Sunday, January 31, 2010
I thought that this graphic version of the famous story to be quite fun reading. In fact, after taking it to school to show it to the librarians and several of my classes, I had a couple of students who wanted to take it home (which I would have considered had it been my own copy). It was a cute, fast read, and the pictures that went along with the chosen dialogue were quite well done. Other than being a little distracted by Elizabeth's lips (excessive lines made it look like she'd had a bit of botox), it was a great read. I highly recommend this graphic novel to anyone who is an Austen fan and would like to see their favorite scenes played out in graphic fashion.
Thanks to the librarians at my school, they also pulled a variety of other graphic novels and mangas for me to try out. Below are the ones they checked out to me. I'm excited to give them a try!
Admittedly, I'd rather read novels in the classic sense, minus the pictures, but I found this to be a fun departure from the norm. Am I the last to the graphic novel craze? I'm curious as to what other graphic novels or stories you might recommend?
Friday, January 29, 2010
One quick side note. Over at Royal Reviews, I wrote a guest post as a "Lady in Waiting" for the book Ruby's Slippers. Stop on by to read my review and to check out there site!
UPDATE: Issue all fixed. It was a "widget" issue? Strange.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Thank you to those who left comments about poetry. I suppose I need to wrap my head around the fact that not many people like poetry. Why that seems so strange to me, is beyond me at this point, but it does. As difficult as some of my poetry classes used to be, I actually miss sitting and discussing poetry with a group of like-minded individuals. Honestly, if it was feasible, I would go back to school again; I love being a student!
Having said that, and on a completely different note, I wanted to finally post my review of Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single. I read this over Christmas, after my good friend read it and seemed to enjoy it. To some degree, I've been nervous about this review, as my response was pretty visceral. I think my words after reading the last few chapters were, "Are you kidding me?!?" I had to then flip back to read them again, to make sure I read the ending correctly. Yes, I wasn't sure what I read.
Synopsis: As you can guess Jennifer is single, but not happily so. She looks at her life and sees where she is, as compared to her perceptions of others. To her own eye, her apartment is too juvenile, her job is too mundane, her love life too lackluster, her personality not sparkling enough, and her appearance and body not sexy enough. Then she begins dating the man of her perceived dreams. He is the man every other woman wants to date, the man who is handsome, the man who comes from money, and the man who is her boss! It seems that this man, who might be too good to be true, might just rescue her from her single status once and for all, delivering her from any more bad dates or single appearances at parties and weddings. This could be her ticket out of single city.
Review: I have to be honest, I really didn't like this book. REALLY didn't like this book. As a single woman, who doesn't feel that she is in as much angst about her singleness as some think she should, this book had me scratching my head at times. The writing is quite witty, with funny one liners, and scenes of gobbling up sugary-sweet treats in an empty stairwell at work (out of anxiety), that had me laughing; however, I didn't relate to Jennifer's panic over the "who and what" questions in her life. It seemed to me that she was a Bridget Jones-ish character, meant to show us that what we want, may not be exactly what is best for us. This, however, is pretty much only revealed in the last few chapters of the book, ending in a way that is an unhappy resolution. But wait...you're supposed to be happy that ended in a tragic sort of sadness, right? Yes, I realize that was the point. That was okay, and I got it, but I also realized that the main character really was a reflection of any and all single women who feel they "have to" be married, and to someone of status, to be a complete person.
Altogether, I thought the book was well written, but didn't end up liking the main character, nor her choices. I suppose that added up to me not liking how the book ended. Does that mean it's not a good book, no, just that its delivery and outcome are meant to drive home a point, a very anti-"chick-lit" or happy ending sort of point. That's okay, but just left me a bit frustrated. I would have preferred to have seen what she did with her not so happy ending. One thing that ending did for me though, was to ensure that I'd embrace my single status, and not as a badge of shame!
For more information, see Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single.
*Review based off of library copy of the book.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Poetry. Why is this beautiful art form so under appreciated? According to a thought-provoking post, "Mere Fondness for the Beautiful," by Stephen Burt of Harvard University, poetry is on the decline. In fact, one statistic posed by the National Endowment for the Arts stated that only 8% read at least one poem in 2007, compared to 17% in 1992. Why? What is it about poetry?
I posed this question to my AP class yesterday, as I had heard murmuring for days about "reading into" poetry. As a teacher, you feel endless angst about teaching literature in a way that will turn anyone off, and yet there is so much to cover that you often have to push those worries aside and just TEACH. I then had to ask myself my own feelings about poetry, and here's what I came up with.
- I love poetry that I understand.
- I have to read poetry with a writing utensil, as I like to see what I begin to pull from the piece.
- Some poems I'll revisit a million times, just because they sound pretty (i.e. "I Wander Lonely as a Cloud," by William Wordsworth), and others because I love the message or story (i.e. "Digging," by Seamus Heaney).
- I'll own up here for a second. I used to hate poetry...outside of the classroom. In other words, I loved it when my English teachers would go through a poem and discuss it with us, but didn't care much for doing it on my own. Then, I took a graduate class that tore me down and built me back to the point where I now feel confident doing it all on my own.
- Poetry has to be shared! I hate reading a poem and not being able to share what I found in it.
- You can't really read poetry mindlessly, meaning that I can't crawl into bed to read a great book of poetry; my mind and senses have to be engaged to read poetry, and that takes a little work on my part.
- Poetry intimidates me at times. Some messages are so dense with ideas (hello, Mr. T.S. Eliot!), that I shudder.
- I get frustrated when people brush off poetry as "stupid" because they don't understand it.
In conclusion, maybe it's as Burt states in his own post on this subject, when he reminisced that poetry used to be an issue of how people once "used" poetry. People once read, and reread poetry, they connected to it. People used to sit and write a poem to express their feelings and thoughts. Poems were posted in newspapers, sharing views on life, love, and politics with its readers. And yet, as Burt says, "We have lost that kind of cultural relation to poetry." I don't really know what it takes to have that "relation" to poetry today, other than to just try to keep making it a part of my own life, but I do know that it's one worth continuing to examine, consider, and talk about. So, to my dear students hating poetry, I say I'll try to do better to show you its beauty, and then hope to help you connect it to yourselves in some sort of culturally relevant way.
In conclusion, I've included links to several of my favorite poems.
"A Psalm of Life"by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by W. B. Yeats
"Punishment" by Seamus Heaney
And to conclude on this dark, wintry day, what better way than to end with a poem about the darkness of winter. I love this beautiful little contrasting poem of winter and the hardiness of nature in Thomas Hardy's "The Darkling Thrush."
I know I'm talking to a community of readers, for the most part, so many of you love language of any sort. What are your thoughts on poetry? Do you like poetry? Do you read poetry? What most speaks to you in a poem?
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Synopsis: (Spoilers Included) Let me say that I hate to really give anything away here! Mia has been dating her high school sweetheart Michael for several years. As she is still in high school, and he has headed off to college, their lives have taken different directions. Mia is still young, insecure, and nervous about life, while Michael has grown up a bit, is in college, and would like his relationship with Mia to evolve with him. In short, Michael cares about Mia, genuinely loves her, and wants to have sex. The way it is referred to often had me laughing out loud, and I could see how a young girl would be thoroughly freaked out by the prospect. Shortly after, Michael is offered an amazing opportunity to go to Japan to build a robotic, surgical arm. He feels that working on this will help him become more worthy of someone like Mia (a crowned princess), and will give her time to grow up and experience life for herself. As a result, the two break up, leaving Mia an absolute puddle.
Let me spell these final books out in short...Mia falls apart. Yes, she grieves Michael to the most dramatic depths of her teenage heart, but who hasn't felt that life wasn't worth living after losing a love? (If you haven't, then either it's coming, or you'll be lucky enough to marry that person and never have to experience it!) Although Mia goes on, and even begins dating dreamy J.P., it seems that Michael is never far from her mind.
The final book, Forever Princess, to me, was by far the best. I realize that book ten is a bit of a "resolution" book in and of itself, but I loved seeing Mia at the point of graduation, trying to get her romance novel published, and STILL having feelings for Michael. In short, she was "warm for his form" and feeling awfully guilty about it. She does have a new boyfriend, so who does that to your current squeeze? Yes, Michael has returned from Japan a wildly successful man, and seems to still be in love with Mia. How then can she resolve her feelings for Michael, figure out what college to attend (since they've all accepted the princess...of course), and get someone to publish her romance novel?
Review: I absolutely loved the final three books in this series. I wanted to finish the series, originally because: I'm a huge Meg Cabot fan, and I wanted to read Ransom My Heart, but had heard that it tied back to the Princess Diaries series and wanted the complete experience. Maybe it's because I teach high school students, or that I simply enjoyed getting to the heart of the series, but I loved seeing how Mia matured and worked through her feelings. I also really appreciated the head-on approach to teen sex. Gasp. Yes, I said it. Teens think about it, and yet (in my own opinion), very few people want to talk with them about it. In this series, Mia faces the challenge of being in an actual, loving "teen" relationship, yet not feeling ready to have sex. It wasn't that Mia was against it, which I think helped develop the thoughts about sex that maybe some parents and peers miss discussing--the emotional fears a teen has about sex. In Mia's case, she was afraid, and wanted to wait. Thankfully, she had a boyfriend who would...in a sense.
As a series, I think this was really entertaining, and brought up issues, insecurities, and thoughts that teens often encounter. Besides being something to relate to, they were simply fun to read. As an adult, if you're at all hesitant about reading these books, I might advise jumping to the last four books, reading summaries online. I think the last four books are quick reads, but are great and get to the heart of the series.
Now, I can go and read Mia's published novel (thanks, of course, to Meg Cabot), Ransom My Heart! For more information on any of the books, see: Princess on the Brink, Princess Mia, or Forever Princess.
*This review was based off of books checked out from the local library.
As mentioned, these books count towards my "2010 Reading Resolutions Challenge" as well as the "2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge."
I'm off to a great start this year on my reading challenges. How are you doing with your reading so far this year?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Here's the deal. When books become an obsession, a passion, and in my case, a profession, they start becoming almost impossible to house! As you might recall, I purchased an APPLE BOX full of books at a book sale in Hawaii. Well, after several boxes mailed home, and my last suitcase over Christmas crammed full, I finally got them all home. Hmm...do you think I paid too much for a box of used books by the time it was all said and done?!? Yes. I'm sick.
Having said all that, I don't see my book obsessions changing anytime soon, so I'm going to have to just surrender to them. Books make me happy, and I'm thankful for great writers that continue to keep my shelves filled to the brim.
As for this Sunday, my goal is actually to write two posts for this coming week. I finished the Princess Diaries series with the last three books over last weekend and the first of this last week. The series turned out pretty cute, so I'm happy to have finished the series. I can now begin Ransom My Heart, which Meg Cabot helped her character, Princess Mia, to write. It should be a fun connection.
As for what I'll be reading, much of it continues to be things I've been reading for some time. I'm still reading Marian Keyes, The Brightest Star, and really am quite enjoying the story; it just happens to be long, large pages, and small type.
I should be finishing up Shannon Hale's The Actor and the Housewife, which I'm having pretty mixed emotions about. I'll hold off on my final opinion for after I finish!
Well, since I seem to read a million books at one time, only to settle on one after I'm part way through, we'll see what I actually settle down to reading. Regardless, I love having choices! Also, if nothing else, I'll tune in to PBS Sunday night to watch the American broadcast of the new BBC version of Emma. Don't forget to tune in!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Having said that, I couldn't resist reading this short book by Kristina Springer, when I saw it posted at the local library. The cover alone put a smile on my face, and felt like a perfect read for a snowy night.
Synopsis: Jane Turner is in high school, but working part time at her local coffee shop in her hometown of Chicago. In her job she sees the regular customers, with their specialty fraps, caps, and lattes. With mouth-watering descriptions of combinations and flavors I've rarely heard of, let alone tasted, Jane develops an even more delectable talent; Jane becomes a match-maker. Taking the drink combinations of her patrons, Jane quickly sums up the personalities and interests of the customer. From this, she begins pairing up love-lorn customers that she has grown to love, and finds that she has some pretty good success. As her boss gets wind of her talent, Jane becomes a local superstar. The interesting twist to this story is though, that Jane can somehow pair others, but can she see her own drink/combo pair?
Review: This was an extremely quick read; one that I picked up, and in a few, short hours had finished. Although this genre feels predictable, I thought this twist on a YA version of chicklit to be fun and quirky. Honestly, I cared about Jane and her friends, and wanted to see their successes and joy. With lovely descriptions of drinks that paired with equally funny descriptions of people, I can say that this was a fun read that I could easily recommend to anyone looking for a fun, quick read. For more information see: The Espressologist.
I've admitted my guilty pleasure drink on a cold night. What's your favorite?
*This review comes from a library copy of the book.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
What can I say that hasn't already been said in the press and by other fans of this film? It is beautiful, breathtaking, and one that stirs one's empathy towards those in lonely positions of power. In a period and position where marrying for love was less common than today, I found the message of shared burden and purpose to be endearing and hopeful. I heartily say go see this one before it leaves theaters! For more information on the film, see: The Young Victoria official film site. Gorgeous.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
As for reading, I read a magnificent chunkster of a book over Christmas, and I have been waiting to post my review. For what? Hmm...I don't really know, but I am still thinking about the characters in Pillars of the Earth, and a little sad that I'm finished with the book. I realize I'm a bit late to the bandwagon with this read, but I'm so glad I arrived at all.
Synopsis: Pillars of the Earth has been kicking around as one of those “have to” reads that I just didn’t make the time to read. Well, I noticed that the audiobook was available at my library and grabbed it. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I would be listening to this book for years if I didn’t put it aside and pick up the book! So, thanks to Christmas, I grabbed the old copy kicking around my mom’s place and tore through the last 350 pages. Let me just say, that it was a FANTASTIC read.
In this epic read, we are introduced to a multitude of characters from the middle ages in England. Tom Builder has aspirations to build the best cathedral in the land, also hoping to care for his starving family who has become destitute. In a strange turn of events, Tom begins work on a daunting cathedral project in Kingsbridge, under Prior Phillip. Together, they struggle to juggle God’s laws, and those of the land. There is intrigue, politics, in-fighting, battles, famine, crimes, love, and loss mixed into this epic read. We start with Tom the builder, but we move on to his children and their loves and losses.
Review: In general, it is nearly impossible to summarize a novel that is almost 1,000 pages. To say that it is a commitment, is putting it mildly, but so worth it. The novel spans decades, and follows characters that you grow to care about. There were characters I ached for, hoping for their happiness and safety, and others that I hoped would get their rightful justice. At times, I gasped, and even muttered my thoughts out loud. Unfortunately, that caused people around me to look at me with curiosity and even annoyance at times. Let me just say, I couldn’t help myself.
So far as epic, chunky novels are concerned, this was one of my favorites. I didn’t want the novel to end, and yet I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what would happen. The more I knew about certain characters, the more I wanted to see how their lives turned out. While I did get bored with descriptions of architectural outlines, I knew that they were the centerpiece for the story going on. I also skimmed some of the fight scenes, both because I’m a chicken and don’t enjoy violence, but also because they were pretty detailed and I could skim forward to the results. There were a lot of scenes of sensuality and rape, which were pretty hard to take at times, but once again, they created a connection to the characters that you don’t often get in shorter novels.
I really enjoyed The Pillars of the Earth and would recommend it to anyone who loves books like Gone With the Wind, The Thornbirds, Shogun, or any other lengthy epic, chunkster that pulls you in and won’t let you go. I’m so glad that I tackled this huge novel and can’t wait to dive into his sequel, World Without End. For more information, see: The Pillars of the Earth.
Also, since this is a book I've had on my TBR pile for over a year, it's a great start to my participation in the TBR Challenge. Yay! One accomplished. As for my next TBR novel, I'll have to consider on that one a bit. As a side note, I understand that this is going to be coming out as a TV miniseries some time in 2010.
What chunkster novels have you loved and couldn't get out of your head?
*This was a personal copy for review.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Now that I have a little more breathing room, I have much to look forward to in my own reading. This weekend, I'll be organizing what I'd like to teach next year for our school's new Popular Fiction class. That means I'll be reading some of the following, to see which books I'd like to teach.
I pretty much have decided on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think that will be a great, exciting read to dive into with the students, and one that many of them will already own.
For my own enjoyment, and ARCs and other books I'm getting ready to review, I'll be reading some great books over this wonderful three-day weekend.
Thankfully, I'm back into the reading groove, and hope that responsibilities hold off for a little while! I hoped to fix up my office this weekend, buying THREE new bookcases to hold everything; however, thanks to my goal to try to pay cash for things, I'm going to hold off until next month. In a way, that gives me an excuse to let it all sit there another month while I go read!
I'm curious. Since I've been out of the loop for the past several weeks, what have you read lately that you really enjoyed?
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Please forgive my absence for another couple of days. I should have planned better and prepared posts before this chaotic end of term came up for me at work, but here we are. I can't cry over it now, right?
On Tuesday my final grades are due, and since we're at the half way point in the year and some students are shifting their schedules around (and switching teachers) because of semester classes coming to an end, I really have to tie up every loose end. It's been hectic, maybe more than I anticipated? Anyway, I'm doing my best to finish up by Tuesday, so I'll be back, reading and blogging again in a couple of days. Let's pray I don't lose my mind by then! Best wishes, and happy reading!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Synopsis: Told in chapters that introduce the way he got into working in the library system, experiences he's had with patrons, and the inner workings among library employees, this non-fiction reads more like fiction. Borchert shares stories of people hired, in one part because they look mild mannered and fulfill a quota for diversity, that later blindside everyone with their bizarre behavior. He shares the difficulty for librarians of being seen as the after school babysitter by many parents, who drop their kids off for hours at a time. He also shares more about the interesting patrons he has run across over the years.
Review: I don't know how I can really express how much I enjoyed this book. So many things that Borchert said reminded me of my own frustrations and feelings as a high school teacher. Some of the bizarre things he has encountered, I have encountered. Some of the insanity in dealing with people who try to work the system (as if there is much to work in a library), I have felt and seen in my own work. It was just an interesting comparison, and reminded me once again, that anyone working in any sort of public service, will encounter people of all sorts. There can be highs and lows, but you are always guaranteed a certain amount of madness! In short, I loved reading about the many antics and people Borchert has experienced over the years. While some reviews I've read have really hammered the author for his supposed "negativity" about his work, I honestly could see that he simply was sharing not just the daily routine of a librarian, but the things they experience that you might not believe had he not shared them. I guarantee, I could sit down and write down the experiences I've had in the classroom, that would fill a book! Sometimes you don't believe them, but can look back and laugh at the absurdity, and yet joy that all of them as a whole have brought to your life. As one who can relate to his line of work, although different, I really enjoyed (and laughed throughout) Borchert's experiences shared in Free for All and would recommend it to anyone interested in the "behind the scenes" of a librarian's work.
In closing for this review. I was struck by how upset some readers were over this book. Although sarcastic, and points out some of the truly bizarre moments of his job, I didn't feel that sharing a laugh over them was especially derogatory. As teachers, we often share our highs and lows with one another, laughing over the absurdities and frustrations of our own work. We try not to take them outside of work though, because these frustrations can be misconstrued as a negative attitude. I'm curious though. Why is it that we frown on people complaining about their work? Are we afraid that one complaint will lead to an overall bad attitude in general? I'm just wondering. Maybe, in the end, I appreciated Borchert's courage in being a bit snarky about his own work?
For more information, see: Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library.
*Review based off of a library book...how appropriate.*
Monday, January 4, 2010
On to book goals for this year. I have really postponed this post, unsure of what I wanted to do. After looking back at this last year of blogging, I really debated whether or not I wanted to participate in challenges. I love joining in, but often fall short because of the demands of teaching full time and then teaching classes online during my off time. English teachers always have something to grade or be reading for school, so I often use my book blog as an escape, and inevitably, I have to get out, right? Well, I happened to be reading a few book blogs (forgive me, I can't remember which ones), and I noticed that many people felt bogged down a little (or a lot). Out of that though, I also noticed that many people had this wonderful, positive attitude that really struck me. Someone stated it pretty simply by saying that you participate when you can, and no big deal if you can't! No one is going to get after you if you can't complete a challenge. In the end, it's about the community, learning about new books, making new friends, and discovering great reads. Since I got that from many of you...thank you to everyone! You all really boosted me again, and I'm ready to go now.
I know my schedule is not very conducive to doing a bit of everything, so I chose challenges this year that I felt comfortable with, but would still give me a small push. (Thank you to A Novel Challenge for keeping these challenges organized and easy to reference! What a great service to all readers.) Here is what I've decided to join:
Books Won is a challenge geared at reading the books you've won from other bloggers and sites, being run by So Many Precious Books, So Little Time. As I have an entire shelf dedicated to just this sort of thing, I thought this would be a great challenge to join. I'm going to jump in on the modest "Honorable Mention" level with 1 to 3 books. If I read more, I'll level up...just like Mario Bros.!
Next up is the e-Book Challenge over at Royal Reviews (where I will also be sharing reviews from time to time). As some of you might know, in 2007 I nicknamed my Kindle my "boyfriend." I've gotten a little teasing over that one, but I really LOVE having my Kindle around. It is the best! No, I can't take it on the beach (because I choose not to), but it goes just about everywhere else with me. I'm going to be modes with this challenge as well and join in at the "Fascinated" level, at 6 books. I think I could do "Addicted," but will aim low for right now!
Also at Royal Reviews is the Audio Book Reading Challenge. With a commute to work, no matter how short or long, I've learned to curb my road rage with a good book. I really enjoy audio books, so I gladly have jumped in on this one! Once again, I'll go for "Fascinated," which is six books.
Jenny Loves to Read, Jenny is hosting the Reading Resolutions Challenge. I really liked this idea, as I have a few goals that I couldn't find in another challenge. For this, I'd like to: a) read a book of literary theory, b) continue reading essays and poems by major writers...in this case, I'd like to get the Emerson collection, c) finish reading the Princess Diary series! I love Meg Cabot, but told myself I'd finish the YA series before reading the book that Mia supposedly wrote! This will be the year to wrap up the series. And finally, d) read at least three of the books gifted me from my wonderful students and friends. A hodge-podge of resolutions there, but ones I've wanted to check off!
Next, I wanted to join the 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge over at J. Kaye's Book Blog. As an English teacher, I really have to try to keep up with everything coming out so that I have things to recommend! Having said that though, I better join at the light weight end of things and will be doing the "Mini Reading" challenge at 12 books.
Finally, I am excited to jump in on the TBR (To Be Read) Challenge over at MizB's Reading Challenge. As with some of the other challenges, this will really help me achieve some things this year, by taking some of those dusty books of my bookshelves, and getting them read! For this challenge you are supposed to create a list of 12 books over six months old and read one a month. I'll have to go through my shelves later, but I'm excited to get some of my TBR books read!
There are many other great challenges that I desperately want to join, but feel like I might only be able to do them over the summer. For instance, The Social Justice Challenge looks amazing. I need to do more reading up to figure out how I can jump on board, and if possible to squeeze in more over the summer. I have a sneaking suspicion that I can, so I'll have to talk to some of those hosting it to find out more. It looks amazing though, and will have to jump in down the road.
Well, there we have my challenge list for the year! I promised myself not to get overwhelmed by the number I have joined, as I really did pick things that I think I can successfully complete. However, if I can't no big deal either, right? In the end, I really get a chance to get involved with many other amazing readers out there in more great conversations about books. What better way of changing myself and growing than by reading great books? In the end, I hope it will help me balance out my life for a happy 2010.
Well, until next time, Mahalo! Now I want to know, what great resolutions have you made this year, or what one challenge is really exciting you about now?