A New Tale

The first book that comes to mind, obviously, left very strong impressions upon me. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale is interesting in delivery alone. It is a graphic novel (a.k.a. a long comic book) in which Art Spiegelman lets his father speak about his trials in Nazi Germany. As the reader, you are easily emotionally involved in the story, be it concerning the hiding, the concentration camps, or the priceless romance between Vladek and Anja, Art’s parents. Perhaps this involvment is only increased by the artistic format.

An important part of the book is that people are no longer people – they are animals. The mice are Jews, the cats are Nazis, The dogs are American soldiers, with the cast of characters continuing. Along with this segregation comes creativity: during many points, Jews in hiding often resorted to wearing Pig masks (to represent the Poles) in order to remain safe for a bit longer.

I think the most touching part of the whole story was how the relationship between Art and his father was just as important as Vladek’s story of “the War”. Here’s Mr. Speigelman, as a mouse, struggling to accurately portray his father’s story while trying not to kill his father amidst his ramblings. You all see the humor in it, I’m sure, as you all have been there. Poor Art… there’s dear old dad, going off about cereal, and all Art wants to do is hear more about Auschwitz.

In any case, I was very impressed with the entire novel, and was lucky enough to have gotten a copy that includes both Part I and Part II. The art is just fantastic and adds a new layer to memoirs that should be noted more often. I highly recommend it, though I must warn you: despite the happy-cartoony way in which such a tale is prestented, it is a very honest interpretation, therefore graphic.

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  

When to Say “When”


House of books, originally uploaded by CláudiaM.

I have a situation.

I’m not entirely sure what kind of situation it is yet, but I know I have one. The problem is this: Whenever I leave the house, I come home with more books than I left with.

I know what many of you are thinking; “I wish I had that problem!” No. No you don’t. You see, I leave the house every day. Its not even that I’m stuck with these books. About a third are library books, so they eventually go back… but thats hardly the point, now is it?

My situation is this: I have no room. All bookshelves are at capacity, even beyond. The dreaded “To Read” Top shelf is layered. It started out neatly enough, arranged by size, brought forward to the edge of the shelf (as my dear Librarians taught me). Come May there were two or three paperbacks on top of the row. Now… we’re halfway through June. I have pushed back the first row and begun a second in front of it.

(Wistfully) And they’re wonderful books! Dostoyevsky, Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Persuasion, A Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, J.M. Barrie, J.D. Salinger, other people who use initials, and my two favorite Random-Fact Books: The Know-It-All and A Brief History of Nearly Everything. (neither of which I’ve finished – yet) The trouble is that there’s still books I want. You know, the books everyone should own, the ones you pass on to your kids. I saw this gorgeous old-style, gold-lettered hardcover of Robin Hood that would be lovely to read this winter (with a blanket and hot cocoa) not to mention the recent Naria craze, which only fuels the nagging feeling that I should have bought the series when I was 7 (like I wanted to, because then I wouldnt be in this predicament). My most recent tangent has been Peter Pan. It has been mildly amusing between the book, short stories and movies galore. (I think all these childrens books, particularly that last one, is my subconscious making a grand effort to avoid “growing up”. Ahh, the innocence and ego of childhood…)

needless to say, I do believe I am surrounded. My “To Read” Shelf occupancy has tripled, plus the seperate stack of library books (over 10 present at any given time) And the average of… three… that I carry on me at all times. Another problem: Once I remove themfrom my “To Read” Shelf, there’s nowhere to move them to. Again, shelves are at capacity. What to do, what to do…

I’m 10 books away from resorting to By any means necessary mode, (which is one step away from Crazy Cat Lady)  and fitting them into drawers, crates, stacked on tables… Its reminiscent of Elinor Loredan in inkheart (excellent book-lovers book!). In any case, I’m curious as to how the book-house was managed, because it might be the solution to my problems.

Published in: on June 14, 2008 at 9:50 am  Comments (3)  

The Storm Has Passed!

Sailors’ Memoreis [HDR]
Originally uploaded by Hussain Shah (Kuwaiti Muwali)

It is much too soon to pause and reflect upon today, and what lies ahead for NovelDame. I will tell you this: I will continue. After all, there is so much left unsaid! So many books unread!

But in light of the technology fair, I would like to thank Seagate for my new 5.0 gig flash drive (expect more art! more videos! more additions!) as well as my dear readers (I have aquired readers!) for introducing themselves and singing songs of support and the new readers that discovered me today. The greatest gift I received was to see my work admired. A special thank you to those who approached me with requests for meetings, conferences and other such matters, I can’t wait to get started. As always, a big thank you to my wonderful fairy godmothers for willingly playing the roles of cheerleaders, mentors, messengers, mothers, collaborators and saviors when necessary.

This is another stepping stone in the road that I am traveling as NovelDame.  What an amazing experience! I’m off to go brainstorm what to do next! Any suggestions? Maybe I’ll ponder doing some podcasts…

Published in: on February 2, 2008 at 3:25 pm  Comments (3)  

All Fired Up

Mercy! Books Burning.
Originally uploaded by Catherine Jamieson

Today’s quotes are quite relevant, I’m sorry to say. I’m working on a new piece of artwork, and I burned a book.


Yes. I, NovelDame, set fire to the pages of a paperback. I never read it (glances told me it was a crime novel), but I’m sure there are plenty more copies out there, in any case.

Why are people so against book burning? Many relate this act to censorship, which is understandable. There are countless acts in history when book burning was a method of control: Oxford University did it in 1683, The Nazis perfected it, and most recently it became a scandal in Iraq. I agree, that destroying reading material because someone has objections to it is barbaric. I do believe that the burning of the Library of Alexandria was the greatest loss we – as a culture – have ever faced. So much knowledge was lost…

But, I don’t believe that all burning is morally wrong. Books that are damaged beyond repair, unreadable, outdated, etc should be properly disposed of. Honestly though, do raggedy books belong in a landfill? Thats hardly respectful, don’t you agree? Everyone has seen a wounded book. It isn’t pretty. Wouldn’t you like to put it out of its misery? Go to any used book store, and look around. In some cases, there are dozens of copies of the same novel. Surely no one out there would buy all eight paperback copies of their favorite vampire novel.

Here is the question I pose to you, dear readers: Would the issue of burning of books be less black and white (pardon the pun) if it were done in the name of “population” control, and nothing else?

For more opinions on book burning, please watch my first video post, with quotes from students and teachers.

Published in: on February 2, 2008 at 12:38 am  Comments (2)  

That Falling Feeling

Breakup Ceremony
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Purvis

My wonderful fairy godmothers have diagnosed a new condition in which the brain “dribbles out of the ears”. If it is contagious, then I am infected. Symptoms were most likely triggered by my most recent adventure, becoming a contributor to Students2.0! The last few weeks have been wonderful. Insane. Complicated.

You might have noticed that the title changed. I’m happier with it than I was, but it still isn’t right. Expect it to change again.

Now, I have finished my third book of the year. It is neither The Story of B nor is it High Fidelity. It was not found on the infamous top shelf. Less than 30 days into 2008 and I have already broken my resolution. That’s the way books go, I guess. In any case, book 3 was an interesting read, like nothing I’ve ever come across.

A Bad Boy can be Good for a Girl is not a book that I recommend for anyone over the age of 16. It isn’t meant to be deep or philosophical, but it has a wonderful message. At a little over 200 pages, it tells the story of three girls who fall for the same guy (predictable, I know) though free-form poetry. I found all the characters to be very stereotypical.

In its defense, I found it to be honest, heart-felt, etc. I related to it quite well, which I hate to admit on some level. Yes, three very different girls do fall for “the jerk”, and it is this quality of the book that I wholeheartedly attach myself to. It isn’t “chick lit”, and it is no He’s Just Not That Into You, but misery loves company, and it brought me back to days I’d still rather forget about.

Sometimes it’s nice to open old wounds, you know. Perhaps bad boys can be good for a girl, but not in ways we expect. You get to sit and think about how those terrible events made you who you are, and if it was really worth it in the end. I may not ever read it again, and I may never find someone who would appreciate this book on the level I did, but I do have a sense of adoration for this short little novel. I’ve dated jerks, and I’ve gotten burned. Tanya Lee Stone presented me with a voice that made me pause and realize exactly how far I’ve come since then, and what an amazing person I’ve become because of everything I’ve had to go through.

 Dearest readers, this is what books are all about! Inspiring someone! evoking emotion! There are many definitions of success in terms of writing, but one of the most universal is the sense of accomplishment one gets when a book speaks. Whether to a culture, a person, or an idea, success is knowing someone found a message in something you said. Like the girls in the novel, I walked away from the experience thinking I’m going to be okay.  I hope you read this and pick up the book so you can find something admirable in it as well.

Published in: on January 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Comments (5)  

“Honest to blog?”


This has definitely been a writer’s block type of week, so I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, dear readers; I have been avoiding this blog by reading other people’s blogs, and I’m going to blog about what I’ve found. That is as simple as it gets.

I began with the blogs of the students that contribute to Students20h.org and was delighted with what I found.

  • Lindsea K is all about Love and Logic, and posts art, videos, poetry and pictures whenever she gets the whim. Her blogs are fun to read because she holds nothing back and has a quiet honestly to them (I say quiet because she doesn’t seem like the kind of person to shout her truths from the rooftops) and I admit, I immediately subscribed.
  •  Two Penguins and a Typewriter also caught my attention. Anthony Chivetta is very realistic about whatever he writes and has the amazing gift of pointing out the obvious without talking down to anything at all. Most of all, he writes about what he knows. The archives show that he’s obviously a computer geek (I would be, too, if I had enough patience), but he’s a geek who can explain anything to anyone.
  • Partytime is another new favorite from Nicole in Korea. I instantly fell in love with her blog because she’s already vocalized so many of the worries that I’ve been having. She has the kind of blog that starts conversations. If I ever met her, I think she’d be my new best friend. Maybe its a silly thing, but I love the feeling of finding someone who shares the same feelings I do! She has such a passion (oh, the irony… read her latest blog.) for art and people. This girl has hopes of finding something more out in the world, and I hope the world doesn’t let her down.
  • Sean, The Bass Player, struck me as the kind of guy who would order hot chocolate from starbucks and just sit and chat. He has an opinion about everything, but he’s not closed-minded. He’s going to be a fun one to follow.
  • The Cloudy Dreamer has to be mentioned as well because she is so hilarious! My favorite post is, without question, her 2008 Resolutions. I laughed until I cried, then I finished the other half of the list. Reading her tagcloud alone says volumes.

These are some of the people that control our future, and this is rather comforting. I also had a few recommendations from one of my Fairy Godmothers, and Wandering Ink is at the top of that list. There is no easy way to explain the blog, so read it yourself. You could spend hours there. 2 Cents Worth, by David Warlick, is one of those blogs that will come in handy. I’ve only read a dozen posts so far, but I’ve already had three or four lightbulbs turn on.

In other news, this week’s goal is to get at least one video posted, get an archives page for all the quotes I use, as well as a page for my art, and another that “Documents my world” (I’m still trying to figure out what that means). I praise the Glorious Chaos.

Oh, and any suggestions for a new title? “…and Curiosity” just isnt working anymore. Any questions you’d like to see in the new interview videos I’m working on? 

1. Blog Title from Juno.
2. Photo by photbutt83 on Photobucket

Published in: on January 21, 2008 at 7:49 pm  Comments (1)  

Happy New Year!


So far, 2008 is off to a start. Whether a bad one or a good one, it is not yet known. My biggest New Year’s Resolution is to actually read all the books on my “To Read” shelf (previously known as the stack on my nightstand) from cover to cover. There isn’t any particular order I hope to go in, I just wish to get it done.

I’m having a lot of trouble mustering enough ambition to finish The DaVinci Code. It is well written, and incorporates a lot of interesting concepts and points in history, but I was more impressed with one of his other books, The Eternity Code (despite the sappy parts). Perhaps thats because I’ve been turned on to the more interesting properties of math recently, and the ways in which he explained various codes and their histories is more appealing to me now than a refresher course on DaVinci’s secret life.
Apparently he has another book in the works, and I’m curious as to what path he’s going to take with that one: mathematical or historical. Either way, the guy knows his stuff. I wouldn’t mind sitting in on a lecture sometime. One of the biggest complaints I’ve read concerning  The DaVinci Code is that he ignores certain historical points in order to make the theories accurate. I don’t think this is a big deal, to be honest. Dan Brown wrote a fictional book. It’s a good story, and that’s all.

I’m glad to see that comments are picking up: You know I love hearing from all of you. In any case, I’m always up for a few good recommendations, and the goal is to be through that shelf before I graduate. Wish me luck, and Happy New Year, book fiends!

* EDIT – 9:18 pm

I finished it, and I was unimpressed. Cute ending, I admit, but I dont want to be using “cute” in the future to describe another mystery/suspense novel. Dan Brown had great intention but there were far too many “iffy” parts to validate a flawless delivery. Would I recommend this book? Only to select people, and not because of the religious aspect. The DaVinci Code isn’t for everyone. Maybe the problem is that this particular book doesnt appeal to my generation. It was good, but not great. May I remind you that I already warned readers of my bias…

Published in: on January 1, 2008 at 8:37 pm  Comments (4)  

Everyone Needs a Pleasant Reminder


I realize it is quite late, and I should be in bed like all good children are. Tonight’s excuse is as follows; I feel that if I don’t get my thoughts out now, then when I try to do so tomorrow morning, they will be incomplete. I’d hate to have that, knowing it was preventable. I came across tonight’s inspiration purely by accident (as are most of Novel Dame’s muses), and it brought back fond memories.

By hitting the wrong link, I was presented with a list of the Bestselling Children’s Books of All-Time (Hardcover). I sat here for a good twenty minutes just reading this list, and reflecting on each book. For the longest time, I had believed that the world had turned away from Little Golden Books, thus neglecting the classics that my parents and myself grew up with, like The Pokey Little Puppy (1), and The Little Engine that Could(30). My own copies are no bigger than a cell phone nowadays! Certainly everyone expected Dr. Seuss to be littered throughout, but Nancy Drew, of all books, made the top 50! I didn’t think kids read her anymore. Honestly. One of my earliest memories was having the whole series sitting on my shelf – next to my rubber piggy bank. They were my first “chapter books” and I was wholeheartedly devoted to the clean cut, classic crime solver for many years. Shh, I’ll admit part of me still is. I remember having to memorize an entire Eric Carle book (20) in first grade, and going to the school library for read-aloud time to hear The Rainbow Fish (25) for the sixth time and still loving it. To see Waldo books(41, 45), Richard Scary(66, 73), and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie(69) listed… its like going back there. Back to my tiny Elementary school, back to the playground, back to the wonderful teachers. I remember the primary-color rug in my kindergarten class, the Halloween parties and parading through the hallways in costume. Delightfully, I remember when the D.E.A.R. program was introduced, translating to Drop Everything And Read (which I never questioned). In my life, books have never been the plot line, just filler, but I will say that they have always been there. I’m thankful that I’ve grown to appreciate that.
I’m glad I stayed up to share this trip with whomever decides to read. I hope someone else goes looking for the books they remember as a kid. There’s so much more that I could tell about, but I want to hear someone else’s story, should this be a catalyst. I know my answers, but when did you really discover that you loved books? What are your earliest memories with one?

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 2:31 am  Comments (3)  

To Have and to Hold

     I’m doing it again: I have managed to wake myself up to write another entry. Have you ever found yourself protecting a book from harm not because you felt the parchment itself was in danger, but because you wished no harm to come to fictional characters? Tonight’s entry began with a rather interesting conversation I had during class with a good friend of mine. It began with books we loved, followed by characters we loved, and somehow that progressed to Characters We Wouldn’t Mind Being Married To:

  (NOTE: My list is substantially shorter than hers)

      * Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird: If you have ever read Harper Lee’s frequently-banned novel (as most high school sophomores have), then you know why he is at the top of my list. His entire character is based on integrity, and he serves as an ideal role model for children and lawyers alike. He is humble and honest, accepts himself, yet somehow still manages to not force his values on others while trying to change things for the better. This is a delicate thing, and I still haven’t quite figured out how it was achieved, but he is admirable nonethless.

* Mortimer Folchart, Inkheart/Inkspell: Although Inkheart is both of Young Adult and Fantasy nature, I still find this devoted father to be a wonderful addition. As a Bookbinder by trade, he passes his passion for the possession, care and repair of books along to his young daughter Meggie. In the novel, he earns the nickname “Silvertongue” because he has been blessed with the gift of being able to read anything out of a book. This becomes a problem – and the basis of the plot line – when he reads out the villain of a strange book. There are little things dropped within the pages of Cornelia Funke’s intriguing trilogy (Inkdeath to be released 2008) that lets you know exactly what kind of values Mortimer chooses to embody and creates an interesting conflict between men like himself, and the men read from books.

* Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Call me silly for this one, because even I admit that Charlie embodies very few ideals associated with the characters mentioned above. If nothing else, Charlie would be fun to have around simply for conversation. I have had to pick apart the book over the last three weeks in order to complete a class project, and I have been picking up even more revealing bits of information than I previously had. Charlie is heartwarmingly honest,  innocently humorous and naive to exactly how insightful he is. He’s devoted to family and friends, and takes something from everything he does, be it a lesson, a story, a trinket.

I’m sure there’s more… its much to late to think now. Best wishes, and never trust someone anyone doesn’t carry a book (Lemony Snicket).

Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 12:40 am  Comments (3)  

Mr. Sandman, Kindly Go Away.(Previously titled: Looking in a Mirror)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I can’t sleep. I crawled into bed, got comfy, and closed my eyes, but nothing. Not a yawn, not a flutter of fatigue, just up. My mind was too busy whirring. What was I pondering about? What keeps me up late at night?

Is it grades, you ask? Certainly not. Finals, then? Not tonight. Teenage Angst? Oh, honestly… at least try… A book! Not lately, but close enough. We’ll work with it. All I could think about was what I was going to write about next, and how I haven’t even finished this post, and I need to reformat that page, and add a new one there… Simply Put, NovelDame has the power to keep me up all night. Introductions aside, lets finish what I started; a new review:

I found a book after my own heart! Were I 20 years older, this woman and I would be good friends. The premise of So Many Books, So Little Time is to read 52 books in 52 weeks. Simple enough for any Book Lover, right? Sara Nelson documents her reads, her life, and how to two intertwine in an amazingly interesting and hardly self-centered novel that I finished last week. She is a book reviewer (a.k.a. gets PAID to read) and decides that she wants to actually keep track of this year’s book list, and does so by periodical journal entries, spaced a bit sporadically.

This is not so much the kind of book that opens new doors as it is something old and familiar, to keep readers going through their dry spells. She has a special kind of humor, and the way she feels towards her husband, sister and son all shine through the way she talks about the books she shares with them, rather than the people themselves. I can explain it no better than that, but there is a chapter in which she reads Charlotte’s Web with her son, and its rather endearing (although my memories of the book are far different, as I was forced to read it aloud for four years straight, but that doesn’t matter).

I find myself relating to her so much! One reoccurring message is the “bedside stack that never seems to get any smaller no matter what I read”. In my case, there have grown to be too many in said stack, and they now get their own bookshelf… at the very top. Sara Nelson dislikes the same authors as myself (Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum ) , for the same reasons (too much hype to establish a personal connection with the story. Its a Name-Brand Book). She has introduced new words to me, like “Readaholism” and “the lizard brain” which is the subconscious mind, as referred to by writers. Sara has a passion for Amazing First Sentences** as well, and she has recommended great-sounding books like Straight From the Fridge, Dad: a Dictionary of Hipster Slang, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, The World According to Garp and A Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius(which currently sits on the left side of that top shelf I mentioned) and has kept me from making great literary mistakes such as Tuesdays with Morrie. I can do this book no more justice; let the quotes say everything else, as I think every avid reader can relate to or appreciate the following:

“Well, books get to me personally. They remind me of the person I was and the people I knew at the time I read them, the places I visted… I can stand at my cherry shelves and point to an obscure title… and tell you where I got it, why, and what I thought when I started reading it.”

“An occasional disagreement over a book’s merit should not be a big deal to normal people, but the people I love – and the person I am – are not normal: we’re book people.”

“When things go right in my life, I read. When things go wrong, I read more. Frustrated with work, bored with my marriage, annoyed with my kid or my friends, I escape into books.”

“(P.S. I sent [my son] to his room for disrespecting his mother, and he promptly picked up a Thornberrys books and started to, yup, read)”

“I couldn’t stop reading A Million Little Pieces partly because it is a big, fat train wreck of a book and everybody, I think, gets some sort of perverse pleasure or solace, at least, from watching someone else’s mess of a life, especially if its worse than theirs.”*

“…Betsy Lerner says that a memoirist fails the minute he or she compromises a single adjective in an effort to protect someone else’s feelings.”

*For more books along these lines, see my review on The Dollanganger Series
** The best I’ve found yet, that was NOT on her own list (pg 211 in So Little Time) was the opening line to Almost Moon, by Alice Sebold:
When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily”

Published in: on December 6, 2007 at 12:47 am  Leave a Comment  

One Small Step…

Only a couple more hours and already its looking better. There’s now an Ask NovelDame section where you can email me directly, the Explore button is a drop-down bar to all my blog categories, a search button for all my blogs, and, my most recent project, a NEW Book Discussion Page! Which, eventually, will include every book I’ve ever reviewed. Until then, it will be under Blogroll until I can find a better way to organize all the links. I’ll probably play with different formats over the next week. Have patience, please. I hope you enjoy the new toys!

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 2:36 pm  Comments (1)