Monday, November 16, 2009

Musing Mondays - Nov 16

Participating in this week's Musing Mondays is easy because all I have been able to think about for the last week is Christmas. Trying to decide what to get everyone and, more important, how to move funds around to afford it. Anyway, live from Just One More Page:

With the holiday season now upon us, have you left any hint – subtle or otherwise – for books family and friends might buy you for Christmas? Do you like to receive books, or do you prefer certificates so you can choose your own?

I love shopping for books; my kids have a fairly impressive library. I have made it a point to give them books for birthdays and Christmas because I want to etch the importance of reading in their bright little minds. As for myself, however, I rarely get books as gifts. I love receiving books but not many people in my gift-giving sphere are book people. Gift certificates are a good choice but, to me, leaves an impersonal feeling on both ends. But boy they are fun to spend aren't they?

I have asked for specific books over the years like Harry Potter and a few years ago I asked for a collection Jane Austen books. Unless I tell someone specifically to get me such and such book, I won't get books as gifts.

But you can bet that now that I have thought this long about having brand new (or brand new to me, I am not opposed to used books) books under the Christmas tree, I will be making a wish list. I am all giddy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2 Reviews and a Confession

I am reviewing two books in one post to save myself time and space. Especially since, as much as I loved these two books, I am not sure how much I would be able to say about either of them.

It has been so wonderful to finally read books that I have always had on my TBR list. If this blogging business does nothing else for me, that will be enough.

I loved Little Women so much! It is such a sweet story, a little naive and sappy at times but instead of triggering my cynical side, this naivety and sappiness made it all the more sweet. I saw a little of myself in each of the girls and I loved how they were reflective enough to recognize their faults and try to correct them. It is so hard for many people to see their own character flaws.

I do wish the book had covered more time of the girls lives. Although, only covering a year or so in the young girls' lives shows how swiftly time passes in adolescence and also how much growth can take place if a person applies him/herself.

Reading Shakespeare has always been a little maddening for me except for the times I have read him under the tutelage of a good professor. Once I got going, however, it got easier to understand. I sporadically worked on understanding imagery and references to mythology but as long as I understood the story I really didn't mind, for now, missing out on everything else.

I enjoyed reading the famous lines and passages I have often heard quoted, but I have to share my favorite line. It is in Act V, which was definitely not my favorite part of the play but this line when Starveling is acting the part of Moonshine struck me so funny that I chuckled out loud:   

    Starveling, as Moonshine
        This lanthorn doth the horned moon present.
          Myself the man i' th' moon do seem to be.

    Theseus    This is the greatest error of all the rest; the
         man should be put into the lanthorn. How is it else
         "the man i' th' moon"?                 (5.1.258-262)

Maybe I was a little punch drunk by then from trying to understand the language, I don't know. I did enjoy finally reading this play and understanding the context of those oft quoted lines. One of my favorite movies is Dead Poet's Society and now I understand why the scene where, with his father at the back of the theatre, Robert Sean Leonard's character is delivering Puck's famous last monologue is so dramatic. Being familiar with great literary works definitely broadens our perspective of the world.

I have a confession to make: I don't read as many books as my blog title implies. There I said it. Whew. I really do inhale books though; I have a conscious moment of simply inhaling when I enter a library or a bookstore. Two completely different scents, by the way.

I love to read and I wish with a great chunk of my heart that I had more time to read. I just don't. In addition to having a family, work and a house to keep marginally clean, I keep myself pretty busy.

When I started this blog, I had just gotten relieved of a stressful and time consuming job at church so I thought I would have tons of free time. Then I remembered the things that I hadn't been doing during those two years that desperately needed my attention.

Anyway, I just feel bad for starting a blog when I won't have nearly as many reviews to offer as some other wonderful blogs I read. I gain so much from everyone else's hard work and I do love having a place to write so I will keep coming here. Just not as much as I thought I would.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Musing Mondays - Nov 2

This is my first Musing Monday. Looks like a fun and thought-provoking event. This week's subject is actually something I have been thinking about recently.
How much of your reading do you share with others (outside of blogging?) Do you belong to a book or library club? Do you trade books with friends? Do you tell others what you’re reading?

I am beginning to love talking about reading almost as much as reading itself. Up until about 2 months ago, my discussions about books with other people were few and far between. I rarely ever talked about my reading with my husband, not because he wouldn't listen but because it was just too hard to talk about a book that the other person hasn't read. His favorite genre is Science Fiction/Fantasy and while we have one favorite series in common, The Fionavar Tapestries which we have discussed exhaustively, we really don't have much in common when it comes to books. I am trying to change this sad fact by searching for other books we would both enjoy in that genre.

Lately, however, it seems I have been talking more with others about books. I have mentioned the new Book Club we just started here which I love but which, of course, really only focuses on one book at a time. I do share books with a small number of people, mostly my sisters-in-law. I did just give our copy of the first book in The Fionavar Tapestries - The Summer Tree to a new friend. I get anxious recommending books that I really love because it almost feels like sharing a little bit of my soul.

I am really shy online but I hope to make connections with book bloggers and maybe other readers on Goodreads. Sadly, I don't know anyone in real life who feels quite the same way about reading as I do. If they do, they hide their excitement well. I know people who read, of course, but there just isn't that manic look in their eyes that I am sure is in mine that would spark some kind of karmic connection. Maybe someone who fits this description is lurking in my little world here but is afraid to expose her/himself.  Maybe there will come a day when the veil will be lifted and we will recognize each other. Okay, I am being silly, but it really would be nice to have someone to sit and talk with about books.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Random Updating

As I predicted, life got in the way of the little bit of extra time I have in my life. This week was crazy getting ready for Halloween, planning my Kindergartner's class party and a bunch of other stuff that took up my time and probably more to the point, used up my still-functioning brain cells. I may have said yes a few too many times in the last couple of weeks.

I did finish The Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder this week. I am working on a review of it for next week, but for now I will just say that I really enjoyed it.

I started a couple different books, A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare and Little Women by Louise May Alcott, that are more what I call 'commitment books'. There are just some books that I have to accept will take longer to finish. I will need to find a lighter read that I can pick up and read at times when I don't have as much time and energy to commit to reading. If you can believe it, I have never read Little Women. "Is that even possible?" you ask. I assure you it is although I can't quite believe it myself.

Tonight, I ruthlessly edited my to-read shelf at Goodreads. So many books have come to my attention recently that my interests were going in different directions than what I had on that shelf. Also, it would be better for me to keep my to-read shelf shorter and easier to manage. Part of that whole commitment issue which, now that I think about it, is becoming a theme in this post.

I am also still working on my list for the Books to Read Before I Die Challenge-2010. I have a rough copy that I am still tweaking. I want to add a few more but I can't decide just yet. Just for fun, here is what I have so far:
  • The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Diary of Anne Frank
  • Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Housseini
  • My Name is Asher Lev - Chaim Potok
  • Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
  • Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Graham
  • Moll Flanders - Daniel Defoe
Many of the books on my challenge lists make me wonder something: what in the world did I read in high school? I really can't remember anything but Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men. I know I read others because English was one of my favorite subjects. Maybe when I get into Diary of Anne Frank, for example, it will come rushing back to me because doesn't everyone read this book in high school?

Well, now that I have updated, hopefully next week will be back in to the meat of this reading business. More reading and writing, trips to the library, books as Christmas gifts to choose (the BEST part of Christmas shopping!) and I get to volunteer at the Book Fair at my kids' school this week!! Woohoo!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

In the past, I have tried to read this book several times. As with many classics, I would only get so far and quit. I always blamed (I still blame, to be truthful) it on the fact that I am a Mom and don't have time to devote to dense books. With my busy schedule, I don't get much time to read and it drives me crazy to read the same book for more than about a week because I feel the need to move on to something else. But lately, I have not been as inclined to give up reading books that I have always wanted to read. I just have to accept that it will take longer to finish some books. It's a work in progress.

Anyway, I am very glad that I stuck it out with Wuthering Heights long enough to finish it this time. It's an amazing book. There were times where all I wanted to do was chuck it across the room and let it gather dust in the corner. But I couldn't. Once I had invested enough time and effort in it, I was hooked.

I can honestly say that I have never read a book that had themes so deeply woven into the story, the descriptions and the characters. I felt darkness, selfishness and desperation throughout the whole book. Truly, it is masterfully written especially once one knows a little about the author. How Emily Brontë could have possibly known enough about these themes in her time period is a mystery.

This may sound argumentative (and weakly so, I admit) but I would have denied this being a love story until about the last 50 pages. To me, everything before that was not love but some kind of evil, ill-fated obsession by some of the most self-serving and vain characters ever written. I decided and tried to see beyond the fact that Ellen Dean's narrative hindered knowing the characters personally. She reported the events as she saw them (or in some cases reported events learned from a third party) and interpreted them herself. How could we, as readers, know better ourselves?

Finally, while he was still horrible and monstrous, I was convinced of the intensity of Heathcliff's true love for Catherine. I finally believed that he was just incapable of managing those feelings in a humane fashion and I felt more connected to him than ever before. That was the point where I stopped wanting to chuck the book. I started seeing it as a truly worthwhile contribution to literature. However, unless I read it again someday with the point of view I had during the last fifty pages and enjoy it more, I will never include it among my favorites.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-40: Tools of the Trade

Topic this week from Weekly Geek:

Book blogging, as a concept, is essentially pretty simple: If you have Internet access and an opinion about a book, you can be a book blogger. However, actually maintaining a book blog is much more complicated -- our blogs are labors of love that require a lot of time, energy and devotion. For this edition of Weekly Geeks, I want to focus on the little things that make your blogging and/or reading life a bit easier. Do you use sites like GoodReads, LibraryThing or Shelfari to organize your books? Do you swear by Book Darts? Couldn't live without your Book Buddy? Love connecting with other bloggers on sites such as Twitter? Tell us about what makes your blog tick. Is there something specific that keeps you organized or inspired?

Apparently, I really need to tune into Weekly Geeks every week. I have been reading blogs for years now, I have even started a few but haven't been able to commit to it until now. I have discovered that I am fairly Internet Shy. But that's beside the point. The point is that even though I have been reading blogs for forever, I am very new to keeping one active and interesting. I see so many well-organized and inspiring blogs every day, but really have no idea how to get mine to that point. I have been very impressed with how many people are willing to help out new bloggers. With these kind of resources available, I may one day turn into a real blogger!

So maybe I should answer the question now. Of all of the above links, the only one I already use is GoodReads. I am learning how to use it to its potential and I actually have two whole friends on there now. Woohoo! It's been fun to type in a book title and see what everyone else thought about it. I finally decided to delete titles of books that I read forever ago and put only recently read titles in my list. I realized I could go on and on adding books I've read but may not really remember well.

I have looked at Shelfari but immediately preferred to stay with GoodReads. And I just now found out what a Book Buddy is and I want one! I have visions of taking my laptop to bed on cold winter nights to come.

And, finally, I just signed up for Twitter but have absolutely no idea what to do next. I think I will just take that one nice and slow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Looking at the Printz Project as an investment in the future.

"My kids are getting old!"

That has been my whine for the last few weeks. It's technically not true since they are still quite young but YA literature is just on the horizon. My oldest turns 10 (!) in a few weeks. She, along with her 8 year old sister, is a voracious reader and boy does that make me proud! She still firmly belongs in the Newberry award world (which I also try to keep up with) but before I know it, she will be ready to dip her toes in older teen literature.

I hope that many of her first choices will be classics such as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, but heaven only knows what influences her friends, classmates and teachers will have on her reading list. Now more than ever, little girls feel like they want to grow up faster and faster. And literature that is technically written for her age might not necessarily jive with what her father and I deem appropriate.

So, by reading the Printz Award winners and the honor books I hope I will be au courant enough to know which books are right for her age level. Since her reading level is much higher that her actual age, this can get tricky. Also, because I know I am going to need it later, perhaps by knowing the contemporary literature of her time I can earn some cool mom points. Maybe? No? Yeah, you're right.