed.’
  5. Math: who was that Pythagoras guy anyway? He was a Greek mathematician and philosopher who lived in the 6th century BC. His theorem (the word comes from the same root as “theory” but means something that can be proved) states that in a right-angled triangle “the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.” The hypotenuse is the longest side of the triangle, opposite the right angle. This theorem really really matters to mathematicians, because it is fundamental to calculations used in architecture, engineering, astronomy, navigation and the like.
  6. Geography: which were the original 13 states of the Union? In alphabetical order: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia. Delaware was the first to ratify the new constitution and is nicknamed “The First State” to this day.
  7. Chemistry: what’s the Periodic Table of Elements? It’s a way of setting out the names of all the known chemical elements so that the vertical columns contain groups or families with similar properties. It was devised in the 19th century by a Russian chemist called Mendeleev and has been in use ever since. An element, by the way, is a substance that cannot be decomposed into a simpler substance by a chemical process. Groups of elements come together to form compounds. So, for example, a combination of the element hydrogen (H) and the element oxygen (O) can form the compound water (H2O).
  8. Physics: what are conduction, convection and radiation? These are the ways in which heat is transferred from one “body” (that is, “thing”) to another. Put simply, conduction means that a cool thing — whether solid, liquid, or gas — is warmed up by coming into contact with a hot thing. Convection occurs in liquids and gases and is the basis of the principle that hot air rises. A hot liquid or gas is generally less dense than a cool one; as the hot particles rise, cooler ones rush in underneath to take their place. The hot particles, having risen, cool and come down again, and so on. Radiation involves the energy that all objects emit. It is the only one of the three methods that works in a vacuum and is how the sun’s rays manage to warm the Earth from so far away.
  9. Art: who was Jackson Pollock? He was what is called an Abstract Expressionist and he believed that the act of painting was more important than the finished product. His paintings are therefore highly colourful, often huge, and (like his life) chaotic to the point of frenzy. He died in a motor accident in 1956, aged only 44.
  10. Music: why should I care about Johann Sebastian Bach? He was incredibly important in the development of classical music: without him, some say, there might have been no Haydn, no Mozart, and no Beethoven. He wrote mostly organ music, church music, and orchestral music; his most famous works include the Brandenburg Concertos, the St. Matthew PassionThe Well-Tempered Clavier, and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. He had many children, including the composers Carl Philip Emmanuel and Johann Christian.

©2009 Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Author Bio

Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School, has been an editor of non-fiction books for nearly 30 years and has covered nearly every subject from natural history and business to gardening and astronomy. She has written several books and was the editor of Writer’s Market UK 2009.


Filed under books, opinion, writing

Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction (Giveaway!)


The winner of the book, 90 Days to a New Life Direction by Laura Berman Fortgang was chosen by And the winner is…


Congratulations and thanks to all who entered.



In Now What? pioneering life coach Laura Berman Fortgang shares the process that she has used so successfully with hundreds of clients to help them make major changes in their lives. Whether it’s moving on from a dead-end job, discovering an entirely new creative outlet, or answering the age-old question “What am I meant to do with my life?” this book provides a clear and infinitely practical ninety-day program to discover a new direction for your life.

Readers will learn from the success stories of Berman Fortgang’s clients, including:

  • A woman who left her unfulfilling job to discover the rewards of doing motivational work with professional athletes.
  • A high-fashion shoe executive who found more gratifying work helping adoption agencies around the world place children in permanent homes.
  • A highly paid corporate consultant who became a minister.

Full of inspiring and empowering exercises and tools, Now What? guides readers — day by day and step by step — through a process that will lead to true life satisfaction and fulfillment.

Win a copy of this book by simply leaving a comment with a valid E-mail address in the E-mail address field. (So you can be contacted if you’re the winner.)

If you are the winner you will need to provide a shipping address within the US or Canada. (P.O. Boxes are not accepted.)

One winner will be announced here, (and contacted via E-mail), on August 15th, 2009.

Good luck!


Filed under books, change, giveaway

America Libre (Giveaway!)



Winner announced HERE.


Want to win a copy of Raul Ramos y Sanchez’s new book, America Libre?

Here are the rules!

#1. Only US and Canada residents, please.

#2. If you win, you must provide a shipping address. No P.O. Boxes.

#3. Leave a comment and a valid E-mail address in the E-mail field so I can contact you if you’re the winner.

#4. Your comment should be answering the following question, (excerpted from America Libre’s Reading Group Guide): “The events in America Libre are similar to some real-life events in U.S. history, such as the race riots of the 1960’s and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Do you think that today’s society has changed to prevent events such as these from happening again?” Why or why not?

One winner will be chosen and announced here on August 10th, 2009. Good luck!


Filed under books, contest, culture, giveaway

America Libre

America_Libre Manolo “Mano” Suarez is a third generation Mexican American and patriotic former U.S. soldier who barely speaks Spanish. Unemployed in Los Angeles with a wife and three kids to support, Mano pays little attention to the civil and political unrest that erupts due to an accidental police shooting of a young Latina bystander during a drug bust, but when the situation snowballs into rioting and more deaths, he must protect his family.

As Latinos of all types; citizens and undocumented immigrants, white black and brown, rich and poor, are all put on lock down in official “Quarantine Zones” or shipped off to internment camps, Mano is drawn into the fight and forced to choose a side in the United States/Latino civil war.

The author, Raul Ramos y Sanchez, paints a frighteningly plausible future. America Libre is set in the near future, and reads at times like non-fiction. It is a reminder of the dangers of extremism on both sides of the fence, as well as a warning for those who would like to sweep the immigration debate under the rug.

I admire Ramos Y Sanchez for the obvious effort and research that was done in writing this novel. His knowledge of history, military and politics is evident by the plausible plot and realistic story telling. I can certainly imagine America Libre as an action film with a message, along the lines of Crash. (I’m “officially” recommending actor Ricardo Chavira for the part of Mano, Cameron Diaz for the part of Jo Herrera, and Paz Vega for the part of Mano’s wife… I have the entire movie cast in my head already! This book is begging to be be a screenplay.)

America Libre is available July 29, 2009. Ramos y Sanchez intends for this to be a trilogy which will include two more titles – El Nuevo Alamo (due out in 2010), and Pancho Land.


Filed under books, culture, opinion, politics

Awful Library Books

I discovered this hilarious blog just today when it was featured on WordPress.

Awful Library Books is a pretty self explanatory blog title but here is what the blog writers say about their site:

This site is a collection of public library holdings that we find amusing and maybe questionable for public libraries trying to maintain a current and relevant collection.  Contained in this site are actual library holdings.  No libraries are specifically mentioned to protect our submitters who might disagree with a particular collection policy.  (A good librarian would probably be able to track down the holding libraries without too much trouble anyway…)

Your “awful” librarians for this site are Mary and Holly.  We are public librarians in a medium sized public library in Michigan and the opinions expressed are totally our own. We do tend to articulate our particular library’s collection objectives when making comments.  Our criteria for inclusion of titles are simply anything that amuses us.  None of the books presented are particularly awful (okay, maybe some are).  These books are just odd, outdated or maybe should be reconsidered under a current interpretation of collection policies. In no way should the opinions of Mary and Holly be interpreted as a standard for every library.  We just want to have a few chuckles and talk about library collections.

Comments are welcome, but we do ask everyone to “be nice” and use your library voice.
We would love submissions.  Feel free to email us any scans of covers:

They take submissions! I think I just found a new hobby.

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Filed under books, fun links, humor

Cookie Monster visits the Library

This is one of my favorite Sesame Street videos of all time.  I showed it to my kids and they were cracking up. Some things are timeless :)

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Filed under books, humor, kids, nostalgia, video