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.

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

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  

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  

Wow.

mine1.jpg

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)  

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  

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)  

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)  

“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