A 3×5 Slice of Life

 

green tara, originally uploaded by silkway.

I have a fancy for postcards. I can’t even explain why. I guess its because they’re fairly cheap, they can be rather beautiful (I frame more postcards than photos), and they bring pleasure to all they encounter on their travels (if you manage to let go of one). So I obviously jumped on the chance to read an interactive book series called Griffin and Sabine.  It is fully illustrated, and a feast for the eyes. The colors are rich and detailed, and the illustrations add a whole new layer to the story. Frankly, I don’t know what you would call it. They appear to be children’s books, but they read like a love story, or a mystery, depending on what strikes your fancy. the book consists of postcards and letters that flow between two (or three) characters, and you never really know whats going on until the end. As a series goes, it looks like a quick read, but there’s so much to absorb once you open the pages. Everything has a double meaning, and more than once I found myself just staring at the page. Not reading, barely thinking. Just… absorbing. Even thinking about it now (its been six months) the only word that sums up everything about it is beautiful. What I adored was that every character has their own style. Griffin is very flowing, industrial, rough, modern, graphic. Sabine is his equal and opposite: feminine, natural, bohemian, detailed, bright. I never really appreciated the power of the visual language until I read these books.  You begin to understand them and how they’re feeling based on how they draw, paint, write. Short storkes and dark colors are interpreted differently based on how they move, what they create, what they’re paired with, what is written… beautiful.

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Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Are Answers Written On the Ceiling?

 

Mirrored Church, originally uploaded by Accretion Point.

Quite appropriate, yes?

It has been a long morning and I think its about time I begin going down my growing list of books I’ve finished but not yet mentioned. Lets start with the one that bothered me the most; Diary of a Teenage Girl- Becoming Me by Melody Carlson. I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t like it. First off, the whole book comes off as a 30-year-old masked as a 13-year-old, which just ends up being a very condescending narrative. Secondly, it is very much aimed at pushing (not promoting) the idea of Christianity and various ideals rather than (as I hoped) telling a simple coming-of-age story in which a girl deals with the perils of young adulthood by finding religion.

I was very frustrated by this. I understand that such books are meant to support beliefs that already exist, but (it kills me to give a bad review!) I really felt mislead. The back of the book gave no inclination as to what I found within the pages, and I was upset by how easily many touchy issues were deemed to be “right” and “wrong” by the young narrator.

But I didn’t want to write this purely on the fact that certain aspects were close-minded, so I took it a step further; I read the sequel. In truth, my views just went downhill. I wasn’t impressed, but they were quick reads.

I’ll stop before I say too much.

Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Finding the Unlost


Don’t Label Me ~Take 2~, originally uploaded by Megan *.
     I haven’t read half as much as I would have liked to in my absence, but I have done enough. This began as a look into the idea of nature vs. nurture  and quickly evolved into Women’s studies, which took on a life of it’s own and ended in a very murky teen studies category, if such exists.
      The pain and trials a teen girl goes through is unremarkably vast. Then again, I’m only referring to what we put ourselves though. What about that which is out of our control? That which can genuinely harm us? Teen girls have predators, dangers,  and goings-on that turn innocence to ash around every corner. It really is quite a feat that ladies make it to the age of twenty anymore. How do they do it? That is the question I asked myself that took me on a search for answers. I attempted to cover every aspect of young-adult hood (and even parts of childhood) to see how people have survived. I read books on both instigators and victims, boys and girls. After six novels, I came to one conclusion. How do they do it?  I asked. Simple. They’re too stubborn not to.
     This may cause a chuckle or a smirk, but I mean it in the most serious of tones. Sometimes – most times – young girls are too naive to understand how long wounds will stay, and it doesn’t help that nostalgia is a deceptive liar. They “march on”, over dramatizing the wrong aspects of life, taking cues from the reaction of others. We are all so very childlike in this way. Katherine Tarbox expresses her anxiety about late homework while casually admitting she fell for the lies – hook, line and sinker – of an online predator in A Girl’s Life Online. Her warped value system is typical among the thirteen-year-olds she addresses. Most understand that it is easier to find ones identity among magazine racks and brand names than it is to formulate concrete opinions. This need for attention is what fueled the 41-year old predator that eventually isolated the poor girl.
     Of course no one enjoys living in reality, with its gray lines and smudged morals, but the most dangerous time for a girl is when she steps into this new world with that veil of naivety previously mentioned along with a new pair of blinders, called independence. Its hard to admit when you’re wrong, and even harder to admit you’re wrong because you didn’t listen. Most become unable to swallow the crow when parents are the ones who deserve the “I’m sorry”. When did this war begin? I have never known so many conflicts to exist under so many roofs simultaneously. I credit this to lack of communication and respect – by both parties. Most parents have heard this statement and asked me why they should respect their child. Simple: why would you deny your own offspring  a courtesy that you would extend to a stranger? More than anything, I wish to see more respect between parents and children. Respect of ideas, opinions and space. I never even considered bringing up this issue until I read Glass by Ellen Hopkins. A drug-addicted teen mom continues down the path of destruction, isolating herself from friends, family and reality. Midway through the novel, a mother-daughter argument arises, and the still-high teen begs for a chance to redeem herself and gain custody of her son. I kept reading, imagining the mother’s temper as she stood in the doorway, not even allowing her fallen daughter inside. I imagined her disappointment, her shattered dreams of what her angel could have been – all destroyed. And yet, she continued to stand there, listening to the rantings of an addict, and her ever-present get-rich-quick scheme. I shared her pain, hope and guilt right then. I stopped, and all I thought was whoa, what parent would do that for their child – besides mine? In that moment, the mother ceased to be a flat character, and was suddenly a real person with real emotions, more real than most of the people I encounter in a day. How many parents would set aside their anger for another minute just to listen to the person who has hurt them most, simply because they respect the fact that said person want to change (but never will)? I hope you have a better answer than I do.
     And what about those who do change? How does one sit down and explain to the world that “I’m not who I was. That other person you enjoyed was a complete lie”? It is a strange feeling when you realize that you despised the person you were not too long ago. When I made this discovery, I sat in my room for 48 hours with a pen, a notebook and an open window trying to figure out just when things changed for me. Needless to say, after 48 hours I came to understand that it didn’t really matter when I changed, that I should simply celebrate the fact that I changed at all. This topic was touched on in an extraordinary way in Bad Girl by Abigail Vona,  in which a “bad girl” is sent to a behavior modification center. Through doctors notes and her own narration, the reader is permitted to witness the great feat that is more than a turnaround, it is a complete relocation of body, mind and morals. Excuses are thrown out the window. Strict rules are enforced more for the patients’ need for structure than the nurses’ need for order. It is a book about survival, honesty and self discovery – in the sense that she discovered that there was a “self” that was not yet found.
     Then there are those who do not survive. There are those who “give up”. They give up on family, life and everything that exists as we know it. Some see it as taking the power back, holding their own fate in their hands, others call them victims of suicide. There was a time when I could empathize with these select few, but that is me no longer. I’m now an onlooker, a curious observer, along with the faceless narrator that lives between the pages of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.  He – the boyish narrator – holds the reader captive as he spins the tale of the Lisbon girls and how they came to perish through witness interviews, faded memories and stories whispered between neighborhood boys while displaying evidence (pictures, a bra, notes found) of their existence, more for his sake than ours. We know the girls as he did ; separate and equal suburban goddesses, never to be touched. We listen to the whispered secrets of who wore makeup, who was promiscuous, who had started menstruating and we swore not to tell. We, too, peeked out of the too-small treehouse window to watch for signs from Mary or Lux, yearn to know if they are as aware of our undying love for them as we are. But in the end we are only spectators who never knew them at all, and never got around to understanding why the girls resorted to nooses, razor blades, sleeping pills and open windows as their farewell.
      I am not so amazed that girls survive high school. If anything, I am amazed that they survive themselves. I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy the numerous fates I thought I wanted as a young adult, and am most thankful for the fact that I was so often denied the objects of my adolescent longings. Youth only happens once, and I must warn against ignorance and eagerness to jump ahead to adulthood. Dear reader, if you can survive adolescence (full of temptation and teen perils) then the world is yours.
I  admit that I became more aware of my younger self while reading this, and it gave me more of a sense of where I came from than any history book has in a long time. I found an unlost piece of me, a quiet piece that should have always been protected from the dangers of growing up too fast, but never was. That piece is safe now.

 

Published in: on March 21, 2008 at 8:58 pm  Comments (1)  

A Way Out


Broken Window, originally uploaded by smooveb.
        I’m in an emotional fog right now, and it is easy to assume this is because of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.
        It is an odd book. It is about a community – a block really – the families, the gossip, The Lisbon Girls and the boys who watched them. It was an odd book in structure alone. Two weeks of reading, and I look down thinking What? Only page 144? and by 5 pm today, I was done. It wasn’t slow by any means, just… strolling, if reading may do so.
You get to know the Lisbon girls curiously, intimately, as the boys do: through things seen between curtains, memories pieced together by the crowd, knick-knacks noticed while passing bedrooms, invading bathroom cupboards. You feel for them, but know not what they’re feeling. You are a fly on the wall at dances, parties, acts witnessed in the dark. You can’t forget the Lisbon girls once they’re dead: you fall in love with them, their chains, and their mystery just as much as the boys did – do. You choose to acknowledge and proceed to ignore the same conclusion your peers have come to: “They were bound for college, husbands, child-rearing, unhappiness only dimly perceived – bound, in other words, for life.” You feel bound too, and admire Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary and Therese for having the courage to escape.
        In only 250 pages you age a hundred years. Dear reader, you grow to know these girls better than you know your own family. The boys piece it all together for you. So let the girls leave, one by one, and don’t feel sad. You knew they were too good, too pure, too knowing for us when they got here.

 

Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wow.

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I’ll keep this short. Again, I have managed to put my entire book list on hold for another highly valued recommendation.I have picked up The third book by Daniel Quinn, My Ishmael and it is. . . astounding. Which is why I’m keeping this short until I finish it, which makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve read it.

I have plenty of Students2.0 posts to write now, and plenty of thoughts to think. Please excuse my previous absense, dearest readers. Wish me luck.

Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 12:59 pm  Comments (4)  

Second Look


2007 hollister motorcycle rally 5
Originally uploaded by 1115

I’d like to think that after all this time, my list of “Things I Should Know By Now” would be much shorter, but it isn’t. Worst of all, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so to speak, but I do. I admit it. My earliest memory of making judgements was when Dear Old Dad (a furry, well-inked Harley owner) took me to meet some of his friends (also furry, well-inked Harley owners). These were scary-looking men! Being a child, I was shy until the biggest and scariest of them all pulled two suckers out of the pocket of his leather vest. One for him, one for me. I sat on daddy’s bike* with my new sucker and listened to them all talk. Somehow, there weren’t scary anymore. Despite the facial hair and leather galore, I can still say these people were some of the most decent souls I’ve ever come across. The point is that I should have known better; even teddy bears have to act tough sometimes.

 My most recent lesson in thinking twice was based upon a recommendation from a close friend. I was told to read Firefly by Piers Anthony. I read a ways into it and was appalled by what I read, but I have to get my own words out before I read the reviews of others. This probably won’t end up being laid out as well as I wish it to be, so please be patient, dear reader.

When I began reading Firefly, it didn’t take long for me to pick up on the fact that it is best labeled as a rather explicit sci-fi novel. As I read on, it became more and more vulgar, leading me to question why this was on a High School Library’s shelves, but To Kill a Mockingbird was once banned. I was disgusted with the content, the plot and the author. All I could tell myself was this is trash! I feel that you don’t get the volume of this, so I’ll be perfectly blunt. Firefly depicts detailed scenes of rape, sodomy, and the molestation of a five-year-old. Re-read that sentence. Let it sink in.  Now… WHY would anyone write about this? I was thinking the same thing for a long time, and it took me a long time to find an answer. Here is why, ladies and gentlemen: because it happens.

 I’m not trying to defend Piers Anthony on any level, but I do have a better understanding of the book and the world. This is the most effective way to speak out against sexual crimes, and this is why it remains on shelves. People read about Little Nymph and Maddock and want to scream, vomit, burn the book, burn the author . . . which is exactly the kind of reaction I’d want, were I wishing to get a message out. I’m sure Anthony gets hundreds of letters every day saying “this is terrible!” and I’m sure he sends responses of “Yes, it is terrible, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you like to stop  such things from happening?” I haven’t decided if Anthony has my respect for that, yet.

 I’ve done my fair share of research on it since, and word on the ‘Net is that Firefly is not only hard to find, but hard to stomach. Comments have ranged from “Never have I ever seen such blatant abuse of the exclamation point in all my years of reading. . . did not enjoy this book and since I believe in finishing what I start, upon completion of this travesty, I promptly tossed it in the garbage. . . I found that the tone was much too sympathetic towards pedophiles. ” to “Those people who gave this book a bad review missed the entire point of the novel. He is bringing into light a topic that often gets swept under the rug even today. I am glad that we live in a country where we can write about whatever we choose to write about.’

 Books aren’t evil. I should have known this! It isn’t a bad book, it is just misinterpreted and inappropriate for some readers. Yes, I am thankful that it is on the shelves because Anthony’s book has taken away my reason for ignoring parts of life that aren’t pretty.

Let me say this again: This is NOT a book for children or those with a closed mind. It is like no book I’ve ever read, and I don’t think I ever want to again. I haven’t finished this book and I don’t think I will.

 

*NOTE: I did not have a normal childhood.

Published in: on February 9, 2008 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  

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)  

Rollerskates and Piggybanks

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     Today was wonderful. I managed to both start and finish my first book off my “To Read” Shelf!  The Pigman by Paul Zindel, was originally published in 1968 and my personal copy was published not long after that. It is narrated by two of the main characters, Lorraine and John, whom alternate chapters. It was a little unsettling at first, but after the fifth or sixth chapter, I began to get into a bit of a flow. It was easy getting comfortable with easing in and out of the character’s heads because Lorraine seemed, to me, to be levelheaded, quiet, much more emotional than John, and a bit of a wallflower. John was the tall, dark, handsome and arrogant type, the instigator, The Yang to Lorraine’s Yin. They were very much alike, but took on different roles as directed by society. Written in the time period that it was (fifties, early sixties I presume), there were many aspects that were more of a history lesson than little ignorable details. Rotary phones were mentioned, and the nagging mother constantly “reminding” Lorraine that good girls don’t get in cars with boys. But really though, I’m surprised that The Pigmanisn’t more well-known or talked about. I can’t even describe the feeling this evoked when I finished. Read it yourself and come up with a word.

     In the back of the book was an interesting section by the author, in which he included letters from teens, and an early version of FAQ’s. It was lovely to read because it showed that he didn’t just write the book to get it out, he wrote it because he genuinely cares about teens and is curious as to how and what and why they think the things they do. Thats why this book got under my skin; he understood me. I didn’t relate to any of the characters, but he still managed to convey the message that he understands, and its going to be okay.

Published in: on January 5, 2008 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy New Year!

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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

childhood

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)  

Oh, baby!

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With teens being subject to peer pressure more than ever in this era of technology, its becoming increasingly hard for authority figures to keep up with the times. How can the media expect parents to censor the messages kids receive when its the media that makes young adults the target audience in the first place? This is tough for even me to understand.

     The lines between “right” and “wrong” have always been subject to interpretation, and any lawyer will most likely answer any legal question with “it depends,” because, when you think about it, it really does. We as a culture ask a lot of our educators and parents. They must follow the guidelines of “to each his own” but have to be all-inclusive. To be quite honest, being a teen is even crazier! Between the 2008 election campaigns being aimed at the young voter population, latest Teen ‘Zine on the stands and the tabloids chasing after the hottest gossip, teens are being told what to think instead of how. Do we not have enough faith in the future to let them try? Do we not think we “raised them right”?

     I was saddened this afternoon to read that Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant. She’s younger than I am, folks. She clearly didn’t plan on it, seeing as how she’s the star of Nickelodeon’s Zoe 101. I feel for this kid, I really do, and I don’t use “kid” in a condescending way. She really is just a kid, no matter how mature. Will she have to give up her career? If not, what kind of message does this send to all the young girls who watch her every day? I babysit three sisters once a week, ages 3-9, and I don’t want to have to be the one to tell them that dear Zoe is going to be a mommy. Does this make Spears a bad person? absolutely not. Heaven knows the poor girl has had it hard enough, and only her older sister Britney to look up to.

     For a lot of people, this news will bring up the age old argument of Roe vs. Wade, or abortion. If you’re an avid reader, then you already know that it becomes quite easy for writers to drop their own personal opinions into their novels without even realizing it. If you’re an avid reader, then you already know that pregnancy and abortion is a reoccurring theme in young adult novels. If not, here’s the long and the short of it; Crank presents the story of a crack addict who discovers she’s pregnant near the end of the book, after having been raped by a dealer. She keeps the baby and stays clean until its born. After that… your guess is as good as mine.
Meanwhile, The Perks of Being a Wallflower only features a snippet of the ordeal. Charlie writes about a confession made to him stating his sister is pregnant and got dumped when she told the boy. She decides to have an abortion, and Charlie has to drive her there. It takes an emotional toll on them both.
Hanging onto Maxput a twist on the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I, since the child is kept and raised by the father, who continues to attend school. My Darling My Hamburger isn’t well known, but is recommended. Abortion as dealt with through the eyes of a friend and doesn’t serve as the main plot. Growing Up in a Hurryoffers much more positive feedback on pregnancy, seeing as how an antisocial gal is brought closer to her family by the trials they are all put through.

      Kids read what they can relate to. You can tell a lot about a person by the last ten books they picked up. This is why Banned Book lists are growing, and the reigns are being tightened on teaching materials. Ok Grown-ups, here’s our secret: we young’ns turn to books when no one else teaches us how to think.* Books hold nothing back because they have nothing to prove. They have no one to answer to for their opinions, and can argue amongst themselves without resentment (sit in a quiet library sometime and tell me books don’t argue). Have faith in the next generation, and thank J.K. Rowling for being a catalyst for literacy in the 21st century.

* Here’s the funny part, for Christmas I received a cute little gift from My Fairy Godmothers that simply stated “I’ve learned everything I need to know about life by reading banned books.”

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 2:53 pm  Comments (2)  

Hurry Up and Wait!

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This is again inspired by Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time. I know I’ve mentioned it quite a lot lately, but its written like one side of a conversation at a book club, and thats what I love.

     So here’s my half. She frequently makes references to the stack of books by her bed. I, too, have a book “stack”, but mine has grown so much that it has its own shelf. Top shelf, of course. Nelson actually references many of the books on there, which both excites and depresses me for the same reason. She has read a book that I have not, and I own it.
     That seems to be part of the problem: I own it, therefore it is always availible. I don’t have a due date, or a late fee, or an anxious friend attached to the cover. I look up there and think “I’ll get to it when I get some free time” but when I actually do get some free time, I browse the school library. Or I end up here, but thats a different story.
     A small, childlike part of me feels guilty for neglecting these books (both new and used; I love used book stores. Everything is previously-loved.) but the rest of me sticks to the notion that i’ll get snowed in someday and these will be my saving grace. I feel that each deserves to be recognized even though I havent read them yet:

The Human Comedy:  I got this from the estate sale of a beloved family friend. Its old, tattered, and I have never cracked the cover. I don’t know what its about, and I don’t think I’ll ever read it. For now, just having it is enough. 

The Pigman, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Enchanted Castle, The Goose Girl, The Prophet, Heidi, Illuminatus! Trilogy: odd books that I’ve collected by various means. I don’t know what theyre about, and I think I will read them someday, when I am unable to find anything else.

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: Nelson mentioned this book and said it was wonderful. I think I really will read it. I’m going to make it the first book I read in 2008. I think that’ll be a lovely start, don’t you?

The Phantom of the Opera:  My sister used to be hopelessly devoted to this book, fell in love with the Broadway production and enjoyed the movie. Buying this at a used book store was my way of paying tribute to her. I tried reading it, but its written in a dull manner, to be honest. More of a technical manual than fiction.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius:  Sara Nelson also mentioned this book, which I have gotten 4 chapters into but never gotten attached to. I’ll try again nxt year. She enjoyed it, and we’ve agreed on other books so far.

The Screwtape Letters:  I loved this book, although I didn’t get far into it. I tried reading it at the wrong time in my life, which I think greatly affects the opinion of a book like this. I can honestly say I’m at a very different point now, though not necessarily the polar opposite of where I was. I’m going to re-read three very important books before I tackle this one again.

The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Red Badge of Courage The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hamlet, Plato, Catch 22, Oliver Twist: Classics, I know. I own them, I just don’t know why. Are they any good? someone else thinks so. Do I? . . . the covers are pretty. these are the “maybe, someday” books.

Slut!: This is a nonfiction novel that addresses the American Sexual Double-Standard. Its a very easy book to get into but it covers the same points so many times that its hard to tell if you’ve gained anything as far as pagecount. But anyone who has ever been gossiped about can relate to some of the stories. As usual, I’ve never finished this book. Such is life.

     Here’s to you, all you fellow bedside-pilers or top-shelfers. Cheers to all the books we don’t know we love. Take care.

Published in: on December 15, 2007 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Train of Thought Just Derailed.

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This started as a late-night post (I seem to be making this a habit) and became unfinished. I believe I owe “my public” a good review.

In any case, I feel I should mention excellent books that I have not read recently, and therefore, haven’t gotten the chance to review since I began as NovelDame:

On the top of that list is The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger is narrated by Death himself, who prefers to remember things as color. From the time this nine-year-old is taken to live in Molching, Germany with a foster family, the child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read. Her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, as a way of comforting her to sleep and coaxing the nightmares away. Across the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books and friends, equally unique: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, and the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal). “Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel’s story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves.”

It invites us to look back on that dreadful period as more than just people trying to survive, and forces us to take note of a little girl who learns to read and to love, to steal and to live, and to learn that such things are intricately connected. As morbid as the narration by Death is, it becomes appreciated after all the emotional knots Liesel puts the reader into, and bids us goodbye with memories to look back on fondly.

Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 7:44 pm  Comments (1)  

Read Me a Story…

I haven’t picked up a book all week, yet I find myself being full of new posts! Its wonderful. After another interesting day, I have a new tale to tell.

Today was the birthday celebration for one of my closest friends (and fellow book lover) even though her true birthday isn’t until the end of the month. While in the middle of such wonderful festivities, I couldn’t help but have my heart melt at the sight of my dear friend’s little sister sitting at a far table alone. With a book, of course. I knew better than to interrupt, since it was good enough to bring to a party. Instead, I casually strolled by and took a look at the heading at the top of the page (rather than bent down to the cover). A hardcover by Christoper Pike. I smiled because I was thinking I remember reading him at that age. Which is what today’s post is inspired from: books I loved as a child.

Black Beauty is unquestioningly at the top of that list. Even though I said I loved that book from first grade to sixth, I don’t think I ever quite finished it. If I did, it was only the abridged version in any case. What little I do remember of the story is quite disheartening, seeing as it involves the cropping of puppy ears, the whipping of horses, and bloody, untended saddle wounds. I don’t know why I loved that book, I just know that I did. Somewhere in there I made a point to read The Classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Mody Dick (which I also enjoyed immensely, despite the advanced vocabulary). I remember checking out one book in particular half a dozen times. It was the biography on Joan of Arc. I barely understood the terms used, but I remember admiring her immensely for what little I did comprehend. Being different is such a foreign concept when you’re seven, that it doesn’t even appear to be an option. Its hard to say if that book changed my life, but it did something.

One of my favorite series as a wee thing was Hank the Cowdog. It involved the trials of a too-old cowdog trying to hold a ranch together. He had the not-too-bright sidekick, the love interest that was anything but impressed with him, and the villains that switched between buzzards and coyotes, depending on the book. Again, I don’t recall much more than I thought it was hilarious. I’m afraid to pick this series up again only to read a page and wonder What was I thinking?? I think part of my attachment to Hank came from the fact that it was a “chapter book”, and made me feel superior (I took pride in my advanced reading abilities back then). This is my only reasoning as of right now.

And, as previously stated in a different entry, I was not as impressed with Charlotte’s Web as Sara Nelson was. I read it in second, third and fourth grade, and even the first time around I didn’t find it amusing. Templeton is entertaining, Charlotte embodies the ideal mother figure that is so often neglected, and Wilbur is the small child inside of us all, just struggling to survive. Past that… its just a book to me. This indifference also is applied toward other books like: The Boxcar Children, The Babysitters Club, American Girls, and the like. I understand why people love them, but they were never for me.

I’ve also noticed a trend in my reading, dating back to elementary days: I fluctuate throughout genres. I peak with classics, descend into nonfiction – usually historical, then general fiction, and hit bottom* with thriller books. As a kid, my first “bottom” was the ever-popular Goosebumps, and the memory of some of them still make me shiver. About two years after that, I fell for R.L.Stine’s Young Adult Series Fear Street and anything by Christopher Pike (both of whom I still have immense respect for), and three years after that I got into Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite – and I have always loved her name, because its much to perky for vampire novels, and therefore amusing.

Its fun to reflect upon the books I enjoyed and were so devoted to for so long. Its the only way I can look back and see myself grow up in a way.

*I use the term “bottom” as a visual aid. I’m basing my imaginary book graph on emotion instead of content, and believe that thrillers can be just as intellectually stimulating as classics.

Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 7:25 pm  Comments (1)  

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)

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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  

Behind in the Times

I apologize for not reviewing sooner… Since the last recommendation, I’ve finished quite a few other books:

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Twinkies, Deconstructed
      It was a joy to read this. Parts of it read like stereo instructions cut-and-pasted with an out-of-date science textbook, but the author adds his own comic relief and nifty bits of info to create a charming tell-all about what our nation is really consuming. Nifty (I like that word today) things I learned: 
                 *Sugar is used in flame retardant, water-based ink, cleaning cement mixers, curing tobacco, and is a charcoal substitute in gunpowder.
                 * 8 out of 39 Twinkie ingredients are made from corn.
                 *the yellow corn pigments in chicken feed are what makes yolks and baby chicks yellow.
                 *The enzymes that extract sweeteners from bases used in Twinkies are also used in stonewashing jeans.
                 *Dextrose (a sweetener) is the base for Vitamin C and Penicillin. You can buy Dextrose in European supermarkets, but its labeled as glucose.
                 * Speaking of Glucose, its the compound that brings glossiness and pliability to leather, stabilizes adhesives, prolongs the setting of concrete (all those sweeteners in cement! wow!) and prolongs the shelf life of lotion… its like a moisturizer for your moisturizer.

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– Kite Runner
     The Kite Runnertells the story of Amir, a well-to-do boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is haunted by the guilt of betraying his childhood friend Hassan, the son of his father’s Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the Taliban regime.” (Wikipedia)

This book made me cry. It is such an adventurous read, that you cant help but feel for the characters. It challenges an American view of the Taliban, and brings a bittersweet (thank you, Shakespeare) love to the friendship between Khan and Hassan, one I had long forgotten existed.

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– Dollanganger III, If There Be Thorns
    
This book was a bit of a disappointment. If you haven’t read my review of the previous two, please do. It will save me time. In short, brother and sister end up living together, and raise her two children (from different fathers) as mom and dad… the youngest (and child of mother’s husband and daughter) is as mentally ill as the rest of the female bloodline. His narration in fragmented sentences and “baby talk” got to be quite irritating halfway through the book, but his older brother was admirable. Both Cathy (the daughter) and Chris (the son) got far less sympathetic with every page, and I found it to be the least believable book yet.

Next on the Shelf:

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– The Know-It-All, which is about a man who decides to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, and discovers more about himself than the world. He begins as a leading authority on pop culture and soon discovers that its all rather superficial, and that’s not the kind of knowledge he wants to pass onto his children (when they appear). He struggles through trying to one-up his father, trying to get pregnant, and trying to retain all the information. Its one of the books that I started this summer and never got back around to, so I’m eager to read what R-Z has in store… a list of amazing facts to come.

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-Ishmael
  Recommended by a teacher, I felt a bit guilty when I moved it to the front of the line, but I’m sure all will be forgiven once I finish it.

Published in: on November 7, 2007 at 8:19 am  Comments (1)  

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It tops Christmas, it tops my birthday (which falls on Valentine’s Day, as a plus) and it tops national holidays which get me the day off from school. Yes, its been highly “Hallmarked”, but I think that everyone likes a good scare. Everyone has something that they’re afraid of. And if you honestly believe you’re afraid of nothing, you don’t know yourself well enough.

I’ve kept up the tradition of home-made Halloween costumes since I was a kid, and I see the idea of trying to top last-year’s costume in elaboration, idea, creativity, etc as a challenge. I honestly start thinking about my costume 9 months before Halloween. Why, you ask? Oh, because I change ideas a dozen times (I’m still waiting to be Peter Pan or Robin Hood…).

Halloween night, I rarely go out to “party”, so instead I put on a scary movie, chosen from the dozen that are available on TV, or I turn off all the lights and light a dozen candles around the house and curl up with a good book in between handing out candy. I stay in costume, of course.

What books, you ask? For a good scare I prefer to stick with the supernatural. Ghosts, spirits, poltergeists and the like. I used to LOVE pulling out Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and waiting for the shivers to creep up my spine. I also cant resist picking up true ghost stories like Coast to Coast Ghosts, or Irish Ghost Stories. In my mind, true ghost stories blend history and nightmares into something so fine, it sticks to your skin after you close the book. I find a special thrill in walking around the house, checking the windows and turning on lights just in case. Tonight I’ll either be with Michael Meyers and his mask (Halloween) or a few hundred pages on haunting known around the Midwest. HINT: Colorado is home to a special hotel used in filming an infamous Stephen King thriller….

Published in: on October 31, 2007 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Consider with Caution

I’ve been playing with the idea of reformatting the entire site before it is launched to the community. It would take time, and become rather complicated to organize, but I think that it would look more “professional”. Any Thoughts? Suggestions?

And I haven’t picked up anything new yet, but I think I’ll have to revert back to “chick lit” or a children’s novel (Peter Pan, maybe?)  or… even some nice, technical non-fiction on Quantum Physics (its really rather interesting!) because, as you’ve read, my latest reading has been rather heavy. More like a block of emotional lead than a “meaty” story.

Ooh, I’m thinking of starting A Series of Unfortunate Events

Anyway, email contact has been removed, posts have been edited, there are new sidebar toys, and I’m working on that Reading Playlist right now. What Else should I add to the site? And I’m going to definitely work on editing down my “To Read” List… even I know that 900+ is a little much… so I’ll have to research each book and… oh, why am I telling you? More later, oh captive audience. Read much and be well.

Published in: on October 29, 2007 at 11:09 am  Comments (1)  

I feel my paradigms shifting…

Updates!

11 am: The biggest news I have today – for now- is My To-Read List is finally available to the public! Printed, its 19 pages long. I still need to fiddle with the format and edit it, but there it is, in all its raw glory. all 970 books… By all means, PLEASE add to it!

And I have come across a wonderful website that has done exactly what I’ve been meanining to: complile a complete list of movies “Based on the Book” (BOBs)! The most notable of which are Stardust, Kite Runner, The Thief Lord, Bee Season, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and (my favorite, coming Fall 2008) Inkheart!

More to come…

Published in: on October 20, 2007 at 11:14 am  Comments (1)  

Something or Other

So sorry for not updating sooner, I had the opportunity to play hookie from responsibility and went fishing with my sister; a lovely combination of the few things that could tear me away from a good book.

My fairy godmothers have made a few more books flutter onto my forever-fluctuating pile on my nightstand, and I am happy to say that I have actually finished two books this weekend, so lets get those out of the way.
As reported earlier, Briar Rose was an – I want to refrain from saying ‘cute’ – endearing novel that was more about family, the the history which binds together and the idea that everyone has a story than it was about the fairytale itself or the Holocaust survivor’s tale that it turned into. I was neither impressed nor disappointed, and I do not regret picking it up. I think one of the details I found most impressive was that, for comfort, the narrator had a habit of retreating into her well-thumbed copy of Beauty by Robin McKinley, which I have also read (and thoroughly enjoyed).
And I also found Extras by Scott Westerfield to be a quick read, and mildly amusing, though not nearly as enthralling as I found the other three books (Uglies, Pretties, Specials) to be. It takes place a year after book 3, in a completely different city, with a government based on reputation and popularity. It involves those that strive to be popular and those that strive to be invisible. Its not until well into the book that old faces arise, and even then, they don’t seem to be the same characters I remember them as. As a book, its a recommended read, but as part of the series, you’re better of leaving it alone. I think my favorite quote from the whole thing is “Life’s not like some Rusty movie… There’s not just one big story that makes the rest of us disappear.” Makes me want to be a Sly Girl, too.

Back to Teen Read Week:
To make up for yesterday’s lack of a blog, I’ll just review a whole series!
The Georgia Nicolson Series by Louise Rennison is on the top of my list when it comes to humorous books. Set in England, it follows a British teen through the trials of growing up: bras, thongs, boyfriends and everything else. There will definitely be some British terms involved that will leave most Americans with a raised eyebrow or two, but after a few pages the terms are understood. Its not the stuff Classics are made of, but its a light read that is most favorable after a book with a heavy plot or message that sticks with you. I don’t recommend it for older generations because parts of it are rather immature, and best skipped over.

Published in: on October 16, 2007 at 9:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Teen Read Week

 “Celebrating its 10-year anniversary October 14-20, Teen Read Week™ provides us with a wonderful opportunity to spend a week of our time devoted to and celebrating teen reading. ” says yalsa.com.

     Meaning Teen Read Week is a lovely little promotional “holiday” set up to promote both reading and Young Adult Novels (YANs). This year’s theme is LOL @ your library®, which suggests humor as we “Laugh Out Loud” and reminds us that teens teens are very much connected to the internet.

 And I have set up a seperate booklist featuring a whole bunch of funny novels recommended by both various sources and myself (although Ive only read a few of them). The 2007 Teens Top Ten Nominees (PDF, Adobe required) and ready to be voted on, so take a look! I have read none of these books, so any opinions on them are welcome. And lastly, If any ladies out there are interested in taking a survey, I know that SmartGirl.com is interested in some opinions on Teen Read Week.

One “funny novel” will be featured each day for the rest of the week. Today’s Book Of the Day is Thwonk by Joan Bauer.

Our Narrator, A.J. is a senior photographer whose most recent assignment is to capture teen love in time for the Valentine’s Day issue. Thats the last thing she wants to do. Melted candy hearts, crumpled valentines and ragged cupid dolls are more her thing, not couples strolling along the beach. But when she does find a battered cupid and tells the doll why she hates Valentine’s Day so much, things take a turn. Suddenly everything starts to go right when Peter, the love of her life, finally starts to take notice of her! It doesn’t take long before she figures out its all because of Jonathan, the cupid out to make right his wrongs. Its a humorous book that teaches the lesson of you should be careful what you wish for.

Published in: on October 14, 2007 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

A Blogger’s Work is Never Done.

It is 9 am on a foggy gray Saturday and I’m bundled up in a sweater, sitting at the computer. Its the perfect day to grab a blanket and a hot cup of Cider or tea and just sit.

No, I didn’t wake up just to do this. Actually, I’m at work. But with the weather being terrible, there’s no work to do. And since I have a little extra time, I figured I’d go play around a bit. I’ll probably post again later (previous blog has taught me to keep it short and sweet) giving links and such, but Im working on both a “My Favorites” List and a Book Discussion page where we can discuss a book in-depth without having to worry about giving away spoilers. The catch is you HAVE to have read the book before you join the discussion.

As for that playlist, I know I have some songs in mind… does anyone else? And are there any more books I need to pick up?

And a rather generous benefactor was kind enough to lend me the NEW Scott Westerfield book, Extras. If you haven’t read the first three (Uglies, Pretties, Specials), then I highly recommend you pick them up. This is a hairline away from ending up in the not-yet-finished “My Favorites” section. I expect another awesome plot twist and some old faces to surface again… I’ll review it later.

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 9:02 am  Comments (2)  

“You kiss by the book.”

Not even a day into this and already the response is amazing! I’m quite excited about this project now (not that I wasn’t before). Thanks, guys. As for the book suggestions, I’ll get right on it… Until then, here’s a current list of what I’m reading now:

Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger
This is a lovely insight into all those unpronounceable ingredients found on all the labels of processed foods in the supermarket. After all, haven’t we all asked ourselves exactly what kind of tree does Red Dye #40 grow on?

Well, only three chapters into the book, I’ve already discovered that many of the necessary ingredients come from oil. As in black gold, from Iraq, Oil. Worse yet, are all the chemicals that are added to and taken from the oil to get those odd 12-syllable-long words for things that fall inevitably into the “less than 2%” category. Whats worse? All those natural things that most people can pronounce and do consider safe to consume (as opposed to crude oil and chlorine) are explosive. Example: Flour dust. Glucose.
I think that speaks for itself. More discoveries to come.

Prep  by Curtis Sittenfeld
This has been put on hold since July, and I have yet to pick it back up yet, but it is a rather interesting read. Its about a new girl at a Prep Academy (and not the Barbie Cliques, as I was lead to believe) and although I will most likely have to re-read the whole thing, I haven’t been terribly disappointed by the plot yet (to the best of my recollection).

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
 So far its a lovely read about a granddaughter who grew up hearing her grandmother tell the tale of Briar Rose as if she lived it herself. Not long after her grandmother passes away, a simple wooden box with a rose etched in the top is discovered, and inside, various documents that leave a trail – but to what, its not yet known.
Full of curiosity, the reader gets to follow along while the narrator blindly finds her way into an amusing fairytale, all while trying to ignore the inkling that maybe it wasn’t just a bedtime story.

If There Be Thorns by V.C. Andrews
This is Book 3 of the Dollanganger Series, the first of which is the widely popular Flowers in the Attic. Lets start with the first one…

Flowers in the Attic is about a family. Two parents, 4 children; oldest brother, middle sister and a set of boy-girl twins. The father dies, leaving mommy dearest with no means of financial support so the family must go crawling back to mommy’s rich parents. The only problem is that Grandma and Grandpa didn’t approve of the marriage in the first place (for good reason)… so in order for Mommy to get written back into dear (dying) father’s will, thus winning his inheritance, Mother must pretend that such a “sinner’s marriage” bore no fruit. Mommy Dearest agrees to let Grandma lock her precious babies in the attic, never to see daylight until Grandpa dies. . .and so begins the tale. Three years and five months later, the children have accepted that their mother has become self-important and ignorant of their needs. They have survived both physical and mental abuse, neglect, incest, and three of them manage to escape (note how many children there were to start with). So ends the first book. Thrilling, graphic and disturbing.
The second book, Petals on the Wind, picks up right where Attic left off, but covers many more years. Cathy(the older sister) is the focus of this equally enthralling sequel. All three children harbor resentment toward the mother who found it easy to pretend they didn’t exist, and it manifests itself differently in each of the three siblings. As much as surviving such a terror has brought the them together, it also begins to isolate each one. Cathy begins to make plans to seek the ultimate revenge against her mother and grandmother, and it plays out beautifully. The climax is a confrontation between herself and the mother, and even more family secrets get spilled. Cathy goes from being admirable and strong in Attic to disturbed and obsessed in this novel. Christopher, the eldest brother, goes toward a hauntingly downward slope as well, but this novel brings more attention to how the actions of parents eventually manifest themselves within their children. This is a slow read to start with, but it picks up nicely to a complicated web of more sex, deceit and consequences of a past that cannot be outrun. Should I mention that Cathy inevitably has two children from two different men? Such a well spun web…

…Which bring us to the third book, If There Be Thorns. The narration switches from Cathy down to her sons. Interesting things continue to occur between Cathy and her brother Christoper, and both fail to see that they have helplessly fallen into the same troubled footsteps of their own parents. Around this time, Cathy is said to have started writing Attic. Its obvious her younger son has inherited the psychological problems of both herself and her mother. Not as many plot twists, but its reminiscent of Attic in the sense that the reader gets to see how adolescents have to deal with the knowledge that parents are not perfect, and not all secrets are innocent. More lies, more truths, more ghosts of the past. (more…)

Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment