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  

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)  

Let It Snow…

Cabin in the snowy woods

Once in a while something is so odd that you stop whatever you are doing and ponder that one thing until it makes some sort of sense to you – then you promptly forget it. This week has been one of those situations. After spending Christmas eve with friends of the family and aiding in decorating their tree (as is their tradition), I spent Christmas day with the larger part of my own family. It was by request that the whole family – Aunts, uncles, Cousins, Grand-kids, etc. – be present so dearest Grandma and Papa could get family pictures taken this year. The tree was overflowing, extra tables and chairs had to be pulled out for Christmas dinner, and all were merry.
While waiting for the family chefs to get dinner set up, I was to be found nestled in the corner of the couch with a blanket and a book. This is not unusual. yet only 30 pages into the new book, I looked up and was met with a strange picture. There, in the living room with me, were two of my cousins, each with book in hand. This still makes me smile, friends, because it was that moment when I figured out why no one was hassling me for bringing another book to a family dinner this year. This runs in the family*!

As for the book I was reading during the Family Christmas intermission, it was Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. It’s really an odd book. I neither love it nor loathe it, but its the kind of book that you talk at when another twist comes along. I praise Dan Brown for his writing style, because he has a way of making complicated ideas sound very simple, and there are quite a few ideas in this novel that were hard to wrap my head around. yet At the same time, I noticed is that the chapters aren’t that short in the beginning, but get progressively shorter as things go on and found the page-long chapters to be a wee bit annoying. I also found some of Brown’s action scenes to be more appropriate for an Indiana Jones movie than a book. Those scenes are enthralling as text. My family found it delightful to watch me read this book because my face was, apparently, quite expressive. I was talking to characters more than I was the people in the room. Overall, I liked it, but there’s no chance that I’ll re-read it.
I will continue my Dan Brown saga, because I just picked up The Da Vinci Code (YES I did read Angels and Demons). I’ve seen the specials on MSNBC, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, and FOX news. I know what I’m getting into, yet part of me still thinks I owe it to “the public” to actually pick up the book before I shoot it down. I’m not one of those people who normally starts a novel while there is still so much hype about it, but its a convenient read (I’m all BUT snowed-in right now). We’ll see how well this goes; I’m not getting my hopes up.

In other news, I finished Tithe about three days ago, and its nothing to shout about. Cute fantasy novel, if you’re into that fairy thing. I don’t think I’ll pick up the second one, sadly. Usually I love fantasy novels, but this one didn’t quite ignite that spark in me.

*The fact that, through an odd family system, I am of no blood relation to these two cousins is of no consequence.

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 7:10 pm  Comments (1)  

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  

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  

Paradigm Shifts

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I finished one of the most amazing, astounding books over Thanksgiving break and it has taken me this long to let it settle. It was recommended by my favorite teacher, and – as mentioned earlier – I pushed it to the front of my reading list. When we got back, he asked me two questions: “What did you think of it?” Fireworks, I replied. “How would you describe it?” It’s a non-fictional idea presented in a fictional manner.
This is the kind of book that changes lives. Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael is revolutionary in its ideas, and smooth in its delivery. What is Ishmael about? A student, a teacher, and everything else. Name an aspect of life, and it is in there. One idea that is echoing in my mind all the time is the idea that we, both as individuals and a culture, are enacting the story told to us by our “Mother Culture”. Now, what exactly Mother Culture is defined as is better explained by the book.
The story begins with a newspaper ad: “Teacher seeks pupil, must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” Through a rather unique dialogue, Ishmael and his student try to explain “how things came to be this way” for mankind. It may appear to be a very vague question, but its really not. This really isnt the kind of book that can be reviewed well, but please, just trust my recommendation and go pick it up. What do you have to lose? After all, there’s a reason this is now My second-most favorite book.

Personally, I’m going to ask Santa for my own copy for Christmas.

Published in: on December 3, 2007 at 5:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I thought that today would be the most appropriate day to mention cookbooks. In the age of Google and Food Network, its tough to imagine that people still place faith in cookbooks at all. Those old-fashioned types that actually do have quite a time finding one thats best for them through trash bins of books that scream the praise of low-fat, no-fat, 30-minute, no-carb, low sodium, sugarfree diet crazes. I ran into the same problem when I decided to go on my own cookbook hunt. Eating “right” its a great idea, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I know what I’m getting into when I make brownies, so don’t try to ruin them by making them anything less than a wee bit sinful. If you take that away, they’re little more than fluffy tootsie rolls. And heaven knows I’m not going to argue a home-made meal that takes 30 minutes – considering a frozen pizza takes 20 – but “365 Days of Quick and Easy Meals” is going a little far. And I’m no Susie Homemaker, so I was also looking for a cookbook that also covers the basics.

You wouldn’t believe the kinds of cookbooks I found. Dozens were devoted to sneaking good food into children’s diets (Since when to Parents have to SNEAK anything?!) as well as books devoted to the Mafia, one devoted to Book Clubs, – which I just might buy – and even one for Cheese Lovers.

There were two in particular that caught my attention right off the bat, the first being The Ultimate Cheesecake Cookbook. This is dangerous, my friends. I have always valued cheesecake over any other food, and this made that curious little voice in the back of my mind ask ‘Exactly how many ways are there to change cheesecake??’ and I was floored. You’ll have to pick it up to see why, and its not recommended for Calorie Counters.
The second book – which I DEFINITELY will buy- is The Healthy College Cookbook: Quick. Cheap. Easy. I was rather impressed with this in the store, as well as the reviews online. Its well organized, the recipes are easy to follow and well-explained, not to mention simple. Other people have also mentioned that “The ingredients are usually on hand in a well-stocked kitchen, and, for further assistance, the authors give you thorough advice on how to stock a kitchen in the first place. In addition, the book includes a glossary on cooking and baking terms”. Each recipe gives both metric and standard measuring units and thorough nutritional information with each recipe. The only potential drawback is no pictures. But really, I’m willing to forgive a half-dozen full-page color spreads of baked ziti in return for both standard and metric measurements. My only note is that this is not a book for those following in the footsteps of Emril: it will be much too simple for your kind.

So what cookbook did I end up getting, you ask? After doing much browsing and comparing, I came to one conclusion and followed my father’s advice: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I bought the newest edition of The Betty Crocker Cookbook. It has a little bit of everything in there, you know; diet recipes, 30-minute meals, low-fat substitutes, dishes for beginners, thorough instructions, color photos, that classic plastic spiral so it lays flat… Apparently this edition has the new chapters of “casseroles” and “20 minutes or less” which I’ll have to take a look at. The cover has been updated as well and is nowhere near my mother’s red-and-white plaid cover that I remember so well.
All is well this Thanksgiving, I’m happy with my new cookbook, and I hope I’ve sparked a little something for your inner chef. Eat, Read, and be merry.

Novel Dame

Published in: on November 22, 2007 at 11:34 am  Comments (2)  

What is your secret?

A long-time interest of mine has always been the Postsecret website. It was started by a man named Frank many years ago as a community art project. It is now global. How it works is you “decorate” a postcard, put a secret that you’ve never told anyone on there, and mail it in. He has published 4 books ( 3 of which I own) and maintains a website on which he posts various secrets. The website is updated every Sunday (except for this week, because of special “Thanksgiving Secrets” I suppose.)

Since I first found it, I have loved the Post Secret Project. I think everyone secretly wants everyone else to know their secret, but they don’t want people to know its theirs ; this solves that problem. Some are sad, some are happy, and most have just made me laugh. I think everyone has a secret that someone else can relate to. Thats what I love about what Frank has done! Here are some ‘expired’ secrets that I found, via Google:

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Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 12:09 pm  Comments (1)  

Come Fly With Me

     It won’t be long before this thing really takes off… I’m in the middle of making some changes, such as a completely different format. We’ll see how well this works, and expect to see things change three or four times before it actually works… I wish you all could see me, with Michael Buble(this generation’s Frank Sinatra) blasting on my iPod, mumbling to myself about format codes, and “‘ forget to put that in the blog…”  or “ooh, that’d make a good post theme…” followed by adding to the infamous book list (which still needs to be edited, so sorry).

Now, past the technicalities of this:

I LOVE TECHNOLOGY! Last night I discovered the large variety of audiobooks available (I had previously only had one) and Podcasts. If you haven’t dicovered Podcasts, you’re missing out. Its like your favorite parts of the newspaper put into audio form and delivered every morning. iTunes offers one called Meet the Authorin which the author gets to speak freely about their book and their experiences writing it. I also “subscribed” to various Discovery Channel and History Channel  Podcasts, in which case they also offer certain shows (hint, hint) in such form. Now if only I can track down Food Networkclips… As for Audiobooks, I think they’re a brilliant idea, seeing as how anyone can do productive work while listening to the book. This is helpful if its rather dull, seeing as how I’m much more likely to listen to the pleasant voice than read bad text. My only problem (so far) is memory. I only have so much on my iPod, which means certain music files will have to be moved soon… Currently, I have made room for A People’s History of the United States, The Grapes of Wrath and The Da Vinci Code. 
    
  Howard Zinn’s A People’s History is impressive. Long, detailed, but accurate. He glorifies no event and holds nothing back.

update: 9 am

reformatting this is proving to be quite a challenge! Its all very technical and I’m learning quite a lot, but no one will see results for quite some time. I apologize.

Published in: on November 7, 2007 at 9:55 am  Comments (2)  

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)  

“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