WWW Wednesday: 20 Mar 2013 (find out what I’m reading)

It’s Wednesday, and I need to update on what books I’m currently reading.
As I mentioned last post (even though it was a long time ago) I have a bunch of books I’m trying to read.
Of course, I keep adding more, so I’ll start with the ones I have read the most of first:

The Diary of Anne Frank – 59%
“P.S. Before I forget, last night everything was blanketed in snow. Now it’s thawed and there’s nothing left.”

2,000 to 10,000 – 57%
I stopped at, “I really hate the notion that you have to be some kind of born genius to write good book.” Aside from the typo, I disagree. I agree with the rest of the passage though. It’s about reaching for your ideas rather than waiting to be inspired.

Nail Your Novel – 31%
I stopped at, “Reincorporation is giving a satisfying payoff, using elements you got the reader interested in early on.”

Living Beyond Your Feelings – 22%
Last highlighted quote, “Learn not to ask yourself how you feel about things, but instead ask yourself if doing or not doing something is right for you.”

Delirium – 26%
“Someone is singing: a beautiful voice as thick and heavy as warm honey, spilling down a scale so quickly I feel dizzy just listening.”

Vain – 25%
“I turned toward him and drank in his lean, muscular figure. Oh. My. Word.”
I can’t stomach romance novels, so I quit after reading a bunch of repetitive sentences like that.

The Summer I Turned Pretty – 11%
Going to have to start from the beginning again. I left off (over a year ago) with, “Over his shoulder Conrad said, ‘Good night, Belly.’ And that was it. I was in love.”
I loved that.

Reading Like A Writer – 7%
Quote I liked so far, “You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.” Prose’s whole passage is saying that writers deserve such contracts but it’s just the icing on the creativity cake.

Hopeless – 5%
“She laughs and grabs my hand, then stands up. ‘Come. I’ve got Rocky Road.’ She doesn’t have to ask twice.” Not badly written, but I’m still not sure about these New Adult romances.

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Friday Reads for 11 Jan 2013

My Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2013 is to read (at least) 30 books. I looked around my couch and made a list of 26 “to read” books that were either on my Kindle, Nook, or coffee table. Some of these are Friday Finds because I recently got them in ebook form from the library.

There are plenty of books I have stashed away that I can still get to but after making this list, I get the idea that I do not need to purchase any more books. Well, until I bump my challenge number to 40 or 50. I don’t think I’ll ever stop finding new books I want to read.

  1. Novel Writing – Marshall
  2. The Truth About Forever – Dessen
  3. Along for the Ride – Dessen
  4. Beautiful Creatures – Garcia and Stohl
  5. Reading like a Writer – Prose
  6. Liar and Spy – Stead
  7. The Diary of Anne Frank – Frank
  8. If I Stay – Foreman
  9. Eve – Carey
  10. Adoration of Jenna Fox – Pearson
  11. Cold Kiss – Garvey
  12. Hollowland – Hocking
  13. Must Love Dogs – Cook
  14. The Summer I Turned Pretty – Han
  15. The Great Gatsby – Fitzgerald
  16. Bright Young Things – Godbersen
  17. Pretty Little Liars: Killer – Shepard
  18. Pretty Little Liars: Heartless – Shepard
  19. Burn for Burn – Han and Vivian
  20. Matched – Condie
  21. One Day – Nicholls
  22. The Secret Life of Bees – Kidd
  23. Glass – Hopkins
  24. Mockingjay – Collins
  25. All the Wrong Questions? – Snicket
  26. Divergent – Roth

Of course I also have classics to finish reading like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Again, these are books that I can access right now. There are plenty of others on my “to read” list.

WWW Wednesday: 24 Oct 2012 (Find out what I’m reading this week)

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading asks you to answer the following three (3) questions…

What are you currently reading?


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I’m at about 47% of this so far, which is kind of confusing since a lot has happened. I really like how it’s written because Anna has a distinct voice and personality in her narration. Also, having the students be studying abroad makes it fun rather than a cliché story of the new girl comes to town and falls in love with someone else’s boyfriend. I like Anna as a character and I like St. Claire (Who wouldn’t love a kid who has American and British roots? Okay, I’m biased on that subject.)

What did you recently finish reading?

  

I just gave up on Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. For now, at least.

What do you think you’ll read next?

   

I picked up A Diary of the Lady: My First Year as Editor by Rachel Johnson this morning at the library and read up to page 11 or so. I didn’t think I’d find it very interesting but since it’s about a freelance writer who gets a job as an editor of "an old lady magazine", it’s kind of interesting so far. Very British but at least now I understand the importance of M&S chocolate biscuits. Yes, I can relate!

Review of “The Help”

“All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”

Aibileen and Minny are two of the many African-American maids working in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Skeeter is a young white girl who wants to be a writer. When Skeeter hears that her friend wants to put in a separate toilet for her maid, she starts wondering how these maids feel about being treated this way. While it is extremely risky, the maids agree to tell Skeeter their story for a book that may be published. The problem is for Aibileen, Minny and the other maids – the consequences of their actions could be deadly.
I absolutely loved this book even though it took me so long to read it. Going through three main characters’ stories was time consuming but enjoyable just the same. I guess I didn’t want the book to end. There weren’t any dull parts or anything that wasn’t sincere about this book. The story was written in the best, most candid way a white female writer could have done. I appreciate Kathryn Stockett adding to the end of the book, her personal account, just as Skeeter did about Constantine. She addresses the criticism that comes from her writing from her perspective too:

What I am sure about it this: I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960s. I don’t think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand. But trying to understand is vital to our humanity.

I think that is enough of an explanation to give the writer credit for trying to teach us something about our own human experience – and that is what makes for good literature. Reading for entertainment is fine but when you understand yourself and the world around you makes the experience that more impactful.
I’ve also heard someone say they hate narration written in dialogue, which makes me assume they don’t like many quality writers either. The big names such as Dickens, Twain, Hurston, and Faulkner write in dialect because it would be ineffective and unauthentic if they didn’t capture the voice of the characters. I’ve also heard that the book is funny which is true, in parts, but the overall tone of the book is so sad. But sad in a good way because you take something from that emotion – you feel for the characters, and, again, that’s what makes for a good book.
Anyway, I’ll have to watch the movie now and I did what I could to not think of the characters as the actresses I saw on the red carpet not long ago, but I assume the movie will be very good as well. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 76% which doesn’t mean much to me anymore since they gave Prometheus a 73% when it’s the biggest sci-fi film of the decade. But for students in class being able to compare and contrast with a novel like To Kill A Mockingbird would be a good idea for high school literature classes. It would especially be nice to tie in their history lessons on the Civil Rights Movement as well.

Review of “Fahrenheit 451”


Guy Montag lives in a world without books. In fact, he burns them. But after meeting a strange young girl named Clarisse, she asks him if he is happy, and Montag begins wondering if being a fireman is worth it. His wife, Mildred overdoses on sleeping pills and nearly dies – something which she denies because she is so caught up in this world of watching interactive television. After Clarisse dies and Montag witnesses an old woman who would rather be burned alive with her books then part with them, he begins to revolt against the world without literature. He steals a book himself. Eventually after Mildred betrays her husband, Beatty, Montag’s boss, decides to burn Montag’s house due to his new-found love of books. As the mechanical house from the firehouse tries to capture Montag, he escapes and finds a group of men who have made themselves into books by memorizing whole texts.
This dystopian novel is astounding even for today with the idea of television over books. What makes the novel so lovely is the language of Bradbury: “The books leapt and danced like roasted birds, their wings ablaze with red and yellow feathers.” I liked the concept of the book very much and I appreciated that the whole thing was pretty quick. It was confusing at first, being in 2012 to get the idea of the family on television but then I understood it as a continuous reality show that Mildred watches around the clock. That isn’t very far from reality now, is it?
I would recommend this one as a good look at a classic dystopian novel. Since The Hunger Games are so popular now, students would be able to get the gist of this, I think. The idea of television rotting your brain so much that books are silly, ridiculous things is something I’m sure young adults can understand that idea.

Review of “A Moveable Feast”

“You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

Ernest Hemingway wrote of his time in Paris in the 1920s. This was a time of painters, writers and the Lost Generation between World War I and World War II. While Hemingway and his wife Hadley are poor at the time (as he claims in the memoir)  they enjoy good food and the kindness of others to get good books. Many of these creative minds are wonderful people personally, as Hemingway tells us of Ezra Pound, tiresome and unnerving as well. We get a look inside what these friends of his were really like in the way only Hemingway can do.
I wanted to re-read this after going through passages here and there over the years. The best part of Hemingway, to me, is his life. His style of writing is so interesting when he’s talking about himself and people he comes into contact with. His descriptions of physical features, conversations and the way he feels about these people is extraordinary. You don’t even have to know all of their works to get the idea of them as people who are intermingling in a play, of sorts, during this time in Paris.
For anyone who wants to read Hemingway in a quick and dirty way, I highly recommend this. I know some have been scarred by their high school assignment to read Old Man and the Sea but getting to know Hemingway is really rewarding. It’s all in his style that makes the reading so good. He doesn’t mess around with his readers – he tells you the story as straight as he can and it’s totally worth taking the time to read his short memoirs of Paris.
Best line of the whole book, when describing an Wyndham Lewis, “I do not think I had ever seen a nastier-looking man…. Under the black hat, when I had first seen them, the eyes had been those of an unsuccessful rapist.” Only Hemingway can explain things like this, bless him.

Review of “1984”

The thought police would get him just the same.

We’ve all heard of 1984 and since I wanted to go into some classic literature that I had passed up during my formative years, I decided to read this one.

The story is about Winston Smith who lives in Oceania. The world that he lives in is surrounded by surveillance and continual threat of being caught for even thinking something against The Party’s beliefs. Winston’s job at the Ministry of Truth is to rewrite history, literally. He goes through old newspaper articles and rewrites them in Newspeak, the language of The Party, to make the articles reflect The Party’s beliefs. Winston hates The Party and he hates Big Brother, the ominous presence that The Party has to keep a close eye on everyone. Julia, who fixes the novel-making machines and whom is a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League, gives Winston a note one day that says, “I love you.” He finds out that she too hates The Party and they start a secret affair. However, the more time they spend together the more willingly they run the risk of capture. When they are taken by The Party to jail, Winston is subjected to numerous forms of torture until he breaks and betrays Julia.

Forgive me for talking myself through this book as I do the review because there were some things I had a hard time with. I really hoped and expected to like this book. I heard over and over how much people loved it so I thought it would be face-paced, exciting and interesting. However, I got frustrated with the descriptions of the dystopian world, which I understand is necessary, but I am not interested in politics so this was the worst book for me to chose to read. Orwell took so much time creating the world that I didn’t care about Winston. I didn’t care about that book he got either. I skipped through the entire section. It was dead boring and it just wanted to show that the real history wasn’t what The Party tried to tell everyone it was. I got it.

Maybe I wasn’t supposed to care about Winston either. He says, “I am thirty nine years old. I’ve got a wife that I can’t get rid of. I’ve got varicose veins. I’ve got five false teeth.” This isn’t the most desirable character to chose as a hero, especially when he wants to rape and murder women. I guess he’s supposed to be a product of his environment but his willing rebellion from Big Brother is simply sleeping with Julia. That was his motivation. Julia had been with a ton of Party-hating men so her only form of rebellion was by seducing men (this would make more sense in 1949 when the book was written, I think.) Still, it seems a bit weak for a motivator when you have the whole dang world going to pot. I guess that’s the only way they could rebel since Winston says that the Proles (normal people) were the only ones who could potentially rebel with any success. Those in The Party had no chance.

Once Winston is caught and under unspeakable pain, he still argues with O’Brian, his captor. He even tells him that he hasn’t betrayed Julia so he hasn’t won. I understood that the interrogation was just to show how people have to accept whatever garbage their told to believe. 2+2=5 if you hear it long enough and it keeps you from dying. Winston’s capture was his own fault – he willingly got sloppy. He must have wanted to get caught just to get the looming inevitable over with.  He went romping with Julia, tried talking to people about hating The Party, and then fights them while his back is breaking. He ends up saying he loves Big Brother and he doesn’t feel the same about Julia. They’ve won. His whole purpose in the story was to show us how bad The Party can be.

Again, it’s just not my kind of book. I was interested in the parts about Winston and Julia but that’s only some of the book. The rest was too much description and political discussion that I didn’t have the patience for. I know it’s supposed to be an indicator of present times in society but in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we celebrate vapid, talentless rich people vapid who have 74 day marriages. I don’t think anyone’s going to get a rat cage attached to their face anytime soon for having an opinion on that – thank God.

Anyway, I agree that students in senior high should read this to get an idea of how politics can be. I’m not saying it’s not culturally or historically significant or that it’s a “bad” book. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as other classic books I’ve read. Politics aren’t my thing so any discussion of war puts me to sleep (just like baseball.)

Review of “Pride and Prejudice”


Elizabeth Bennett is one of five daughters whom her parents hope to marry off to rich husbands. Lizzy, being the quick witted, sensible one does not accept any proposal easily, nor does she think her sisters should either. Her encounters with Mr. Darcy prove him to be a mean, unlovable man but he shocks her with his proposal of marriage and subsequent good deeds to help her family. While her sisters are marrying left and right, Lizzy ponders her choice and realizes in the end that Mr. Darcy is not the horrible wretch he thought he was and she agrees to become the wealthy Mrs. Darcy.
I’ve glossed over a lot of the main points to this book because I had to get my head around the plot during this first attempt at reading Austen. I’m sure I’m not the first to complain that the language is so overbearing that it is hard to get into it at first. So I admit, I went to the summary on Spark Notes and prepped myself for each chapter before reading it myself. Me, being a big literary nerd, I loved that. It made me feel like I was back in college and actually challenging myself again.
While many readers would be totally put off by needing help getting the key elements in the story, I loved it. It made me re-think how I read. I had to concentrate and take in the whole world that Austen had created.  I opted for classical music to listen to so my wandering thoughts wouldn’t get in the way. I appreciated each scene on its own and felt as if I were in the scene that I had watched on the Colin Firth film version of the book. It made me a Jane Austen fan even though I have to re-read this to get past the plot and into appreciating her good writing.
There is plenty of study on with this novel and the discussion questions in the back of the book would help even me from a teaching/student perspective. However, unlike Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre the language is much more dense and it wouldn’t be a book you could just throw at anyone and expect them to get caught up in the story very easily.

Review of “Noah’s Ark”

Pickney, Jerry. Noah’s Ark. SeaStar Books. 2002. ISBN: 1587172011

God was not pleased with the people on earth but he loved Noah who was right in the sight of the Lord. God told Noah to build an ark because he was going to cause a great flood that would swallow up every living thing. He also told Noah to bring two of every creature as long as food for them and himself. God promised that he, his family and the animals would be safe. Noah’s family helped him build the ark and store up food. The people called them fools for building an ark on dry land. The animals heard God’s call and went to the ark and then the rains began. Water rose over the cities and towns but God remembered Noah and his family and all the animals – they stayed safe. Noah sent out a raven to see if it found dry land. After it didn’t he sent a dove. On its second return the dove brought back an olive branch in its beak, symbolizing it had found land. The waters dried up and the animals left the ark. Noah and his family praised God. God promised that he would never again destroy the earth with a flood and set a rainbow to show a sign of this promise.

“Characters in traditional tales are typically archetypes of good or evil, described with a few broad strokes, and symbolic of our most basic human traits” (Vardell 92). Noah is our hero who is in right standing with God. Because he is not like the other people on earth, he is saved from the flood and given a specific duty to perform. I am glad that the Supreme Court asserted that “one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion” (Norton, 1993). I live in a Christian influenced community and not having such books on the shelf at a library would be unheard of. The pictures in this book are the loveliest part of this version of the Biblical story. I can just imagine being a child and looking at these beautiful, large water color paintings and feeling enveloped in the story. The whales swimming underneath the ark and the Earth displayed in rainbows in the back of the book gives the whole story a happy, content, calming effect. I even went as far as to add this book to my own collection (along with “Kitten’s First Full Moon”).

This book did win the Caldecott Honor Award. Booklist states, “One of the best-known Old Testament stories gets a powerful traditional interpretation by an artist who seems utterly comfortable with the majesty of the tale, in terms of both meaning and visual scale…Like the jacket art, however, there’s much that is exceptional here, especially an impressive, quiet view of the ark sitting patiently as rain pounds the earth and the swirling sea begins to engulf the whole world. Definitely make room for this on the shelf.” This book would be wonderful for children at Storytime at my library because they would be familiar with the story but see it in a whole new way. Perhaps reading other books by Pickney such as “The Lion and the Mouse” would be good for a themed Storytime. I think children would love the artwork in these books.

Reference

Vardell, Sylvia M. Children’s Literature in Action. Libraries Unlimited. Westport, CT. 2008

Review of “The Three Little Pigs”

Marshall, James. The Three Little Pigs. Dial Books for Young Readers. 1989. ISBN: 0803705913

The classic tale of the Three Little Pigs takes on a story of three pig brothers who were sent out by their mother, an old sow, to seek their fortune. The first little pig sees a man who has a load of straw and buys it from him, claiming that he will build his house with it. The man tells him it is not a good idea but the pig tells him to mind his own business and builds the straw house anyway in record time. Very soon a “lean and hungry wolf” tries to get into the pigs house. The pig refuses to let him in, so the wolf does, as expected, and says, “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.” Once the house falls down “he gobbled up the little pig.” The second little pig has a similar experience of house building with some sticks. He too meets the fate of the hungry wolf and is gobbled up. The third little pig is depicted as a smart one who outwits the wolf by telling him he’ll meet him at the farm, the orchard and even the fair at a later time than he really will be out. Once the wolf catches on to this, he goes to get the little pig at the fair but the pig is able to scare the wolf away by getting in a butter churn and rolling down the hill at him. By the end, the wolf goes down the chimney into the little pig’s awaiting, hot iron pot. Then, the little pig gobbles up the wolf.

The plot of this story is simple and action based, as is necessary for traditional tales. The story does “move forward logically with a quick ebb and flow of action” (Vardell 93). The theme does follow the basics by being one of the “big, global messages with a clear stance on the importance of good triumphing over evil.” The gory side to this is a bit much and I was trying to recall the original “Three Little Pigs” cartoon that I saw as a kid. In Disney’s 1933 version of “The Three Little Pigs” we first hear the memorable song “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf.” As I watched this version, I noticed that the first two pigs seem much more jovial, naive, singing pigs whereas the third little pig is a hard-working strong type (more than likely a cultural nod to the American way of life in the 30s). It also incorporates the idea of “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” as Big, Bad tries to outwit the first two pigs. The apple orchard that is mentioned in Marshall’s version is seen in the Disney version, but only as the pigs escape as apples fall on the wolf’s head. The ending is without any gobbling and the wolf is just shot back out of the chimney with a burned bottom that sends him running away for good.

It also cracks me up that the third little pig has a picture of “Mother” on the wall – a large sow, sucking her piglets. “Father” is a link of sausages!

Publisher’s Weekly (July 14, 1989) reviewed Marshall’s book by stating, “Deadpan as ever, Marshall begins this one in a traditional way: the old sow sends her piglets off into the big world. Despite the protests of the tradesmen who sell them materials, both the first and second pig construct their flimsy houses of straw and sticks. In short order, they are gobbled up by the wolf. The pig who invests in bricks, of course, does the gobbling when he encounters the wolf, after a merry mass of near misses that blithely build suspense. There are fairy tales, and there are Marshall’s tales. Readers can also be forgiven for preferring his over all the rest.” Other reviews state that Marshall writes “half-fractured fairy-tales” so I think I would like to read more of Marshall’s takes on familiar stories.

For activities in the classroom or library, perhaps comparing film versions to book variations would be an interesting project. I can even see having older students write compare and contrast essays on the various versions of these familiar tales. It would be something reluctant readers could get into because they would have easy to read books and cartoons involved. Honors or college freshman would be able to examine the cultural and historical impact the different variations have. Other familiar tales such as “Cinderella” or “Little Red Riding Hood” would work for this project as well.

Reference

Vardell, Sylvia M. Children’s Literature in Action. Libraries Unlimited. Westport, CT. 2008