Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Chris from Book-a-Rama is a new-to-me blogger. I enjoyed browsing her Friday Bookish Buzz, and she posts some great pictures on a regular basis.
Natasha at Maw Books Blog has, like me, recently hit 100 posts, and she is doing a very extensive giveaway here. On top of that, Natasha's created an extensive database of other book bloggers.
Becca at The Inside Cover was not only a winner in my recent contest, but is working as a freelance writer. Her blog is nice-looking and she does great reviews.
Andi of Andilit is another very interesting blogger. She is a college professor, and so far I've been intrigued by the topics of her posts. Plus I just got done being a college student not too long ago, so I like hearing what it's like on the other side.
And finally, lightheaded at everyday reads has got some great reviews and great posts.
Okay brain is shutting off for good now. I take no responsibility for weird and/or nonsensical posts I may leave at anyone's blog after this point. It was a long day at work! And a long day afterwards... sitting around... reading stuff... (stopping now before writing random crap that I will regret later).
Monday, April 28, 2008
Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time Challenge
This was my first time reading a graphic novel, and I think I chose a good starting point. This is the opening book for a series of graphic novels about different fairy-tale and fantasy characters living in New York. I heart fairy-tale retellings, and right now I'm really enjoying quick reads, so this was perfect.
Snow White is the deputy mayor of Fabletown, a loose community of fables who've left their homelands because of a terrible invasion. It's already been a bad day, and the news just gets worse when Fabletown's Sheriff informs her that her sister, Rose Red, is missing and presumably dead.
But Bigby Wolf (AKA the Big Bad Wolf), is on the case, and through the twists and turns he follows the clues to the... chilling finale. (Okay I'm being overdramatic, but it's totally the tone of the book.) Along the way, he tangles with Jack (of bean stock fame), Bluebeard, and Snow White herself, who proves herself to be a feisty, self-controlled heroine even as faces the possibility that she might never see her sister again.
I absolutely loved this book! I loved the way Bill Willingham cleverly interconnected all of the fables in a modern day setting. Prince Charming is a perfect cad and Snow White has by now left him long in the dust. Bigby, able to take on human form, is the tortured hero with a past. There were even more characters I'm sure I'll get to learn more about in the next books of the series.
I've read great reviews of these books by Andi, Chris, Rhinoa, and had it recommended by graphic-novel-pushing friend Aaron, and now you've heard it from me... this is a series definitely worth your time!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The House of the Spirits goes to Susan of You Can Never Have Too Many Books
My Sister's Keeper goes to the Story Siren
The Memory Keeper's Daughter goes to Becca of the Inside Cover
Space goes to Susan of Bloggin' 'Bout Books
And the $15 Amazon giftcard goes to Nymeth of Things Mean a lot
For the winners of the books, just email me your shipping address at boldblueadventure AT gmail DOT com. Nymeth, I will send your giftcard to the email address you have on your website unless you let me know differently.
Yay!! I've been browsing everyone's blogs and enjoying them very much. Once again, thank you for coming to Bold. blue. adventure. and I do hope you stop by again.
I promise I won't forget to draw names for my contest, but all bets are off when it comes to anything else. I have been perusing the blogs of those who entered my contest, and making bookmarks as necessary. I took the last two evenings off from any blogging so my husband wouldn't feel neglected, and now between the new blogs I've added to my reader and not blogging for two nights I've got about a zillion unread posts. Although I will never complain about blogging, because I LOVE IT, boy does it ever soak up my time. If I let it. Which I do. OKAY I ADMIT IT I'M ADDICTED. (Okay, first step over with, what was the second step again? Oh right, feeding the addiction by adding to the book pile.)
I've been the recipient lately of some pretty awesome books in the mail. I just finished a review copy The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (read my review!), despite some hassle from DHL. (They only deliver when most people, myself included, are at work, they wouldn't just leave it outside my apartment even though Fedex will, and they wanted me to drive 30 minutes to pick it up. We finally settled on having it delivered to my office.)
I got a review copy of Marie-Therese: Child of Terror by Susan Nagel. I love non-fiction historical books, especially ones involving:
- Historical mysteries
I won Across Time not too long ago from J. Kaye Oldner, the library lottery finally spit up a copy of Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, I borrowed The Thirteenth Tale from my mom, The Other Boleyn Girl from my sister, my husband recommended a short story collection by Philip K. Dick, a new legal thriller came in the mail for me, I scored a copy of Comfort Food, and did I mention I've got a stack of books as it is?
I didn't mention that? Hmmm.... well let's just say I'm in that dilemma that I think you book bloggers understand. So many books, good books that I want to read, and time, well there seems to be a limited supply of that.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Reason for Reading: YA Reading Challenge
Forget everything you know about chick-lit and Young Adult Fiction. Read this book as the primal "I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar" of a young heroine with the knowledge that she is not only more than a pretty face, she is in every way superior to the boys at her exclusive prep school. The premise of the book is well summed up by this section:
How does a person become the person she is? What are the factors in her culture, her childhood, her education, her religion, her economic stature, her sexual orientation, her race, her everyday interactions-what stimuli lead her to make choices other people will despise her for? This chronicle is an attempt to mark out the contributing elements in Frankie Landau-Banks's character.
When she enters her boarding school, she is reserved, somewhat geeky, and known as her father's "bunny rabbit." Over the summer, she hits a growth spurt that leaves her suddenly of more interest to the boys on campus, and she quickly hooks up with the senior she has had her eyes on. Sophomore year should be floating along smoothly, right?
There's just one problem. As the semester is progressing, she has started to notice that her boyfriend keeps getting called away to mysterious study sessions that she isn't invited to. One night, on a whim, she follows him and discovers that he is really leaving her to attend sessions of The Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, the underground club for the good old boys on campus to drink beer, eat, having male bonding time and scheme up pranks. Frankie overhears their lame Halloween prank ideas and decides before too much ado that she could easily come up with something much better.
Of course Frankie can't possibly join the club, because she has has breasts, an automatic exclusion, despite the fact Frankie is sure she is just as smart and devious as any of the other members. And as we learn later on, most likely much more so on the devious and smart side. Frankie doesn't whine or wallow in her frustration, though. Frankie is a strategist. When the leader of the group, Alpha, leaves for a few days on a retreat without the possibility of internet connection, Frankie seizes the opportunity. Via email, she impersonates Alpha and leads the Bassett Hounds in their best-executed prank the school has ever seen. She knows that when Alpha returns his pride won't let him admit to not orchestrating the plan. Giddy with power, she directs the Bassett Hounds into a series of well-timed pranks that lead to social change on campus. She keeps expecting her boyfriend, Matthew to admit to her his membership in the Bassett Hounds, so that she will know how much he loves and trusts her. Why, prank after prank is he not admitting it? Will Alpha guess her identity? Will Frankie break under the pressure? (Umm... not likely.)
If this is your type of book, you'll know it from reading a few selections. So I'll provide them for you.
Here we are introduced to Alabaster, Frankie's prep school:
Information as to the locale and setting of Alabaster, its course requirements, and the sports activities required therein will be given in these pages solely on a need-to-know basis. It is of no relevance to the understanding of either the Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, the Fish Liberation Society, or any of the other spurious organizations that committed the so-called crimes at Alabaster, that Frankie Landau-Banks took modern dance and played ultimate Frisbee, though she did. It does not matter that her elective was initially Latin because her father thought she should take it. And it is of no concern how she decorated her dorm room.
Frankie begins to learn that she has power:
Frankie hadn't liked herself while she'd been yelling at Porter-but she had admired herself. For not being the littlest one at the table, like she had been all her childhood...She admired herself for taking charge of the situation, for deciding which way it went. She admired her own verbal abilities, her courage, her dominance.
Frankie's power is discounted by the one person who is supposed to understand her:
(Her boyfriend) had called her harmless. And being with him made Frankie feel squashed into a box-a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not oversensitive); a box for young and pretty girls who were not as bright or powerful as their boyfriends. A box for people who were not forces to be reckoned with.
Frankie wanted to be a force.
This books takes itself very seriously, but underneath the Oxford sweater lies a prankster heart. By the time you realize I've been punk'd, this book is silly not serious, you won't care anymore because the book is just so darn good. Being this is a book of the chick-lit persuasive, there were a number of conventional directions E. Lockhart could have taken the ending of this book, all of which would have turned the whole thing into a royal mess. Instead, she leads us through to an unconventional, though very satisfying end. Frankie is a lively, engaging character whose clever quirks make you wish you were as cool as her. And yet you don't hate her for being superior, you just want to take your hat off to her and hope to God she turns her powers to good and not evil when she grows up.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Well, here where I live, Spring is sprung–weeks early, even. Our lilac bush looks like it will have flowers by this time next week instead of in the middle of May as usual. The dogwood trees, the magnolia trees–all the flowering trees are flowering. The daffodils and crocuses are, if anything, starting to fade. It may only be April 24th but it is very definitely Spring and, allergies notwithstanding, I’m happy to welcome the change of season. What I want to know, is:
Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?
Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?
My reading habits do change, and indirectly, I suppose, it's related to the weather. In the cold Minnesota winter, I don't go outside more than I have to, which gives me more time to curl up and read inside. Once the days start getting longer and the weather nicer, I feel the need to go outside, eat dinner on the deck and spend more time playing with my puppy outside. So I've got less time to commit to reading a book, and it has to be portable so that I can bring it outside with me.
This month the weather has been a terrible tease-warm and sunny one day but blizzard the next. I've still managed to do a fair amount of reading despite the nice weather, but mostly it's been a lot of YA books and other shorter books.
Happy BTT everyone!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
It was a very long time ago that I first read The Giver. The book had just won the Newberry Medal, and I remember very distinctly what an impression this book made on me. If pressed, I would probably categorize The Giver as science fiction, because it is about a utopia, which of course is not quite so perfect as it seems on the surface. The book is deceptively simple. It is written as a children's story, with simple language and uncluttered writing, but rereading it as an adult, I found much more in this profound story than I did as a child.
The Giver's main character is a boy named Jonas, who lives in a perfect society. There is no conflict, poverty, hunger, divorce, injustice, unemployment or inequality. Everyone in the community has their own role; everyone takes pride in their duties. Everyone is safe at all times. As the story opens, Jonas is feeling anxious about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve where he and the other Elevens are to be given their adult job assignments.
His father explained to Jonas:
..."It's the last of the Ceremonies, as you know. After Twelve, age isn't important. Most of us even lose track of how old we are as time passes, though the information is in the Hall of Open Records, and we could go and look it up if we wanted to. What's important is the preparation for adult life, and the training you'll receive in your Assignment."
Despite the fact they have been observed closely by the Elders in order to select occupations that will match their interests and personalities, Jonas can't figure out what he could possibly be selected for, and the uncertainty bothers him. But at the Ceremony, Jonas is surprised when he is selected for the role of Receiver. He knows that the job is one of great importance to the community, but he is unprepared for what it holds in store for him. He is put in training with an old man he knows only as The Giver. The Giver teaches him that his job is to receive and store all memories of a past before the community and its perfection existed. Exposed to these secrets of his society, Jonas finds that he is terribly burdened and separated from everything and everyone he has ever known.
I think Lowry's genius in this book is in creating characters that the reader genuinely cares about. Jonas never questions the rules of the community until he is given the memories he must receive and learns about both the horrors and the joys that exist outside of his world. Even then, he feels dutiful to his role and makes the decision to sacrifice of himself in order to help others.
The community where Jonas lives is perfectly thought out and detailed. An older reader will suspect right away that things aren't as perfect as they seem in the community (since dystopias after all are a rather popular science fiction topic). Even so the way Lowry shows us first the perfect surface of the society and then gradually exposes us to its flaws is quite elegant.
This book is, of course, also accessible to younger readers as well, since it is designed for them. It might be the first exposure to a science fiction book for a younger reader (I'm pretty sure it was for me) and there is really no better book.
The Giver has become a classic, and deservedly so. If you haven't read it, you have it on my authority that it should be added to your tbr pile asap!
Messenger. This book picks up from the events at the end of Gathering Blue, but switches narrators. Kira, the main character of Gathering Blue, was learning to find her place as a disabled person in a society that discarded those with imperfections. Matty was Kira's scrappy, mischievous friend, and at the end of the book, he made the decision to leave the place where he and Kira lived, finding his way instead to a different Village where outsiders were welcomed, the helpless and injured are cared for, and everyone lives in harmony. He lives with Kira's father, a blind man called the Seer. His job in the village has been to deliver messages, a role he relishes because of the challenge. Delivering messages frequently takes him through the old Forest. Matty has never had trouble from the Forest, but unwary travelers have been stranded, hurt, and even killed by the Forest.
There is a growing unrest in the Village, though, and Matty must take on his most challenging journey yet. Some of the Villagers have grown tired of taking in new refugees and the borders of the Village are being closed. Before then, Matty must return to his home village and try to convince Kira to return back with him before it is too late.
After recommending both The Giver and Gathering Blue as must-reads, I wish I could say the same for Messenger. It isn't a terrible book, but it just isn't as good as the other two. The Giver and Gathering Blue are connected by the faintest strand, and I'm sure that over the years more than one reader, and perhaps publisher has begged Lowry to connect the two books more concretely. The resulting book feels a bit half-hearted. The characters are there, but the subtle magic that made the previous two books great is just not there. At the end of this book, I had more of a so-what? reaction. If you have read the other two books and liked them, you might want to read this one just to see what happens. Otherwise, as a stand-alone novel, it doesn't hold up.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Reason for Reading: An intense need for some lighter reading
Imagine yourself on the worst day of your life. You've just been told your husband is cheating with his ex-wife and is planning to leave you. Now imagine being told that on The Today Show where you are being interviewed as America's foremost dating expert. Yeah, Darby Vaughn is having a bad day.
Thanks to the shocking revelation on national TV, the sales of Darby's new book are tanking, fans are deserting her, and tabloids everywhere are having a field day at her expense. But harder still is trying to unravel why her husband left her. When they married, he had two children from a previous marriage and Darby threw herself into being a devoted stepmother. When she comes home after her disastrous interview on The Today Show to an empty house, she decides to fight for visitation rights with her stepchildren.
With the help of her crew of best friends, the "Dreamgirls", she begins putting her life back together. Which, of course, isn't easy. If she breaks her own well-publicized dating rules (i.e. taking back her husband) she's be a hypocrite. If she bounces back too quickly and starts hitting up the Hollywood parties with a hunk on her arms, she could jeopardize her custody battle, which is already an uphill fight.
I opened this book right away when I got it in the mail and I hardly put it down until I'd finished it. It's a quick, easy, fun read. I think what really hooked me is that Darby is a great character who manages to go through a traumatic situation if not perfectly, then with grace and wit. I loved the sharp, funny writing of this book.
Last week I was on national television, wearing a cute little non-mommy outfit and my favorite pair of Christian Louboutins, talking about how every woman deserves a fabulous life, and how they too can snag the man of their dreams. this week I'm crouching in filth, looking a lot like a homeless person because I forgot it was my turn to drive carpool this morning and I rushed out of the house wearing dirty sweatpants, the Who's Your Daddy sweatshirt I slep in, and a pair of sparkly pink flip-flops. I can't remember brushing my hair. Or my teeth.
None of the other characters in the book come close to being as interesting as Darby, but really it is worth reading this book just for Darby's story. By the end, I was really rooting for her to make the right decision in taking her husband back or not, and she didn't let me down. I don't want to ruin the ending for you, so if you'd like to know more, go ahead and pick up this book!
This book is from Pump Up Your Book Promotions as part of a blog tour for Lisa Daily's book.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Reason for Reading: Withdrawal from the Sci-Fi Experience, need to read besides challenge books
In Our Friends From Frolix 8, the world is ruled by braniacs with giant heads. And telepaths. They form the elitist ranks of a future tyrannical government which manages to keep all those of normal intelligence and a lack of telepathic power from ever obtaining more than menial success in life. Nick Appleton is one such menial laborer. His life is changed forever when he finds himself inexplicably caught up in the Underman movement against the government, and falls in love with a feisty teenage girl in the smuggling business.
You see, it's the end of the world as everyone knows it. Thors Provoni, the exiled leader of the Undermen is returning to earth with a ninety-ton blob from Frolix 8 that will restore the balance of power. The only thing standing in his way is Willis Gram, the hopelessly corrupt leader of the planet.
While I enjoyed this book in a sense, it is a very cerebral, idea-based book. The plot and characters are simply a canvass to express some of Dick's political ideas. The book starts by introducing us to Nick Appleton, who is described as an unintelligent menial worker, but we quickly start to realize he is smarter than he lets on. Eventually the book pans out to Thors Provoni and Willis Gram, who are the other two main characters of the book. Basically the rest of the novel is following each one as they all react to Thors Provoni's stunning return to earth and try to deal with the consequences. The ending doesn't necessarily wrap things up neatly. But if you like science fiction, this is one of those great books that will mess with your head. I'm having the worst time writing this review, because I keep turning it over in mind and seeing it in a slightly different light.
If you like your classic science fiction with weird protoplasmic space creatures possibly invading the earth, flying cars, despotic planetary leaders, large-brained intellectuals, and interesting ideas then try Our Friends From Frolix 8.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
And now, I have all my blogging friends to thank (or blame) for the enormous stack of books I have on the coffee table, the 100-page wishlist on my computer, the insane amount of time I spend surfing the library website, and the ridiculous number of book challenges I'm working on. Come on guys, quit reading so many awesome books so I don't have such a long wishlist!!! (Just kidding. Don't stop. Really.)
So to celebrate my little milestone at boldblueadventure, I'm giving stuff away. [Insert loud yayness here!!] I'm giving away The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, Space by James Michener, and The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. To spread out to love, everyone has the chance to win 1 book. Leave a comment on this post to be entered, and make sure to say which book(s) you are interested in. If you mention it on your blog, I'll enter your name for an extra chance. Just especially for my international readers, if I draw your name, I'll send you a $15 Amazon gift card by email instead.
So in conclusion, Rusty wants you to enter my contest. And who can say no to the faux-hawk?
**Update: I ummm... forgot a deadline. So let's arbitrarily make it this Saturday, April 26th. I'll draw on Sunday.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Author: Frank Beddor
Reason for reading: YA Reading Challenge, Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge
I got about halfway through the first book in this series, The Looking Glass Wars before I decided to check out this book, the sequel, right away. This book picks up where The Looking Glass Wars left off. To catch you up to speed, the Wonderland you know from Lewis Carroll's book is only a silly imitation of the real thing. Alyss Heart was a very young princess of Wonderland when her murderous aunt Redd killed her parents and took over Wonderland. Alyss escaped through the Pool of Tears and found herself stranded on earth and unable to get back. She befriended Lewis Carrol, but he royally screwed up her story, publishing a child's novel called Alice in Wonderland instead of telling the true story of Alyss' life. Alyss spends years on earth and almost forgets about Wonderland and her destiny there. By the end of Looking Glass Wars, she had come back Earth, regained her imaginative powers and taken her rightful place as queen. Everything is hunky-dory, right? Of course the peace that Alyss brings to Wonderland is a tenuous one, and it doesn't take long before Alyss is at war again. This time, however, it seems that Redd is behind the attacks. But Redd was defeated already, wasn't she?
Beddor has a third book planned for this series, and so this book has the feeling of a middle book. We are thrown into the where the previous book left off, but the ending doesn't quite wrap everything up yet. Despite that, I thought this was an even better book than the first one. By this point, Beddor's vision of Wonderland has taken on life of its own, so that while I was reading, I hardly even thought about the book that inspired it. And personally, I like Beddor's idea of Wonderland better than Carrol's original, since I've never been a huge Alice In Wonderland fan.
The main characters grow and develop throughout the book as they face an almost impossible situation. Two of the characters learn about families they never thought they had, and Alyss' relationship with her childhood friend grows little by little even in the midst of the chaos of the battle they are fighting throughout most of the book. I'm not going to lie, though, Redd is my favorite character. Her Imperious Viciousness, as she prefers to be called, is feisty, irritable, temperamental, egotistical, maniacal, completely evil, and most of all, bad-ass.
When her minions on Earth are trying to find a place to call headquarters, they suggest Buckingham Palace.
"Beneath me," Redd had scorned. "I won't acknowledge their 'queen' by taking over her hovel."
"There is another possibility," Vollrath had said. "It's an enormous structure, predominantly of iron and glass, the size of which suggests to many the strength of a mighty empire as well as boundless imagination. They say it houses the marvels of the age..." (Note: the perfect hideout)
"Enough!... I expect nothing great from Earth imagination, but to shut you up, I will suffer you to take me there."
Sometimes books suffer from not having a bad enough bad guy. But not this one. I would even go out on a limb and say that this one is worth reading just for Redd.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Suggested by Nithin:
I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?Yup, I write down all the words I don't know so that I can look them up in the dictionary later. I have notebooks full of words, words, words so that I have enriched and enlarged my knowledge of the English language.
Ummm... just kidding. If I'm on a computer, I will google a word depending on how badly I want to know it, but as a rule, I don't dig out the dictionary. In my laziness, I like to rely on the old method from elementary school: context clues. This has led to plenty of times I thought I knew what a word meant but I really actually didn't. Other side effects: recognizing words from reading books, but completely butchering the word when trying to actually say it out loud.
For example, I was familiar with the word picturesque. I wanted to describe something to my mother as picturesque, but when I told her it was picture-a-scew, she laughed and had to let me know the correct way to pronounce it.
Alarming?? You Tell Me.
On a completely different note, any turkey hunters out there? Anyone? Anyone? Even better if you are dating a turkey hunter, because this sucker makes the perfect birthday present. Who doesn't want to be awakened by the sounds of "an owl hoot, a hen cutting and then a gobble" followed by a "shotgun blast" when you hit the snooze? I for one would like to buy three. Check Cabela's to order yours today!!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Reason for Reading: YA reading challenge, Margaret A. Edwards Reading Challenge
It amazed me while reading this book how the author managed to pack such a big story into a short book. Gathering Blue is set in a future dog-eat-dog world where everyone must help themselves in order to survive. The weak and disabled are at best left alone to fend for themselves, but it isn't uncommon for them to be brought to the field to be taken by beasts. Kira is mourning her mother's death, but she has other things on her mind as well. Since she has a disabled leg, others in her village may resist allowing her back into the society. They burned her mother's cott so that her sickness would not spread, no one is going to help Kira rebuild her life.
But determined none the less, Kira returns only to find that her fears have come true. She is brought to the Village Counsel by one of the other women who wants to see Kira dead and to take her land. Kira's life is spared, though, because of her amazing talent with threading. She is brought to the Edifice, where she labors on restoring the Singer's Coat, a sacred village relic that illustrates the history of the village and its people. To make the repairs, she must learn the art of dyeing threads from an elderly woman in the village. As Kira grows accustomed to her life at the Edifice she begins to discover that village life is more mysterious than she imagined at first. But the Edifice is not a place where questioning is encouraged.
Gathering Blue is a companion book of sorts to Lois Lowry's Newberry-winning book The Giver. The connection is faint, though, as Jonas' world in The Giver was full of technology and empty of emotion. Kira's world is primitive and harsh. The books connect thematically, but I won't say much about that so that I don't give away spoilers. Suffice it to say that each book stands on its own but would enhance the other. Despite similarities, they both manage to have something unique to say.
I greatly admire Lowry's writing genius in this short novel. Despite the fact there are many complex themes and ideas, she weaves the plot lines together nicely. The ending ties up ends that need to be tied up and yet manages to stay open enough that the reader is left to their imagination for certain things. Kira's story is told in a straightforward, realistic way that makes this book easy to read. I think what makes this book great is that it could be equally well appreciated by a younger reader or an adult, because it can be understood on different levels. It is a captivating story, but it also asks questions about freedom and captivity, and what it means to be part of community.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I sent out out a plea for help on Saturday to my blogging friends who live in warmer climes to help me escape the wretched Minnesota winter.
I'd like to pass on this Blogging Friends Forever award to those who opened their hearts to me, a husband and a puppy.
Debi (even though she tells me there is still snow there)
Alice Teh (I have to take a trip to Asia now so I can stop by Malaysia where it is warm year round)
Nymeth (To visit Nymeth, I would get to go back to Europe and stop in Portugal)
Chris (New Orleans where they don't have snow)
Trish (Texas is sounding so lovely right now)
Melody (While I'm in Asia, I'll swing by Singapore as well.)
Andi (When I go out each, I can stop by South Carolina)
And of course, right back at ya to Rhinoa.
Ya'll are fabulous, and now when I show up at your doorstep with a suitcase in hand you at least won't think I'm a stalker, right? Right? Ha ha.
On the upside, it was sunny today, if a bit chilly so I did get to take a nice long walk with Rusty. He is the celebrity of the neighborhood as the kids know him by name and run to pet him whenever we go on walks. We finally took down the baby gate that we foolishly thought was keeping him from mischief in the bedroom in office. Yesterday Rusty proved himself to be quite the athlete as he jumped the baby gate. Rusty stands only 12 inches from the ground, and the baby gate is a good three feet high. How he managed to launch himself up and over it without even a running start seems to defy all the rules of physics in my mind. I have a genius for a puppy. (Not to brag or anything).
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time Challenge, Mythopoeic Award Challenge
Sunshine lives a normal life in a normal city. She spends most of her time at the family cafe baking cinnamon rolls and creating new recipes. One night she drives out to the lake, where her normal life takes a sudden turn.
"I never heard them coming. Of course you don't, when they're vampires."
She is taken to a lake house and chained up in the ballroom next to another vampire. Certain she will never see the light of day again, she is shocked when she sees that he is chained to the wall as well.
He tells her: "Speak. Remind me that you are a rational creature."
Frightened beyond belief, she obeys. When he doesn't harm her after a full day together, she plans an escape attempt, and impulsively includes him. Once back to her real life, she struggles to reconcile her act of compassion to Con, the vampire, with the fact that humans are mortal enemies of vampires.
I've posted before about my love-hate relationship with McKinley's works. You can read my full sob story here, but to sum it up, some of her books rank in my top all-time favorites, but a few others have really disappointed me. So for my reading challenges, I decided to try one more of McKinley's works to see I could fall in love all over again. I was very excited at first about this book, because it started off solidly with an interesting premise. Sunshine is a smart, feisty character, and the development of the relationship between her and the vampire was very fascinating. The world Sunshine lives in is practically identical to our own except for the fact that vampire, demons, angels, pixies, and other fantastic creatures share it.
I was really hoping the rest of the book would include more action and adventure, but instead, it spent a lot of time giving us Sunshine's long, rambling thoughts, revealing details about the extensive cast of supporting characters, and building up to a conclusion that I thought left too many loose ends. I personally wanted to know more about Con, the vampire, because he was the most interesting character in the book. I thought there were too many characters, and I kept getting them confused. In addition, Sunshine had so many metaphysical revelations about the people, objects and relationships in her life that took pages to explain that I lost track of the storyline at some points.
Other fans of McKinley's work or of the vampire genre might disagree with my criticisms and find this book enjoyable.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Sadly I'm not:
Any readers from Arizona? Do you have room for a semi-permanent guest, 1 husband and a puppy?
Friday, April 11, 2008
I was doing my every once in a blue moon catch-up on SF Signal, when I ran across this article: Is Science Fiction Antithetical to Religion? It is a part of their Mind Meld series where they tap various SF writers and afficianados for their opinions on SF-related topics. Since I have a love for both science fiction and interesting discussions about religion, I ate this article up. I have had passionate discussions over the merits of science fiction, but I've never contemplated its relation with religion. Usually when I'm discussing religion and books, it is fiction of the fantasy genre that gets people talking. (Harry Potter is the devil! No he's a way to evangelize to non-Christians! No, it's just a well-written fiction series and don't make it out to be more than it is! [Those three opinions do not all belong to me. Just the third one.]) It is a lengthy article, and I did read, not just skim the article for names that sound familiar to read their opinions only. Now I of course have to espouse my own opinion on the topic.
And my answer is that of course science fiction is not antithetical to religion, that's just plain sillyness. Science Fiction is a rather large genre, and authors have taken it in so many different directions, it would be impossible to generalize all of science fiction writers as being anything, much less anti-religious. Take away one word from that question: Is Science Antithetical to Religion? And we get back to the age old "Inherit The Wind" debate. All religious people are anti-science. And all science people are anti-religion. What's wrong with that picture is that there are (I promise) people who are deeply religious yet believe firmly in science. Science is at heart observing and testing. Science fiction is merely a genre of fiction which asks: what if? Just because science fiction has been used to speculate that religious beliefs are harmful doesn't mean it couldn't be used to speculate about the exact opposite. What if robots became so advanced that they developed souls? Would they develop their own religion? What if there was a plague and the only survivors was a group of monks living in isolation in Alaska? What if humans met another alien species that could only communicate through religious symbolism? I'm getting all sorts of ideas already.
And with no further ado, my tardy Booking Through Thursday post:
Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
Turn to page 123.
What is the first sentence on the page?
The last sentence on the page?
Now . . . connect them together….
(And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)
The book: The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel
1st sentence: I was the one they sent when it was Halloween night and Miss Locey couldn't move.
Last sentence: I told her what we ever did was to pack an extra mask so we could visit the same house twice, a house that gave Mars bars, for example.
I was the one they sent when it was Halloween night and Miss Locey couldn't move. We all sighed a deep sigh of relief. When her arthritis acted up, we were safe. Or safer at least. You can't be sure of anything when your orphanage is made of gingerbread and the headmistress is a witch. I knew very well that this night, this Halloween night, every one else's welfare depended on me. If I got enough candy to fortify the chocolate lacing and gumdrop planters, Miss Locey's temper would be in good humor, and chances were good she wouldn't throw one of the kids into the oven to turn them into gingerbread kids. I was taking Tracy with me, and she was a newbie who thought her parents still loved her and would find her eventually. I told her what we ever did was to pack an extra mask so we could visit the same house twice, a house that gave Mars bars, for example.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I recieved a copy of Bikini Season thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion. You can get more info about Sheila Roberts' virtual book tour here.
Bikini season is about just that: trying to get into bikini shape by bikini season. Four friends turn their cooking club into the Teeny Bikini Diet Club in order to reach that goal.
Erin is stressed out about planning her wedding. She and her fiancée have very different ideas about how much money to spend on the wedding, and she is starting to wonder if they are really soul mates after all. Then when she tries on her wedding gown, to her horror it is about 2 sizes too small. A childhood friend of her brother's keeps bumping into her, and he, it seems hasn't quite forgotten their attraction to each other from way back when.
Angela is a stay-at-home mom, torturing herself over comparisons between herself and the hottie that works with her husband. He does seem to be keeping a secret from her, but does that mean he's cheating?
Megan has been overweight her whole life. Despite the fact she graduated at the top of her class at law school, she knows she'll have a disadvantage in her career if she can't find a way to overcome her insecurities and learn the art of schmoozing clients.
Kizzy knows she has to lose weight. Her doctor told her in no uncertain terms what the consequences are if she doesn't. But that doesn't seem to be stopping her husband, Lionel from sabotaging the diet.
I'll admit up front this is a genre I have not read much of. It has also been awhile since I read a book that split the narration evenly between so many characters. As is inevitable with that style, there are some characters I wanted to read more about, and some less. I could relate best to Erin and her wedding stress; I got married about a year and a half ago, and how well I remember all the stress of dealing with vendors and dates and prices and family issues. Her transformation from hating Dan (the childhood crush) to gradually seeing him in a new light was cute and romantic. Angela's whining about her husband when everyone else kept telling her he wasn't cheating got annoying after awhile. The Tiny Bikini Diet Club comes up with some creative weight-loss ideas, including pole dancing and Dance Dance Revolution. And of course, the characters go through ups and downs with their weight-loss goals.
Overall, I thought this was a cute book about finding yourself. If you are a fan of the chick-lit genre, this one is definitely worth your time.
** Sidenote: Doesn't the puppy on the cover of the book look like my puppy? Yet one more reason to like the book.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Well, despite watching all that TV, I managed to fit in a little reading. I finished Rash, by Pete Hautman, and I'm in the middle of Seeing Redd, the second Looking Glass War novel. I'll review Rash here.
Author: Pete Hautman
Reason for reading: YA Reading Challenge
This YA book by Pete Hautman is a look to a future where safety has been taken to such an extreme that contact sports are outlawed, track and field races require a full set of protective gear, and insulting someone is a jailable crime. 20% of the population of the USSA (United Safer States of America) are in prison as a result, doing the manual labor that runs the country. When Bo gets into a conflict with another boy in his class that results in half of his school coming down with a mysterious rash, he finds himself in prison, making pizzas in a factory in Canada. In prison, he winds up on a football team, where all of the safety rules he's known all of his life are irrelevant.
Perhaps I've read too many YA and/or scifi books lately, but this one didn't stick out to me. It reminded me too much of a mashup of House of the Scorpion (still a superior book) and that Adam Sandler flick where they play football in prison (The Longest Yard, I think?)
As the story unfolds in this book, the reader begins to see where the idea for the backdrop came from. Hautman is not the first, nor the last to observe America's obsession these days with safety. People used to be able to smoke cigarettes anywhere, you could buy mercury in the hardware store, and lead paint was used everywhere. Nowadays, everyone freaks out when there might be lead in a toy. What if in the future anything deemed unsafe was completely outlawed? French fries, alcohol, or even calling someone a name.
Hautman is a good writer, but the plot really wasn't that original. It wasn't a terrible book by any means, but just not a memorable one.
Monday, April 7, 2008
The other day I popped by the library to pick up a book I had on reserve when I noticed a shelf with books on sale. I love two things:
And to top it off, I got a card in the mail that a new second-hand book shop is opening in my city. This is big news for me since I live in one of those suburbs where you can find every sort of fancy chain restaurant and chain retail store you can possibly think of, where there are about 16 different chain gyms and trendy lifestyle shopping centers with stores so new the sawdust has barely settled. But sadly, unique little local shops and second-hand sellers don't exist here. So with a second hand book in my city, it's doubtful that I will continue my non-book-buying trend. I get a little crazy when paperbacks are $.50.
Just One More Page
Last week I was deep into Speaker for the Dead and 10 o 'clock rolled around. I usually go to bed around 10, 10:30ish, because I get to work at 8am. I wasn't quite ready to go to bed yet; the book was getting kind of interesting. So I told myself I'd just finish the chapter and continue to read the next day, after work. Reading might be my guilty pleasure, but I was in control, I'd finish the chapter, and that would be that.
You know what happened next. The siren call of the book lured me in and lowered my defenses. One chapter led to another. Led to another. Somewhere in the wee hours of the night I finally said "enough is enough! I have to work tomorrow! I am in control of this addiction!" Even though I was just a few pages from the end of the book, I finally managed, with herculean effort, to put down the book and stumble into bed.
I awoke the next day and three thoughts went through my brain.
- Ouch it hurts to be awake
- Oh this means I can read again.
- Oh crap this also means I have to go to work.
All day at work, my fuzzy brain would wander during the spare seconds to the book. 7 hours til I have that delicious pleasure of reading again. 6 hours til I have that delicious pleasure of reading again...
And so on. After I raced home and finished the next few pages, I conked out immediately on the couch. The rest of the week I spent trying to catch up from my late night.
I'd like to present this as if it was a one-time thing. A secret dalliance with my drug of choice. I'm really a casual reader, it never interferes with my social and/or mental health.
OKAY I admit it. I'm hooked. I've had problems putting the book down at night since I was a kid. Just one more page... lies I tell myself so that I can keep reading. The first step is admitting the problem, right? Alright, confession time's done. Okay, back to Brave New World. I've got some time before bed. Just one more page...
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Books: Chosen and Infidel
Author: Ted Dekker
Chosen and Infidel are the first two of four books in the young adult series, Books of History.
The story line is a continuation of Dekker's Circle series. The setting is an alternate reality, thought to be thousands of years in the future from our time: post-Armageddon. In a land left ravaged by evil, with only seven sacred forests left a war wages between two races. The fighting forces are running low and the Supreme Commander of the Forest Guard is forced to lower the age of recruitment. Thus a young adult series is born.
We meet a group of young champions who are hand-picked among thousands of 16+ year olds to lead the Forest Guard in battle against the surmounting numbers of the Desert Hoard. However, there are other forces at work behind the scenes. These forces have different priorities and different plans for the chosen four. There is a prophecy surrounding one of the four chosen that he will be the hero to defeat the evil one. It is his journey that is central to the plot.
Some questions arise though. The plot is not as simple as it seems. This is where Dekker's brilliance shines through. Here we see the connection of the circle series with books such as Saint, Sinner and Skin. All of these books will be part of the "circle saga" where I think everything will come "full circle", so to speak. Now what remains to be seen is how will Dekker pull these separate stories together.
Chosen was an interesting hook into the series. It actually really reminded me of Terry Brooks Armageddon's Children. I liked the action and the plot development. Although not overly descriptive, Dekker does well to create a landscape for the book without sacrificing the energy of the piece. I'm eager to read Renegade and Chaos, but at this time it is only to satisfy my curiosity about the series. In reading Infidel, I had the same feeling that I did when I read White. The feeling was that Dekker wrote the book as a filler. Because he had a longer story to write, he needed to fill the gap between the beginning and the end. This is one draw-back to Dekker in my opinion. Whereas an author of the likes of Tolkien can write a series such as Lord of the Rings, without leaving the reader skimming the pages just to get through it, Dekker seems to slow the story down so much that it just doesn't keep me interested. It seems too that Dekker has one plot line that he simply inserts into different environments with different characters. This is perhaps the draw-back to having so many books and trying to bring them all together. I wonder if Dekker had an overall plan for what his circle saga would be, or if he thought of a clever way to bring them all together.
One element that I do find interesting about this series and the overall circle series is the central element of romance. Everything is ultimately centered around the "Great Romance" which is a religion of love. Dekker develops a view of romance that is post-modern, yet with sex-dependent roles. He keeps the older-fashioned ideal that men will pursue women. Although, throughout the series women seem to have more wisdom and clarity of thought then men. Women and men have needs that seem to be inherit to their sex, however they are very equal in capabilities.
Both books are light reads and a good enough of a story that I would recommend them. Just know that you will be in for the long haul; if you read one you must read them all!
Friday, April 4, 2008
Reason for Reading: YA Reading Challenge, Margaret A. Edwards Reading Challenge
I read Ender's Game not too long ago, and I found it to be an enjoyable book. But when I put down Speaker for the Dead, I was completely in awe. Speaker for the Dead is more than a sequel, it is a sci-fi masterpiece in its own right.
Speaker for the Dead is set 3000 years after the events of Ender's Game. A new sentient species has been discovered on the planet Lusitania, and this time humanity, it seems, has learned its lessons from before. 3000 years ago, Ender Wiggins was used as an unwitting tool to wipe out the Buggers, a race of hive-mind aliens. This time, the Piggies (as the new species are called) are to be treated with respect and interfered with as little as possible. The scientists studying the Piggies are under strict restrictions not to tamper with their cultural development, but the Piggies are so foreign, so different. But when one of the scientists is murdered, there is one person qualified to discover the truth and prevent another Xenocide.
Thanks to the relativistic effects of space travel, Ender Wiggins is still alive. Although he was the originator of the destruction of the Buggers, after he discovered that the Buggers had not intended to harm humans, he wrote the true story of the Buggers and became the Speaker for the Dead. He's been wandering the galaxy for millennium, waiting for the opportunity to amend for the destruction of the Buggers. When he sets off for Lusitania, he sees it as his chance at last to make up for old mistakes. By the time he arrives, however, the Piggies have killed another scientist and the possibility of Piggie and human cultural understanding seems remote.
There aren't many science fiction novels where the writer manages to tackle both interesting philosophical issues and to write satisfying characters all at the same time. This book has a number of well-written, fascinating characters that grow and develop during the course of this book. The heart of this book is philosophical, though, asking what it means to be human. Any book that tries to take on a topic like that is almost certain to bite off more than it can chew, but somehow this book manages to live up to its premise. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
- When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
- Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?
My first thought is to shudder and remember my Spanish Lit. class. I like Spanish, and I do decently well with reading Spanish literature, but I had this professor who sucked all of the fun out of learning by making us memorize dates and facts instead of learning or speaking Spanish. In fact my extreme dislike for him made me switch colleges (he was the ONLY spanish prof in the college, if you can believe it).
Aside from Spanish lit, I never took any English, writing, or literature classes in college (which I regret deeply now). The last time I took an English class it was my senior year of high school, and we did a mix of literature, writing, and grammar. So the word "literature" also brings back memories of books and short stories that I read and analyzed in that class. I enjoyed some of them more than others, but for many of the readings, I didn't "get" the story until I had taken time to analyze it and pick it apart a little. Analyzing literature seemed so scary, but we had a great teacher, so I remember getting into the analysis. So when I think literature, I define it to myself as books that can stand up to being analyzed. Books I don't think of as being "literature" are ones that don't really hold up well to analysis (chick lit for example).
When I read a good book and I feel like there's more to be gotten out of it, I head over to sparknotes.com for an analysis. So we could also define "literature" this way: if its got an analysis on Sparknotes.com, then it's literature. Although that probably sounds silly to define literature by a tool that historically been a way for students to get out of reading literature, if it isn't being assigned by professors, it isn't on sparknotes.com.
With that as a broad definition (and I am one for making "literature" a broad term) I would say read plenty of literature. Sometimes it is pure pleasure reading, other times I need a little kick to read it. My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge, for example, has been an excellent kick in the pants for me to read books I wouldn't normally place high on the priority list.
I enjoy books on different levels. Sometimes I enjoy the fact I'm done with them (finally), sometimes I enjoy them on a cerebral, appreciate level (boy that was well-written and I feel so educated right now) and sometimes I enjoy a book so much I will stay up late reading it and I won't want to put it away for anything and I'll try to force my husband to read it immediately.
I've had "literature" reading experiences that fit into any of the three categories. So yes, I did enjoy Great Expectations, but there were times it was a drag to read. The Poisonwood Bible or Ender's Game, however, were of the "keeping me up at night" variety. As far as "literature" I avoid, maybe someday I will get around to picking up Don Quixote or The Old Man and the Sea, but it would probably take a literature course to make me do it.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Reason For Reading: Short Story Challenge.
Young love is not all its cracked up to be. Too often it is unrequited, the object of desire hardly knowing that the desirer exists. In this story, the young narrator soars from the agony of watching the neighbor girl from afar, to the excitement of the opportunity to go to a bazaar and buy a trinket for her. But though he waits anxiously all day for his uncle to return and give him the money to go to the bazaar, once he arrives, he finds to his utter frustration that reality can never live up to the fantasy of love.
It is interesting what brings about the sudden crash to reality. The narrator is not treated cruelly by his unrequited love. She plays a very minor part in this story, only interacting with him when she casually mentions that she wishes she could go to the bazaar. It isn't until the young narrator has made it to the bazaar, late in the evening now, and sees that there is hardly anyone left. As they turn off the lights, and the young narrator sits there, alone, he feels suddenly that his dreams have been crushed.
In this little snippet of a story, Joyce brings us to a childhood experience that (admit it) most of us have experienced at some time or another.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Nymeth, who is a fabulous blogger and an all-around nice person, is giving away five books here in honor of her one year blogiversary! So be sure to wish her a happy 1 year and enter to win her drawing.
Eva at A Striped Armchair has a wonderful collection of BAFAB giveaways here, including her own contest and giveaway. She's also got a hilarious post up about book-sluttishness. I completely cracked up when reading it.
Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf is also celebrating her 1 year blogiversary, and in honor of that and BAFAB, she has got 2 $20 gift certificate to give away here! Happy blogiversary to Dewey as well!
Ravenous Reader is giving away a copy of Jackfish, The Vanishing Village on her blog here.