Beginnings

Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monthly Wrap-Up & Year-to-Date

Wow, I can't believe it's nearing the end of 2010.  For some reason, this month in particular went by super fast!  Work tended to pick up this month to an average of 3-4 days a week, so it was harder to squeeze reading time in during the week and to boot, the last 2 weeks were inundated with technology hookups for early Xmas gifts at home and a bit of illness.  Okay...excuses aside, here's the somewhat disappointing breakdown:

Books Read This Month (2)--click titles for reviews
Her Fearful Symmetry- Audrey Niffenegger
The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood

Book Reviews Posted (8)
When the Bough Breaks- Jonathan Kellerman
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest- Ken Kesey
Audacity of Hope- Barack Obama
In Her Shoes- Jennifer Weiner
The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger
About a Boy- Nick Hornby

Currently Reading (3)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- Stieg Larsson--up to page 250
My Life- Bill Clinton--up to page 250
Love, Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli--up to page 50

Books Read in 2010 So Far (32)


I have a nice long holiday break from December 17th to January 3rd, so I'm hoping to get lots more reading time in there.  Hopefully I'll have Dragon Tattoo nearly finished by the break :D

For those of you posting a monthly summary, how did you do?


Top Ten Tuesday


A weekly meme hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is

Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Be Best Friends With

First of all, sorry for missing the Monday meme.  I've never missed one before but it would have been identical to last Monday, I'm afraid :(  But to miss out on two memes back-to-back?  That's not happening!

In no particular order...

1) Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
As a child, I always imagined being best friends with Anne.  I always admired and tried to adopt her zest for life and her incurable optimism :)  I know what you're thinking: what about Diana?  Well, I felt that Diana grew apart from Anne when she didn't move on to college.  Aside from Gilbert, Anne needed a new gal pal.

2)  Claire Abshire in The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I felt that Gomez & Charisse were not close enough to Claire to be considered friends, and with Henry's long, sporadic absences, she really needed a strong friend.

3)  Ruth in The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton
Someone really needed to step in and protect this poor innocent girl.  I felt that nobody really loved and protected her, not realizing the need to guide her until it was too late.

4) Jo or Beth March in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Everyone loves Jo and I definitely see why.  But I always felt that Beth, being so mousy and introverted, needed a close friend as her sisters all seemed to be apart from her.

5) Celie in The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I admire Celie's perseverence to reunite with her sister, but also to build her self-esteem, self-awareness, and learning how to read.  I would have loved to be her pen pal :)

6)  Carrie White in Carrie by Stephen King
For those scratching their heads, think of it this way:  If Carrie had one true friend, would she have wreaked havoc like she did?

7)  Valentina in Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Poor Mouse.  She was the closest friend her twin Julia had but was the loneliest person in the world.  A friend would have convinced her not to go through with her unthinkable plan at the end (I won't spoil it).

8)  Duncan Garp in The World According to Garp by John Irving
The only boy character I can think of that I really connected with as a friend.  I'm not sure why, but I sympathized with him & felt that he was ignored by everyone around him.

9)  Offred in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
While I wouldn't want to live in Gilead (*shiver*), I was drawn to Offred's unwillingness to give into the regime and how she kept pining for the truth about her loved ones.

10)  Rose Feller in In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
I certainly felt like I had a lot in common with Rose (except for the shoe shopping--I have fussy feet & hate the time & effort it takes to find reasonably priced, comfy shoes), and besides Maggie & the bluntly honest Amy, Rose didn't have a necessary support system.  Maybe I could have been her shrink :D

Monday, November 29, 2010

Author Interview- Susan Coventry


I'm excited to present my 1st author interview, conducted in Q&A format via e-mail with Susan Coventry, author of The Queen's Daughter and book blogger on Reading World.  She also mantains her own web site and was the winner of my 50th Follower Giveaway/Challenge.

What was a key inspiration for you to become a writer?

I'd have to say the main stimulus for writing was reading. Reading was my escape, my way of relaxing, but at some point I suppose I needed a greater challenge for my own imagination. I wanted to create stories, not just absorb them. I think that many people who read a lot develop a love of the written language that inspires them to write. We learn some of the necessary skills (grammar, basic storycraft) by osmosis. But while writing per se is not difficult for a reader (it was something I did as a hobby for many years as a creative outlet) "becoming a writer" was a much more serious investment of time and energy. That involved learning to edit, being willing to show people my work, and learning to listen to criticism and incorporate suggestions in revisions. The more work I put into it, the more inspired-- or obsessed-- I became.


Who are some of your favourite authors?

Always a difficult question. I have so many. I think of different ones at different times.  Dorothy Dunnett, Cecelia Holland, Colleen McCullough, and Margaret Frazer are some of my favorite historical novelists. I absolutely love Gerald Morris's Arthurian books. I admire Jude Watson/Judy Blundell. And then my favorite "dead old white guy" writers are Hemingway and Thomas Hardy-although it's been ages since I've reread any of their books.


Tell us a bit about The Queen's Daughter.

The Queen's Daughter is the story of Princess Joan, the youngest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II. Her childhood is shaped by the rebellion of her brothers (Henry, Richard and John) against her father, followed by the imprisonment of her mother for instigating the rebellion. Joan's ideas of familial duty and love are warped by notions of the overriding importance of power and ambition. The story follows Joan on her journey first as the child bride of the King of Sicily, then as a young widow accompanying her brother Richard the Lionheart on crusade, and finally as a young woman seeking happiness with a man whose ideas of power and ambition clash head-on with what she has believed all her life.


Is historical fiction a natural niche for you as a writer or are you open to writing in different genres?

At this point, I can't imagine writing in any other genre. Historical fiction is what I enjoy reading the most and what I understand best.


What drew you to Joan of England (the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II)?

Count Raymond attracted me to the story. I was researching the Albigensian Crusade for an idea for a different novel. Raymond is one of the leaders of the people of the south, the side that eventually lost. He was such a romantic tragic figure. I fell in love with him. And then I discovered he had been married to Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughter. When I looked back into their story, I was hooked.


Being an avid moviegoer, I have to ask:  Any thoughts on cinematic representations of this family, such as The Lion in Winter (Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Peter O'Toole as King Henry II) or Becket (also with O'Toole as King Henry II)?

I love Katherine Hepburn in anything. So I had to see The Lion in Winter and I think it's a brillant movie. It helps to know a bit of the historical background or it's easy to get lost in some of the verbal sparring that goes on, but I really enjoyed the way the family was portrayed.

I haven't seen Becket (I read it in high school!). I'm not much of a movie goer. Something about sitting in a dark theater with the bright lights on the screen almost always gives me a migraine, so over my formative years I developed a bit of an aversion to going to the movies. Nowadays I could easily rent them and watch them on the small screen, but somehow I never seem to be able to set aside the time. If I'm in my house, there are too many distractions. Was Becket as good as The Lion in Winter? I should probably rent it, shouldn't I?


What is the best piece of advice you have received about writing?

The best piece of advice is be patient. Every step of the way.


Thanks Susan!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

1st in a Series Reading Challenge


I can't seem to help myself...I'm crazy about new challenges for 2011!  I'm really not sure where to stop but if I can overlap some, I'm all the better for them :)

The 1st in a Series Challenge is hosted at A Few More Pages.  Click here to sign up.  Here is the breakdown:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate. If you're not a blogger, leave your information in the comments.

2. There are four levels for this challenge:

Series Novice: Read 3 books that are the first in any series.
Series Lover: Read 6 books that are the first in any series.
Series Expert: Read 12 books that are the first in any series.
Series Fanatic: Read 20 books that are the first in any series.

You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you. Any genre counts.

3. The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2011.

4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2011.

5. If you're a blogger, write up a sign-up post that includes the URL to this post so that others can join in. Feel free to use the button above.

Currently, I am aiming for Series Lover but may bump it up during the challenge (if that's allowed--it probably is).  Too bad I've already started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so that wouldn't count :(  Here is a tentative list of first books in a series I'd like to try:

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia series)

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

A is For Alibi by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone series--this is a re-read)

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer--I'll borrow my mom's copy :D

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Dark Tower series)


Here's a B-list of potential choices to bump up my challenge level, but aren't top priorities for me yet:
 
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Dr. No by Ian Fleming (James Bond series)
My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch series)
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith--this is probably going to bump it up!
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta series)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

If anyone's joining this challenge, feel free to share some ideas :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

BBC Reading Quiz

I came across this interesting post from Too Many Books, Too Little Time.  I've excerpted a bit here:

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

Instructions:  Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt.  I'll also underline the TBR shelf/list ones.

I have read 18 in full, 6 more in part (or from vague memory), and 57 are on the TBR shelf or list.  I've heard of all but #55, #63, #77, #90 & #96 but feel free to comment here & tell me about them if you've read them :)

Here's my breakdown:

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (books 1-3)
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible (passages only--and not since grade school)
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I've read 18 plays so far)
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26.  Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma -Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne (some books when I was little)
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (I think I read this as a kid--I have a copy anyways)
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Inferno – Dante
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (I think I read this as a kid & have a kids' edition of this)
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I hope you'll try this out.  Let me know how you did.  Better than 6, I hope :D

What's in a Name 4 Challenge



What's in a Name 4 Challenge hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Sign up here.
Challenge runs from January 1-December 31, 2011.

Yay, another new challenge for 2011!  I'm getting into the challenge groove as a pseudo New Year's resolution and to spice up my reading material.  After a slow couple of weeks, I'm happy to find a reading project to guide my choices next year.

So, here's the breakdown of the rules & such:

Read one book in each of the following categories (suggestions are given on the host page):

1.  A book with a number in the title
2.  A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
3.  A book with a size in the title
4.  A book with travel or movement in the title
5.  A book with evil in the title (I guess this means the word evil or a synonym for evil)
6.  A book with a life stage in the title

Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
Books may overlap other challenges.
Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.

Sounds fascinating!  Here are my tentative choices for the 6:

1.  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut--it's in the lead so far in the polls for my Back to the Classics Challenge choices, so this could be read for both challenges.

2.  The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields--I hope this counts!  This may not be for both challenges but I've wanted to read this for some time anyway.

3.  A Short Guide to Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson--this could also be for both challenges; I'm also considering Big Trouble by Dave Barry or Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  *UPDATE*:  I just realized that I have a copy of Small Island by Andrea Levy on my TBR shelf, too!

4.  I thought of 3 possible choices:  A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, This Time Together by Carol Burnett, or The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

5.  A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving--LOL :D

6.  I thought of 3 possible choices:  Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, All the President's Men by Bob Woodward, or Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Memes

Happy Friday!


A weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy For Books.

This week's question is from Sarah @ Writer, Reader, Dreamer:

What is your favourite book cover?

Love the question this week :)  This was once a Top 10 Tuesday topic (try saying that 5 times fast!).  It's hard to choose just one but I'm particularly fond of:


The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This cover reminds me of childhood and brings out the anticipation & patience that Claire had for Henry.  On a related note, here is another great cover with shoes:




The shoes in both books aren't very significant, but in this cover, the red is symbolic of China, in which the novel is set during the Cultural Revolution.  I love the look of these shoes with the worn toes because it tells me that its wearer has gone a long way.


A weekly meme hosted by Janet @ Friday Fill-Ins.

My responses are underlined; the rest is given:

1.  Three things I must have on my Thanksgiving table:  Butterball turkey, my mom's stuffing, and pumpkin pie (I think the only way to eat it is with cream cheese filling!).

2.  After a tiring day at work, you'll find me sacked out on the couch.

3.  This is CNN (*in James Earl Jones's booming voice).

4.  During the 1st week of December, it's time to decorate the house & tree for Xmas.

5.  Oh, man, thankfully it's Friday!

6.  I would like to perfect the art of teaching.

7.  And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to diving into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, tomorrow my plans include nothing in particular (whatever catches my fancy) and Sunday, I want to have a solid dent in my current read!
 
By the way, thank you for voting at right for my reading material for the Back to the Classics Challenge.  The polls are still open until December 21st.
 
Have a wonderful weekend everyone :)
 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All I Want For Christmas


A seasonal weekly meme hosted by Danya @ A Tapestry of Words.

Bloggers are invited to share a book on their holiday wish list every week until Xmas.  Here's a new entry:



The Dark Tower series, book #1-4 (box set)
By:  Stephen King


Book #5:
Wolves of the Calla


Book #6:
Song of Susannah


Book #7:
The Dark Tower



Frequent visitors to this blog know that I adore Stephen King books and have reviewed 5 titles of his so far (3 more are coming soon).  He is a rare combination of popularity & craft--an author whose gift is overlooked because "everyone" reads him.  Um, forgive me, but isn't that the point of being a published author in the first place? :D

I haven't had the pleasure of reading The Dark Tower series, which King has self-declared his "magnum opus" (no, that's not ego talking--it's his biggest undertaking even compared with the 1000+ page tomes The Stand and Under the Dome).  I'm not much for cowboy-western novels (though I like those types of movies) but the idea of blending fantasy & sci-fi into the mix intrigues me.

Along with the 4 in this set, there are 3 additional books in the series with a 4th in development.  I haven't been disappointed by a King book (ever) so it's practically a guarantee that I will devour these heartily.

Literary Blog Hop


A weekly meme hosted by The Blue Bookcase.

This week's topic is:

What makes a contemporary novel a classic?  Discuss a book which you think fits the category of ‘modern classics’ and explain why.

This is an interesting topic up for debate.  By definition, a classic should be from a generation that is no longer alive but resonates with the current generations.  How can that happen if the book is only a few decades old or younger?  But it happens with all products of culture:  "this is classic."  So the definition has changed.  Some books have a treasured quality that allows readers to foresee it as being a classic, usually because they deal with subject matter never written about before (a difficult feat to muster in the 21st century) or writes about subject matter in a rejuvanating way.

In my humble opinion, a modern classic would be any book written anywhere from the last half century up to the last 20 years.  So in 2010, a modern classic would be written between 1961 and 1991.  There are countless titles, I wouldn't know where to begin naming just one.  To give you an idea, these are some titles I categorized under Modern Classics in my TBR list, and this is by no means exhaustive:

The Godfather- Mario Puzo (1969)
Gravity’s Rainbow- Thomas Pynchon (1973)
Interview With the Vampire- Anne Rice (1976)
Requiem For a Dream- Hubert Selby (1978)
Unbearable Lightness of Being- Milan Kundera (1984)
The Remains of the Day- Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
American Psycho- Bret Easton Ellis (1991)--this would be the baby of the bunch :)

Here were some titles that I considered MCs, but are a bit premature:
Schindler’s List- Thomas Keneally (1993)--this could be a strong exception
The Shipping News- E. Annie Proulx (1993)--...as could this
Trainspotting- Irvine Welsh (1993)
The Reader- Bernard Schlink (1995)
Infinite Jest- David Foster Wallace (1996)
The Perfect Storm- Sebastian Junger (1997)
Guns, Germs & Steel- Jared Diamond (1997)

...and some others that aren't quite close enough but may turn out to be MCs:
Life of Pi- Yann Martel (2001)
Love & Other Impossible Pursuits- Ayelet Waldman (2006)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Choosing Books for Challenge- Please Vote!


I've been contemplating what books I will read for the 2011 Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Sarah @ Sarah Reads Too Much.  It sounds like fun but the daunting task will be choosing a book for each of 8 categories:

1)  A Banned Book
2)  A Book With a Wartime Setting (can be any war)
3)  A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner-Up
4)  A Children's/Young Adult Classic
5)  19th Century Classic
6)  20th Century Classic
7)  A Book You Think Should Be Considered a 21st Century Classic
8)  Re-Read a Book From Your High School/College Classes

I've created a top 5 list of books for each category (essentially, 40 books), which needs to be wittled down to 1 per category (8 books).  Starting today until December 21st, a poll for each category has been created & posted at right to decide which books I should read for this challenge.  Please vote!  I will read the books that receive the most votes.  In case of a tie or zero votes, I will decide for myself.  Thanks for your support :)

Top 10 Holiday Books


A weekly meme hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is:

Top 10 Holiday Books

1)  The Night Before Christmas- Clement Clarke Moore
I always enjoyed reading this on Xmas Eve before going to bed.  It brings out the Xmas spirit in everyone.

2)  How the Grinch Stole Christmas- Dr. Seuss
It really turns the holiday on its head with a great message about redemption, overconsumption, and how to melt someone's heart with kindness.  The 1966 animated movie is enjoyable, practically a carbon copy of the book.

3)  A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens
I had a pocket-sized children's edition of this story & was pretty freaked out by the ghosts, but it's a great message.

...Wow, this is a tough topic :/  I'm usually so caught up with planning for the big day, that I don't read many holiday-themed books (just my regular reading material).  Since Christmas movies tend to be more my fortee this time of year, here's some favourites:

4)  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
The funniest movie ever!  My family & I watch this every Xmas Eve, and have for a decade (ever since I was old enough to watch it).

5)  It's a Wonderful Life
Classic tearjerker that never fails to bring your hopes up.

6)  Edward Scissorhands
You're probably wondering how this ties into the holidays, but the scene with Edward carving the ice sculpture is just magical.

7)  The Polar Express
The book has amazing illustrations, and the movie has impressive animation with toe-tapping music.

8)  Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
This is a hilarious SS special that I used to watch every year.  The music is great and Cookie Monster (my fave Muppet) has many funny bits.  Here's a sampling from YouTube:



9)  Babe
This is a good movie for Thanksgiving as well.  The mice always make me laugh :D

10)  The Family Stone
The latest edition to my Xmas movie bonanza.  It's such crazy fun with some tearjerker moments as well.  The cast was fantastic!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?


A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

This past week, I've been up to my eyeballs in technology, helping to install & finalize settings for my early Xmas gift, an upconverting DVD player (love it!) and my parents' new LCD-TV.  Then their TV broke down & needed a replacement.  Yikes!

So, I didn't finish any books this week, but I wrote a small set of reviews & am whipping through The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (am about 1/4 way through).

All in all, it's a bit of a rerun from last week, I'm afraid...

Currently Reading
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- Stieg Larsson- now that Lisbeth has entered the picture & Mikael's new job is underway, I'm hooked!  I've got to set aside more "me time" & flip those pages :D

Love, Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli--up to page 51--not too involved in it now; may return to it when I reach a slump.

My Life- Bill Clinton--up to page 244--too wrapped up in fiction to get back to this now...will return to it sometime, I promise!

Next to Read
The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver--Haven't dipped into it yet, but definitely will soon!
Atonement- Ian McEwan--put this off too long...I blame temptation :D

Finished Reading This Week
None :(

Reviews This Week (4)
What Falls Away- Mia Farrow
My Life So Far- Jane Fonda
Don't Tell Dad- Peter Fonda
Kiss Me Like a Stranger- Gene Wilder

What's New
~ Joined 2 challenges for 2011:  Outdo Yourself Challenge and Back to the Classics Challenge.


Have a great reading week :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

All I Want For Christmas


A seasonal meme hosted by Danya @ A Tapestry of Books.

Bloggers are invited to share books on their holiday wish lists.

I missed the boat on this one again?!?  Yesterday was a mess of groceries, early Xmas shopping, and installing a new DVD player...  Excuses aside, here is this week's entry:



A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to my Father by Chris Lemmon

Jack Lemmon was one of those rare actors that you confidently believe was a genuine person, that what you see is exactly the kind of person he is off-screen.  Being an admirably private person, it is a joy to find that in honour of his father, who died in 2001, Chris Lemmon, who has a jaw-dropping resemblance to his "Pop," has written a reflective memoir with a foreword by Lemmon's early protege, Kevin Spacey.

Friday Blog Hop & Fill-Ins


A weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy For Books.

This week's topic is:

Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!

Well, here in Canada we celebrated Thanksgiving back in October, but it's a thoughtful idea for a topic, so why not?  I'm always thankful for having a loving, supportive family, a job I love and hope to build a career on, having basic needs that many people are without, and having so much to look forward to and enjoy in this life.

As for holiday traditions, my small, immediate family has dinner together every year, usually on the Saturday before Thanksigivng or right on the Sunday holiday, and oftentimes there will be at least one football game on!


A weekly meme hosted by Janet @ Friday Fill-Ins.

I love the creativity that pours out of these :)  My responses are underlined:

1. Why does my hair insist on sticking out at all ends?!?

2. Open your eyes and you just might see the world.

3. Thank you for reading & following my book blog :)

4. Xmas is my favorite holiday because my entire family gets together.

5. I am SO glad to be starting my Xmas shopping.

6. If only we would make up our minds to be.  (uh, would anything I put in here make sense grammatically?)

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to celebrating my parents' anniversary (#27), tomorrow my plans include tackling the weekend crossword puzzle and Sunday, I want to try out my new up-converting DVD player (oh yeah, and get some reading in, too)!

Have a great weekend :D

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to the Classics Challenge


Yay, another new challenge for 2011!

Sarah @ Sarah Reads Too Much is hosting Back to the Classics Challenge running from January to June 2011.

Anyone may participate, even if you don't have a book blog, as Sarah has opened up a comments field.  You may choose the books to read at any time (pre-selected or spontaneous), but your goal is to read at least one each of:

1.  A Banned Book
2.  A Book with a Wartime Setting (can be any war)
3.  A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner Up: a list can be found here
4.  A Children's/Young Adult Classic
5.  19th Century Classic
6.  20th Century Classic
7.  A Book you think should be considered a 21st Century Classic
8.  Re-Read a book from your High School/College Classes

This sounds like an awesome challenge!  Hope you'll participate, too :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2011 Reading Challenge

Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

I've signed up for the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge, running from January 1-December 31, 2011.

This is the first time I'm participating in a reading challenge.  I've decided to plunge into a few for next year, but so far this is the only one open to start next year I'm interested in.  If you hear of any others taking place starting in January, leave a comment & link below.

The purpose of Outdo Yourself is to read more books in 2011 than you did in 2010.  There are 4 goal levels to choose from.  I've highlighted my current choice:

Getting my heart rate up – Read 1–5 more books
Out of breath – Read 6–10 more books
Breaking a sweat – Read 11–15 more books
I’m on fire! – Read 16+ more books

As you can see, I'm quite gung-ho about it!  I have TBR stacks to plow through (who doesn't?), but I like having a purpose and a set focus for what to read, so I'm hoping to participate in some challenges that will offer interesting themes.

Top Ten Tuesday


A weekly meme hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is:

Top 10 Villains, Criminals and Other Nasties

In no particular order...*spoilers may ensue*

1)  Pinkie Brown- Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
A despicable, sociopathic gangster wannabe with a cruel disposition towards everyone, especially women.

2)  Iago- Othello by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare created villains that still rub us the wrong way to this day.  You can't help but despise Iago for his fatal games of trickery and deceit.

3)  Mr. Hyde- Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The evil other half resulting from a botched scientific experiment.

4)  "Big" Jim Rennie- Under the Dome by Stephen King
This character proves how sleaze, greed, and power are a lethal combination.

5)  Regan & Gonneril- King Lear by William Shakespeare
Two oldest daughters of the tragic King Lear whose greed does them both in.

6)  Jack- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Another fatal misuse of power, this time by a child unwilling to be anything but the leader.

7)  George Harvey- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The creepy, murderous neighbour who continues to live as Susie watches from above.

8)  The Firm- The Firm by John Grisham
Cutthroat group of crooked lawyers take advantage of a young, impressionable man fresh out of law school.

9)  Mrs. Carmody- The Mist by Stephen King
What is even scarier about this character, aside from her extremist interpretation of the invasion and her decision to offer human sacrifices, is how many people came to believe in her.

10)  Nurse Ratched- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest- Ken Kesey
Her cold, rigid demeanor coupled with an unwillingness to budge an inch from her calculated procedures is a recipe for disaster in a mental institution.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Summer Quartet of Memoirs

Two summers ago, I was on a memoir/autobiography kick.  On a visit to my public library, I came away with 5 memoirs.  Here are the reviews:





Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1997
Length:  384 pages
ISBN:  9780553763348
Genre:  Autobiography

Start Date:  Summer 2009
Finished Date:  Summer 2009

Where Found:  Public library
Why Read:  I was on a memoir kick that summer and was interested in reading about the making of Rosemary’s Baby and her tangled relationship with Woody Allen. Her recent work (post-memoir) with UNICEF in Darfur is inspiring and I wanted to see the inspiration that came prior to her advocacy work.

Summary:  A gently but firmly written memoir by actress Mia Farrow about the influence of her famous parents, her marriages to Andre Previn, Frank Sinatra, and Woody Allen, her work on Rosemary’s Baby, 13 movies with Allen, her large adopted family, and the controversy surrounding Allen’s relationship with her adopted daughter.

Review:

Mia Farrow writes as she acts—she is like a willow wisp with a gentle, breezy voice that gives her license to play sweet, unassuming, sometimes shallow characters. I was not sure how I would find this memoir, but it surprised me.

What Falls Away reads naturally, smoothly, like a candid conversation with a new friend, without coming off as showy or whiny. She has fond memories while being unafraid of exploring her darkest moments with just as much candor, demonstrating fascinating hindsight on her childhood as the daughter of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan, experiences filming her most recognized movies, and a trilogy of polar opposite relationships with composer Andre Previn, legendary singer Frank Sinatra, and nebbish actor/director Woody Allen.

I try to measure how much impact a memoir can have for a reader who is not familiar with the author. In other words, is the memoir worth reading if you have no background knowledge of its subject? In this case, I would recommend reading the book even if you are unfamiliar with Mia Farrow; however, the book is likely more relatable to readers who are fans or have some idea of her public image.

Rank:  (B)- Very Good, Recommended (especially for fans)

 

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
 
Published:  2005
Length:  624 pages
ISBN:  9780375507106
Genre:  Autobiography

Start Date:  Summer 2009
Finished Date:  Summer 2009

Where Found:  Public library
Why Read:  Though I haven’t been a big follower of her movies, I heard she wrote her memoir with grace & humility, so on a memoir-reading kick, I picked this one up.

Summary:  Actress Jane Fonda’s look back at her childhood in Connecticut, her tumultuous relationship with her father, training at the Actors Studio, “Hanoi Jane” controversy, stellar film career, and advocacy.

Review:

Outspoken politically, socially, and cinematically, Jane Fonda is a figure of strength and feminism in Hollywood, a task that did not begin with her, but was all the better because of her.  She writes thoroughly, steadfastly, without apology, of her life chronologically, beginning with her charmed childhood as the daughter of actor Henry Fonda and tragic socialite Frances Brokaw whose suicide was kept secret from Jane and her brother Peter (also an actor) until it was discovered in a magazine.  An unfortunate struggle with self image fuelled by battles with bulimia and lack of emotional support from her father gave way to acting on stage and soon film.

Nearly every film she made from 1960-1989 is referenced, her most memorable given deserved attention, incuding the comic western Cat Ballou, bizarre Barbarella, noirish mystery Klute, homefront Vietnam War romantic protest Coming Home, brilliant Three Mile Island foreseer The China Syndrome, cutesy working woman comedy 9 to 5, and the Fonda family swan song On Golden Pond.  Enjoyable anecdotes are interwoven with personal journies and grievances, the most controversial being her infamous "Hanoi Jane" photos that led to accusations of unpatriotic treason.

A good autobiography represents the whole picture, warts and all.  Fonda does just that, absent from the sleazy tell-alls and empty-headed moneymakers that seem to crowd the biography shelves of bookstores.  One catch I did notice with My Life So Far is Fonda's unwillingness to take responsibility or blame for incidents in which it would have been simpler and perhaps more conclusive to do so instead of twisting the situation around to place it on others' shoulders.  But no bother--My Life So Far is one of the most insightful, thorough, and strongly written autobiographies I've read.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Recommend



Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
 Published:  1998
Length:  512 pages
ISBN:  9780786884377
Genre:  Autobiography

Start Date: Summer 2009
Finished Date:  Summer 2009

Where Found:  Public library
Why Read:  As a companion to My Life So Far by Jane Fonda; I was on a memoir kick that summer!

Summary:  Actor and countercultural icon Peter Fonda’s startlingly frank memoir about a near fatal childhood accident, an unfulfilled relationship with father Henry Fonda, the making of Easy Rider, and a number of eye-opening, LSD experiences that build awareness of addiction and detrimental effects of drug use.

Review:

Peter Fonda's autobiography is somewhat forgettable and not as well-written as sister Jane’s memoir, nor as plentiful in experiences to share, especially if you compare their careers.  He needed a more diligent editor—too many stories of drug-induced hallucinations and way too many longwinded pages about his boat.  These two subjects represent a large majority of the book.  He makes an underscored mention of Ulee’s Gold and unfortunately the book was published before the underrated brilliance of The Limey.

Rank:  (C)- Just Okay


Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
 
Published:  2005
Length:  272 pages
ISBN:  9780312337070
Genre:  Memoir
 
Start Date:  Summer 2009
Finished Date:  Summer 2009
 
Where Found:  Public library
Why Read:  I was mesmerized with Willy Wonka as a child and found Gene Wilder to be a hilarious talent in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but also somewhat of a mysterious person.
 
Summary:  A dry-witted, often hilarious, and deeply touching memoir by actor Gene Wilder that accounts for his ability to entertain from the time of his mother’s illness, his early stage work, collaborations with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, the iconic role of Willy Wonka, and his tender relationship with Gilda Radner.
 
Review:
 
I have never read a memoir as funny, tender, or beautifully written as Gene Wilder’s Kiss Me Like a Stranger.  He writes as mysteriously as he acts with self-depracating humour and a great appreciation for friendships acquired during his 30+ year career.  His beautiful relationship with Gilda Radner is portrayed with humility and humour.  A picture of them together towards the end of her life in the book was the sweetest, most touching display of love I've ever seen.  Simply put, you must read this book, even if you haven't a clue who Gene Wilder is.
 
Rank:  (A+)- Highly recommended for fans & for everyone

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Such a dull week...only worked a 1/2 day, was sick for about 4 days (I seem to be rejoining the land of the living now) and a funeral on the weekend (there was much consolation in that a long life was lived and bad health at the end was quick to end).  I'm hoping to have a brighter week ahead.

Currently Reading
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- I've heard that this is a speedy read.  841 pages...really?!?
Love, Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli--up to page 51--not too involved in it now; may return to it when I reach a slump.
My Life- Bill Clinton--up to page 244--too wrapped up in fiction to get back to this now...will return to it sometime, I promise!

Next to Read
The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver--I'm highly anticipating this one!  May have to dip into it, too...
Atonement- Ian McEwan--put this off too long...I blame temptation :D

Finished Reading This Week (1)
The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood

Reviews This Week (1)
The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood

What's New
~ Announced winner of 50th follower giveaway/challenge--Susan Coventry @ Reading World.

~ Added comments disclaimer--I still like getting comments on old posts, so feel free :)

~ I am accepting questions for an upcoming author interview with Susan Coventry, author of The Queen's Daughter.  Please post a comment here with what you'd like to ask, and I'll insert it in the interview Q&A.  Thanks :)


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Questions Welcomed for Author Interview


Have Your Say, Ask Away! 

The winner of my 50th follower giveaway, Susan Coventry @ Reading World and author of The Queen's Daughter has kindly agreed to participate in an author interview as part of her prize :)  I will be compiling questions over the next couple of weeks to e-mail her and once she responds, I'll post a Q&A-formatted post.

Here's where you come in.  Have you read The Queen's Daughter and have a lingering question?  Interested in the book and want to know more?  Would like some insight into the world of being a published author and book blogger?

Post your question for Susan in the comments field below & your question will be included in the Q&A with a link to your book blog (if applicable).

Thanks :)

The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1985
Length:  368 pages
ISBN:  0770428207
Genre:  Dystopian/Speculative

Start Date:  Nov. 8, 2010
Finished Date:  Nov. 14, 2010 (6 days--I was home sick most of this week & zipped through it!)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  I've always been interested in Margaret Atwood's books and (surprisingly) didn't have the opportunity to read her work in university (and I'm Canadian!).  I decided to start with The Handmaid's Tale, which seems to be her most beloved book (though Oryx and Crake is also highly recognized--I may read this next).

Review:

I have not read this kind of fiction in recent years.  To the extent that Atwood examines the potential for imminent disaster if certain "isms" continue to influence our society, I never have.  Previously, I would plead blissful ignorance to the horrific outcomes of a dystopian future.  I just don't wanna know.  That may not be too proactive of me, but like the child who covers his eyes to hide himself, I figure anything I can't imagine has a chance of not occuring.  Wrong.

Atwood is one of the most metaphorical writers I have had the pleasure of reading.  Michael Ondaatje is another, both Canadian (go figure).  The language of The Handmaid's Tale is breathtaking, malleable, yet steadfast in its often poetic analysis of a frightening evolution in our society.  Offred's voice is trusting, truthful, but ultimately doubtful as we witness the atrocities of the warped, once American, nation of Gilead under extremist rule by the wavering hand of the Commander and his band of Aunts who oversee the seclusion of fertile women known as Handmaids.  Dastardly fates are served to resistant, infertile, gay, and elderly men & women who are executed or sent to the Colonies for toxic waste cleanup.  The ruination of civil rights & government are due to a Presidential assassination and upheaval, and the mass elimination of all literary materials & cultural or religious practices deemed blasphemous is ordered, leading to the extermination or deportation of ethnic groups.

The novel's plot is designed as if in a spiral formation, beginning with an idea that is circled around with a different perspective with each go-around, the pace quickening with each curve.  Premonitions of paranoid surveillance, sociopolitical extremism, and religious evangelism are eerily accurate to trends that escalated from the time of the book's publication in 1985 and are just recently struggling to be curtailed.

As for the cover, it is such a powerful image and I feel it is the best representation of the book's message.  This is a book that every woman must read and everyone should read.  It is one of the most important books I've ever read.  I am looking forward to reading more of Atwood--it has been suggested on other book blogs that an Atwood "newbie" begin with The Handmaid's Tale and perhaps move on to Oryx and Crake.  I just may do that.  Anyone read Oryx and Crake, or any other Atwood books to recommend?  Of course, any comments on The Handmaid's Tale would be welcomed as well :)

Rank:  (A+)- A must-read!

50th Follower Giveaway/Challenge Winner!

Thank you for participating in my giveaway/challenge in celebration of reaching my 50th follower milestone.  I appreciate your interest and was pleased to read your responses to the challenging question I posed.




I am happy to announce the winner is Susan Coventry @ Reading World.  Congratulations!  Read her lovely response here.

Susan's blog button is now prominently displayed at right and we will arrange a guest post in the near future.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Award & Some Fun Book Cartoons


I received this beautiful award from Dizzy C @ her Little Book Blog.  Thank you :)

I've been warding off a cold for a few days and (as per my ongoing childhood tradition) have been watching cartoons, in recent years from my Looney Tunes Golden Collection box sets.  Gotta love 'em :D

I was reminded of two brilliant cartoon shorts that showcased a number of classic books:  "Book Revue" and "Have You Got Any Castles?"  Both shorts are in the LTGC Volume 2 on disc 4.  Both are on YouTube but this is the only one with a background commentary :D

Friday Memes


A weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy For Books.

This week's topic is from Christina @ All About YA Books:

If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title?

Great question!   Usually I do.  It's that type-A part of myself that needs to see things unfold from the very beginning.  I started the Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club books by James Patterson from #1 on.  The only series I didn't start from the beginning was The Babysitters Club.  When I was 7, I received a current book from it and that got me interested in reading them all (which I did!).  So, it goes to show that it's not necessary to start a series from book #1, but if I'm shopping for the series, I'll start with #1.



A weekly meme hosted by Janet @ Friday Fill-Ins.

My fill-ins are underlined; the rest are given:

1. When pigs fly I'll win the lottery :)

2. You expect me to take that seriously?!

3. Call me *call me any day or night, call me* (Blondie).

4. Nod if you know what I mean.  (How lame...sorry, I blanked on this one!)

5. The most entertaining person in my life is my dad because he is the best storyteller & joke-teller in the family.

*SPOILER*
6. Moira "escaped" Gilead, making me wonder who's next?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to seeing family, tomorrow my plans include sadly, a funeral and Sunday, I want to finish The Handmaid's Tale and watch Desperate Housewives!


50th Follower Giveaway!

Challenge/giveaway is open until tomorrow at 1 p.m. EST.  Click here for more details.

Have a great weekend everyone :)