Thursday, May 29, 2008

Southern Haiku

Maggie is holding a Southern Haiku Contest to give away the 2nd of 5 autographed copies of Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. She really makes you work to win a book! :) Create a 17 syllable Haiku that reflects one of the southern books you are reading this summer. For simplicity, use the 5-7-5 format, as in 5 syllables for the first line, 7 syllables for the second, and 5 for the ending.

I am currently about 1/3 of the way through Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes, and this is my attempt at haiku!

Best of childhood friends
Were Valuable and Jackson
Close as bro and sis

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by: Thisisnotabookclub

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

This question immediately brings to mind a class I took my senior year of college. It was a class for those working on getting their English and secondary education degrees. The name of the class was "The Medium is the Message." We were encouraged to look beyond traditional teaching methods of lecture and individualized study, and think of other ways to persuade our students to read. Many people (probably including myself) would define reading as interpreting text on a page. However, in this class, we even looked into the definition of "text"--I actually wrote an entire paper on "What is Text?" Basically, what our class determined is that "text" is pretty much any medium that conveys information--either media clips, books, magazines, blogs, comic books, pieces of art, etc. Therefore, if you subscribe to this idea, then "reading" would be receiving information or ideas from any form of text.

I realize this might sound a little out there out there to some people, but I had to mention that class after seeing this week's question!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Classics Challenge 2008

Trish of Trish's Reading Nook is hosting the Classics Challenge 2008. The challenge runs from July-December 2008.

Classics: We love them, we hate them, now we are going to challenge ourselves to reading more of them. Because there are so many different types of classics, different genres are acceptable and encouraged--for example, novels, short story collections, non-fiction, poetry, essays--I'm open for other suggestions!

OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.

OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least THREE different countries

OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least THREE different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).

Trish has added a little twist...participants must read five books (as defined in the options above), and a sixth title which will be a "modern classic" chosen from a participant's list of suggestions. There are a ton of great suggestions listed on the challenge blog! To join the fun, click here!

My list (which is by no means set in stone at this point!):

1. David Copperfield--Charles Dickens

2. Mrs. Dalloway--Virginia Woolf

3. Persuasion--Jane Austen

4. The Scarlet Pimpernel--Emmuska Orczy

5. Uncle Tom's Cabin--Harriet Beecher Stowe

Bonus--The Known World--Edward P. Jones

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

We know very little about the narrator of this story--we never even learn her real name. What we do know is that she is a woman in her early thirties, who at one time had a husband and daughter. Actually, at one time, she had pretty much everything the rest of us have-family, friends, a job, a pet, a bank account, books, a driver's licence, free will. When we meet her, her circumstances have changed in a drastic way. Women can no longer read, write, use money or hold jobs. They must behave in a very particular manner, and perform the duties of their specific roles. Though there is a hierarchy of women, none have freedom or any real power--except for the few who have power over other women. It is common for the women to either commit suicide or lose their minds. No one really knows what is going on, and how this all happened. The question our narrator faces is it better to simply go with the flow, do as she's told, don't think, remember, dream; OR should she look for little ways to rebel--make friendships, look at a magazine, sneak out at night?? In the end...will it really matter?

Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, written in 1983, paints the picture of our world taken to an extreme and then twisted a little more. Some say it can be taken as a warning. There are definitely elements in the novel that I can see becoming reality. Paper money, for instance--I can see in the not too distant future, paper money and coins becoming obsolete. Personally, I rarely use cash these days--plastic is much more convenient. However, I cannot imagine a world without written words. I do not want to imagine such a world.

From start to finish, I found The Handmaid's Tale difficult to put down. Atwood does not open the story with an explanation of what is going on, but instead, the reader must figure out as best as possible what the time period is, who is narrating and what has happened to alter the "normal" way of life. The way Atwood wrote the story is truly as though the reader is in the narrator's mind. There are passages that are similar to stream of consiousness. For example, "I wait, for the household to assemble. Household: that is what we are. The Commander is the head of the household. The house is what he holds. To have and to hold, till death do us part. The hold of a ship. Hollow" (81). This type of writing really makes the reader feel as though she is following the narrator through her thoughts. Oftentimes, as can be expected, her thoughts are lonely, depressed, "You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound. This is what I feel like: this sound of glass. I feel like the word shatter. I want to be with someone" (103).

What has happened to our narrator is utterly sad. But the small ray of light in this society is that though the women have been reduced to function solely for one basic purpose, they still have the power of their minds. There is an underground resistance. There is still hope for the future.

The story ends with a giant question mark, which tends to bother me. It makes me feel better when all the loose ends are tied up in a pretty little bow. However, such a thought-provoking book must end in a way to keep the reader pondering. I know this story will stay with me for quite some time. I definitely will be picking up other Atwood books!

Date completed: May 21, 2008
# of pages: 295
4.5/5 stars

*If you've read and reviewed this book, please let me know, and I'll include your link.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Seriously...the last one

So I've decided to join one more challenge. This has to be the last one I join until I finish one! Becky is hosting The End of the World Challenge, and I could not resist, because the books I've read before in this category have been thought provoking and memorable, so I want to read more! Plus, the book I'm currently reading for another challenge fits in perfectly with this one too! (Thanks, Trish, for pointing that out!) These are the rules:

Read at least three books about "the end of the world." This includes both apocalyptic fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction. There is some overlap with dystopic fiction as well. The point being something--be it coming from within or without, natural or unnatural--has changed civilization, society, humanity to such a degree that it radically differs from "life as we know it." (Aliens, evil governments, war, plague, natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes, depletion of resources, genetic manipulation, etc.) Here is a wikipedia article on the subject. Also see here.

My list:

1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

2. 1984 by George Orwell

3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Classics Meme

In preparation for her Classics Challenge 2008, Trish has started a classics meme. What better way to start thinking about great literature?

1. My favorite classic is either Little Women or Great Expectations. I have read both several times, and have loved them more with each read. I have read a couple of other books by Louisa May Alcott (Eight Cousins, An Old-Fashioned Girl), and I'm planning to read Dickens' David Copperfield for the challenge.

2. The classic I had the toughest time finishing is The Iliad. This was a required book for my high school English class, and I had to buy Cliff's Notes for the first time to help me get through it.

3. I would recommend The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer to someone who doesn't read a lot of classics or who doesn't generally like classics because neither one is super long, and they are fun and you don't need sparknotes or other reference materials to understand the books.

4. To me, a classic book is a book that can be appreciated many years down the road and by many different types of people.

5. The type of relationship I have with classics is I am somewhat intimidated. I've read many classics throughout high school and college, but very few since then. I usually enjoy them, and after reading them, I totally understand why they are considered a "classic." However, the thought of picking one up just for fun tends to scare me a bit. That is what makes signing up for Trish's challenge such a good idea!

What are your thoughts on classics?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The name of my homeplace and a giveaway!

Maggie is holding a contest to give away a signed copy of Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. I saw this book reviewed in People several months ago and have wanted to read it ever since. Maggie is hosting the Southern Reading Challenge, which I joined, and included Mudbound in my list. Since I will be reading this, I REALLY would love to win a copy, especially an autographed copy! However, to be entered for the giveaway, I must come up with a name for my home, and I've always been terrible at coming up with names for things. All day, I have been trying to come up with a creative name for my house, and I'm at a bit of a loss. There is nothing that stands out about its appearance. My house is a fairly common Dallas house. We don't have any outstanding landscaping, no memorable art or decorations inside, and our furniture does not match. What does come to mind when I think about my home is the word "comfy." My favorite place to sit in my entire house is an extremely old recliner that used to be my mom's, and it totally does not match the rest of the decor. It is really comfortable though, so I canNOT get rid of it!

My husband has spent a LOT of time out of town, and he frequenly talks about how great it feels to drive up to our house, open the front door and walk into our home. Though we love to spend time with family and friends, we both tend to be homebodies. It is just so nice to sit on our comfortable furniture, relaxing and talking about our week, our future plans, or reminiscing about the funny stories from college.

So...the best name I can come up with for my home is...Comfort Cove. Though the word "cove" is frequently used to describe a recess in a lake or sea, it is also defined as "a sheltered nook." Even though our house could use a little bit of work, and could definitely benefit from an interior designer, I feel that there is no place better to feel sheltered from the stresses of life than my home!

Friday, May 16, 2008

random Friday thoughts about cats

Disclaimer: After reading this, you might think I'm crazy. You might not be completely off base in thinking this.

What is it about booklovers and cats? I have always liked cats (well, most of them), and it is slightly humorous to see how many other people out there who love reading also love cats! Maybe it is because there is nothing more enjoyable than curling up with a good book with a soft purring cat cuddled up next to you. I know there are lots of dog lovers out there as well who enjoy reading as well, but maybe I've noticed the cat people more because though I just like animals in general, cats have a special place in my heart.

Isn't it cool how cats can sit in a certain way so it looks like they have absolutely no feet or tail? They just tuck everything under their bodies somehow--I kinda wish I could sit like that. Here's a picture in case you have no earthly idea what I'm talking about.

Though I only have one cat, I could definitely become a "crazy cat lady." My husband and I have spent quite a bit of time apart, due to the line of work he is in, and sometimes I think that if I didn't have Pumpkin, my life would be much more bland. I love that she is all excited to see me when I come home from work. She is always waiting at the door, and she immediately starts purring before I even pet her.

My mom coined the term "furry purry" when I was in middle school, and I think that is just such a great name for nice cats. More recently, I've heard pets referred to as "fur babies" and that is never NOT funny to me. Even when I was typing it, I giggled just a little.

Even though it can be annoying, frequently at about 3am, I am awakened by Pumpkin sitting with her face approximately 1 inch from mine, purring and meowing because she wants attention. After a few pats, she usually will lie back down and go to sleep, but sometimes, she will do the same thing about 1 hour later.

Ok...I think that's about it for now. I'm off to read some more of The Handmaid's Tale, and I'm sure it is only a matter of time before my furry purry is in my lap, trying to sneak some popcorn.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

In The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson weaves a mesmerizing tale around happenings of Chicago in the 1890s. The design and construction of the infamous World's Fair take center stage in the book, but at the time of all the exciting activities surrounding the fair, an extremely crafty serial killer takes many lives.

In DITWC, the reader not only learns about the massive amount of planning, money, and sheer determination it took to build the Fair, but also comes to know the men who dedicated years of their lives to the undertaking. Daniel H. Burnham was the man basically in charge of the entire campaign. His skills, vision and charisma were the driving forces behind accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of constructing the entire Fair in approximately two years. Frederick L. Olmsted was the landscape architect who oversaw the entire grounds of the Fair. Considering the fact that before construction began, the fair grounds consisted of desolate ground and little to no trees or greenery, his work was nothing short of amazing.

At the same time the leading men in the architectural and engineering fields in America were putting their heads together to figure out how to best Paris's Exposition, a young doctor known as H. H. Holmes began building his "castle" to suit his very specific needs. He was a person who seemed personable, sincere and caring to those who he came in contact with. However, there were several people who felt uneasy when he was near--and for a very good reason! He was an extremely sneaky and evil man, with absolutely no moral compass, who derived pleasure from being deceitful, having complete control over others, and ultimately--killing. What is so surprising is how long he got away with his many crimes.

DITWC not only gives the history of the World's Fair, and one of the first known serial killers in America, but also gives the reader a glimpse into many other huge historical events at the turn of the 19th century. Labor unions start to play a large role in the work force, and major leaders of the movement, such as Samual Gompers, begin to make a name for themselves. Women were beginning to fight for the rights to be heard and the ability to vote--Jane Addams and Susan B. Anthony were both attendees of the Fair. Many inventions make their debut around this time, some of them actually at the Fair--Shredded Wheat, the telephone, the zipper, and boxed pancake mix are just a few. So many interesting things are all happening during this time, and Larson found a way to include so many of them in this one book.

My thoughts--I found Devil in the White City to be a highly engrossing book. I cannot imagine the amount of time Erik Larson spent doing research. He mentions in his notes at the end of his book, that he did not hire any researchers or use the internet, but instead went to libraries and archives to find his information. I think what makes this particular book so great is the fact that Larson himself was so interested in the subject matter. He states, "The juxtaposition of pride and unfathomed evil struck me as offering powerful insights into the nature of men and their ambition (393). One can easily see how man's ambitions and desires can take two opposite paths. Burnham is remembered in history a the man who would not give up and made Chicago one of the greatest cities in America. H. H. Holmes's (Mudgett) is compared to Jack the Ripper and known as a psycopathic serial killer. I don't understand why people trusted him so much. Young women had no fear of spending much of their time with him in his strange, dark castle. I understand that times have changed, but especially since disappearances were a fairly regular occurance then, it seems that single women living on their own would have been more cautious.

In talking with others and reading reviews, I have found that many people were somewhat bogged down by all the description of the politics and construction during the Fair. Though the writing about the architectural processes is pretty detailed, I found it to be extremely interesting. It took me a few chapters to get into the swing of the writing, and I was forced to slow down and really pay attention, but I truly enjoyed all aspects of the book--the history, the character development, the statistics, the descriptions, the pictures (though I wish there would have been a few more), and the author's notes. (I think it probably helps that my husband works in construction management, so I have gained an appreciation for all the work that goes into a building.) I would have to agree with the review from Elle "The combination of the birth of Chicago as a world-class city, the magic of the Fair, and the creepy serial killer makes for a compelling read."

Date completed: May 14, 2008
# of pages: 396
4.5/5 stars

Joy and raidergirl3 have also reviewed this book. If you've read and reviewed DITWC, please let me know, and I'll happily add your link!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3--Childhood Books

This week’s theme comes from Samantha, who suggested that one week we all write about our fond memories of childhood books.

Like many others who have already posted, I spent the majority of my childhood reading. Though my sisters and brother were always outside playing, you could usually find me in my room with a book. I think there were 2 major factors in this development--1. My mom read to us every night for years. I used to look forward to that time, and I remember fighting over who got to actually sit next to my mom to see the pictures better (there are 4 "kids" in my family, so only 2 got to sit in the "good" seats!) 2. We did not have a TV for about a year and a half, so instead of coming home from school and watching TV, I just read for pretty much the entire evening. Anyways...on to the books I specifically remember...

The Little House on the Prairie series is probably my number 1 favorite childhood series. My mom read them once, but I read the whole series at least 3 more times by myself. One of our family vacations was to Missouri to visit the home where Laura and Almanzo lived.

Another favorite series was The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is my favorite, and more than once, I felt all the walls in my closet, hoping I would find myself in Narnia. I recently re-read these, and I still loved them. I am really excited about seeing Prince Caspian soon!

I read many Nancy Drew books--probably close to the entire series. I tried to read a Hardy Boys book once, but I didn't like it nearly as much.

Again, a large series I read more than once were the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard. They were mysteries, and I never got tired of reading them!

E.B. White was a favorite author of mine, but the best book in my opinion, is not Charlotte's Web, or Stuart Little. The Trumpet of the Swan doesn't get enough attention! It is a story of a swan named Louis who does not have a voice, so he learns to play the trumpet in order to communicate. It really is a great book, and it seems that many who have read or seen the movies of the other two books have never heard of this one. I would highly recommend it!

Lastly, I'll just list other favorites--Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare (a young girl is kidnapped by Indians in 1754); The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi ("A spellbinding tale of intrigue and murder on the high seas"). Sarah Bishop by Scott O'Dell (15-year old Sarah survives alone during the Revolutionary War).

I could go on for quite a while. Digging out my childhood books makes me want to sit down and read some of them right now! I wish I had as much time to read now as I used to. I also don't find myself getting lost in the stories as much as when I was younger. Ahhh...growing up is so hard to do...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 more!

Debi of Journey to the End of the TBR Pile is hosting a fun challenge that I could not resist--The Chick Lit Challenge.

The rules:

Read at least 3 chick lit books. (Chick lit - as defined by Wikipedia: us what you thought of what you read.Dates for this challenge are June 1 to September 1.Books can overlap with other challenges. Your list can change as needed. I will also leave it to your discretion as to whether a book is considered chick lit or not.

Since I have a month before this starts, and I don't read very much chick lit, I want to gather some recommendations before I make my list. I've seen some good reviews over the past month, so I'll just have to pick 3 interesting/fun ones.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm Up for the Challenge(s)...I think

Since I've only joined 2 challenges since I started blogging a month ago, I realize this is an unacceptably low number. Though I'm a little nervous that I'll be in over my head, I've decided to join not one, not two, but three more!

Maggie from Maggie Reads is hosting The Southern Reading Challenge.

The rules are easy: 3 Southern Setting Books by Southern Authors in 3 Months beginning May 15 through August 15!

My choices are:

1. Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes

2. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

3. Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg

Michelle from 1 More Chapter is hosting the 1% Well-Read Challenge.

The goal of this challenge is to read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. For you non-math people, 10 out of 1001 is approximately 1%, hence the title. The challenge will run from May 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009.
You may change your list at any time and cross-posting to other challenges is permitted. The only requirement is that your ten book choices must be on the ‘1001 List‘. Another helpful tool is an Excel spreadsheet by Arukiyoma that is found here.

While my choices are not set in stone, here is a rough list of what I think I will read:

1. Mrs. Dalloway-Virginia Woolf

2. Agnes Grey-Anne Bronte

3. David Copperfield-Charles Dickens

4. Uncle Tom's Cabin-Harriet Beecher Stowe

5. The Time Machine-H.G. Wells

6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time-Mark Haddon

7. The Poisonwood Bible-Barbara Kingsolver

8. Rebecca-Daphne du Maurier

9. The Handmaid's Tale-Margaret Atwood

10. Cannery Row-John Steinbeck

Trish at Trish's Reading Nook is hosting the Classics Challenge 2008 that will run from July 1- December 31, 2008. There are three different options for this challenge:

OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.
OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least THREE different countries
OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least THREE different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).

Trish has added a little twist...participants must read five books (as defined in the options above), and a sixth title which will be a "modern classic" chosen from a participant's list of suggestions.

In early June, Trish will have a Mr. Linky to sign up for the challenge officially. I for sure am going to participate in this challenge, but I haven't finalized my list yet.

Whew! I have a TON of reading to get started on! I think I'm going to need to start visiting the library more frequently than the bookstore, or else I will need to buy a new bookshelf! I'm off to read!

A baby and a meme

I just returned home from a 4 day weekend in Colorado. My older sister recently had an extremely cute little boy, so I decided it was high time to visit and spoil my nephew. He was born 7 weeks early, but he is doing well and growing fast. Though I was sad to leave this morning, when I logged on to my Google Reader after my flight back to Texas and saw that there were over 100 blogs to read, and several interesting challenges to join, the clouds lifted a bit. People were busy this weekend! I subscribe to about 30 blogs, so the fact that there were over 100 blogs means what...over 3 blogs a person in 4 days! May must be a good month for reading and reflecting!

On a different note, thisredheadreads tagged me for the Six Things About Me meme, so here we go:
1. As mentioned above, I have the cutest nephew ever (see picture above), and even though my husband and I do not yet have children, seeing him made me kinda want one.
2. I call my husband and cat by the same nickname. My husband also calls me by the same nickname. I'm not sure why or how that got started.
3. I'm a lefty--but only for certain tasks. Writing, eating and brushing my teeth are all done with my left hand. Using scissors, serving a volleyball, and anything else sports related is done with my right hand.
4. My Mom used to read to me and my siblings when we were growing up, and ever since the Little House on the Prairie series, I've been deathly afraid of wolves--even now.
5. I have lived in Texas my entire life. Yee haw!
6. I changed my major three times in college--from business to pre-pharmacy to English lit. I just have a general interest in so many different areas!
I was going to add the challenges I'm joining, but I need some more time to organize my options, so more on that later!

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley is a "twenty-something" New Yorker whose collection of 15 essays are humorous, clever, and easy to relate to. From stories of being locked out of her apartment in New York on moving day to becoming the maid of honor to a childhood friend she hasn't seen in a decade, Crosley shares her stories in a unique way.

I read this book during a weekend of travelling, since I knew it would be easy to start and stop, and wouldn't require too much concentration. Some of the essays were enjoyable, funny, and I could picture myself in the same situation, or reacting in the same way (i.e. The Pony Problem). However, there were others that were a bit annoying to me, simply because my thoughts are on a completely different wavelength on that particular subject (i.e. One-Night Bounce). Also, I found it a bit difficult to read the essays one after another. I think I can only take so much sarcasm and cleverness at a time. This book would be a great one to have on hand to bring to a doctor's office or to get an oil change-reading an essay here and there to really appreciate the humor. There were times I had to show my sister (and travelling companion) particularly funny passages, and she laughed along with me even though she didn't know the story. Overall, I think this book will be a hit or miss--some people will see themselves in the stories and really enjoy them, whereas others could be a little annoyed.

Date Completed: May 5, 2008
# of pages: 228