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

Friday, December 23, 2011

Year-End Wrap Up Post: Best Of Lists, Challenges & Holiday Break

Please excuse the extra-long post but this is an exciting time of year and there's a lot to be shared about this first year (and a half) of book blogging!  I sure hope everyone else's year was as good for reading as mine was.  In a word: Wow!  In just 1 1/2 years of book blogging, the number of books I read (compared to last year, from what I can remember) has increased more than three-fold, and the quality of books read has been incredible, thanks to recommendations from book bloggers and from sucking it up and digging into some classics I would not likely have thought to try.

STATISTICS

Books Read:  56 (40 fiction, 16 nonfiction)
*For a complete list of books read in 2011, see Books Read by Year.
Pages Read:  21 097
Average Page Count:  366 (probably skewed due to the two 1000+ page whoppers in the list)
Shortest Book:  The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway (93 pages)
Longest Book:  The Stand- Stephen King (1141 pages)

*Note:  These are only for books that were reviewed in 2011:
A+ Books: 11
A Books:  26 (Very lucky)
B Books:  9
C Books:  4
D Books:  0 (Whew!)
DNFs:  4

Most Read Authors:  Stephen King (8), J.K. Rowling (7), John Irving (2)
Series Read:  Harry Potter (7), 1 each of Kinsey Millhone, Dark Tower, Hitchhikers, Chronicles of Narnia
New (to me) Authors:  Ian McEwan, Alexandre Dumas, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Khaled Hosseini, David Sedaris, Jeffrey Eugenides, Elie Wiesel, Ernest Hemingway, Daphne du Maurier, Bill Bryson, Frank McCourt, Michael Chabon



BEST OF THE YEAR

Most Surprising (in a good way)
Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
Going in, I thought this book would have aged terribly.  It definitely hasn't.  An amazing book.

Most Suspenseful
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas
Every chapter ended on a cliffhanger!

Funniest
The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams
Caution: Having a drink while reading this book risks having it spurt out your nose :D

Scariest
Various stories from Night Shift and Full Dark, No Stars, both by Stephen King
In short: rats, dead bodies coming to life, finding out your husband is a killer, slimy spiders, killer military toys, walking a 5-inch ledge on a skyscraper's top floor, quit smoking at the expense of your sanity, and mowing the lawn (yup, even that one's scary).

Brainiest
A Short Guide to Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson
The science class everyone should have been in.

Loveliest
Sense & Sensibility- Jane Austen
This story has stayed with me since I read it.  Beautiful, romantic, funny, what's not to love?

Nostalgic
Alice in Wonderland- Lewis Carroll
I saw the Disney movie countless times as a kid but never read the book.  It was a sweet and
funny read.

FAVOURITES

*Note:  It was impossible to narrow each category down to a single choice.  Forgive the cop-out :)

Favourite Characters:  Col. Brandon (Sense & Sensibility), Noirtier de Villefort (The Count of Monte Cristo), Prof. Snape (Harry Potter series, especially in The Deathly Hallows), Mick Kelly (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), Hassan (The Kite Runner), Dill (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Favourite Villains:  Zaphrod Beeblebrox (Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy), Annie Wilkes (Misery), Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix), Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray), Mrs. Danvers (Rebecca)

Favourite Series:  Harry Potter, of course!  I had a fantastic time reading the whole series (the last 4 books for the first time).

Favourite Quotations: 
"For you, a thousand times over" - Hassan, The Kite Runner
"To your sister I wish all imaginable happiness; to Willoughby that he may endeavour to deserve her" - Col. Brandon, Sense and Sensibility
"Curiouser and curiouser" - Alice, Alice in Wonderland
"Come back to me" - Celia, Atonement
"'Forty-two,'" said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm." - The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy



TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR

*Note:  These may include books written before (often long before) 2011.

10)  Bag of Bones- Stephen King
9)  The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams
8)  Night- Elie Wiesel
7)  The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini
6)  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas- John Boyne
5)  To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee (this was a re-read but I can't exclude it from the list)
4)  Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
3)  The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas
2)  Sense & Sensibility- Jane Austen
...*drumroll please*...
1)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- J.K. Rowling



LESSONS LEARNED

Always pack a towel--it will become very useful (The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy)
Don't trust a cat with green eyes (Pet Sematary)
Teach recipes in English class (Teacher Man)
A dead dog and a tuba will fit snugly but perfectly in the trunk of a car (Wonder Boys)
*Note:  I sure hope I never have to apply this lesson in my life.
Trust the memory of an elephant (Water For Elephants)
Watch your step lest you tumble down a rabbit hole...then again, go ahead (Alice in Wonderland)


CHALLENGES WRAP-UP
*Special thanks to the hosts:  Sarah, Beth, Katy, Book Vixen & Carolyn :)

This is my first time participating in challenges and I managed to finish all 5 I signed up for.  I found by taking it easy with the number I signed up for (and believe me, it was hard to resist signing up for many, many more!), I could manage them and not feel like every book I read had to apply to one of them.  That right mix of flexibility and structure was just what I needed.

I read 26 books for 4 challenges with specific categories, and of course, all books counted towards the Outdo Yourself challenge.  For a complete list of books read for these challenges, visit my Challenges Checklist.

Back to the Classics
Wow, this was a very successful challenge!  After a couple of false starts on original book choices, I settled in and was not disappointed by any on this list.  I've already signed up for the encore challenge in 2012.
Favourite Book:  How do you choose between the A+s in this list?!

What's in a Name 4
A unique challenge that made me think outside the box to fit the title to the category.  I've already signed up for What's in a Name 5. 
Favourite Book:  A tough choice but I'd have to go with Fahrenheit 451.  It was very ahead
of its time and is important for everyone to read about the scary potential of losing the power and impact of the written word.

1st in a Series (level: Series Lover, 6 books)
This got me to read the entire Harry Potter series and get a jumpstart on The Chronicles of Narnia.  How could I lose? 
Favourite Book:  Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone, an infectious start to a wonderful
series.

Stephen King (level: 6 books, plus 2 more)
Being a huge SK fan since I was a teenager, this was impossible to resist.  I read mostly older books of his with just one new one (I'll get to 11/22/63 next year).
Favourite Book:  Definitely Bag of Bones.  It was unlike any other Stephen King book I've read, surprised me in so many ways and not since The Mist have I read an SK book that stays with me long after reading it.

Outdo Yourself  (level:  I'm on Fire, 16+ more books)
I actually read 36 more books than last year!  My numbers from last year aren't exact, but from memory, I counted 17 books, and this year I read 53.  Yowzah! :D



I'm looking forward to seeing how you all did this year and your reading plans for 2012.  Have a wonderful holiday, enjoy yourself, and keep safe and warm, if you get any snow...remember snow?  It's that white fluff that usually falls sometime in December.  Yeah, I'm starting to forget what it looks like, too, and I live in Canada :D

I will be taking a break from book blogging to relax and enjoy the holidays from now until January 9th.  I may pop on occasionally but won't be doing reviews or memes until then.  I'll return with a book loot post should Santa leave any books under the tree ;)

All the best for a happy holiday and New Year!

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History- John Ortved

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  2009
Pages:  332
ISBN:  9781553657965
Genre:  Nonfiction, TV history/criticism

Started:  Dec. 9, 2011
Finished:  Dec. 13, 2011 (4 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  I'm a Simpsons aficionado and love the cultural history books on the show.

Summary:  A compilation of interviews and author commentary on the development of The Simpsons and its behind-the-scenes dramas.

Review:

John Ortved obviously has a passion for The Simpsons and for clarifying misguided lore of its ludicrous media coverage, both before and during the advent of the Internet. Ortved provides an "oral" history of sorts by cleverly editing quotations from prior magazine, TV and radio bits with the three wise men of the show's creation: Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon, and snippets from his own interviews, mostly with staff readers likely won't recognize by name, let alone place in the show's history, and very few heavyweights.  With that impression, you should know that this book is definitely not for casual viewers or readers.

Some chapters were worthwhile and would have been even better if they had been expanded to supercede the more gossipy, less focussed chapters with he said/she said speculations that start becoming redundant.  The chapters most worthwhile were on the writers, the guest voices, and the process of writing funny gags and clever or touching stories with the right dash of cultural reference and satirical irony. 

Conan O'Brien provides hilarious anecdotes of his time (post-Saturday Night Live, pre-late night talk shows) as a Simpsons writer--he is responsible, along with writer George Meyer, for the funniest episodes in the show's history, and Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane graciously acknowledges the Simpsons' influence on his show's success.  Ortved also breaks mythological barriers surrounding stories of Groening being the sole creator and mastermind behind the show--his legendary Midas touch is not without the influence of producers Brooks and Simon, both of whom had prior success jumpstarting Taxi and The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Conflicts over money and shareholder rights leave you feeling like not all is well in Springfield when everyone's hands dive into the money pit for their fair share of the show's success and the bottom tier of animators, colourists, and other contributors receive less adequate compensation than network executives.

Ortved references my favourite book on The Simpsons, Chris Turner's exhaustive but fantastic Planet Simpsons, which is more in-depth on the show's significance in pop culture, seasonal trends, individual episodes, quotations, and even gag descriptions, most of the above being fan favourites, and characters ranging from the recognizable Simpsons clan to the more anonymous Comic Book Guy, Bumblebee Man and Squeaky-Voiced Teen.  However, long-time fans of The Simpsons will probably be as powerless to resist this book as Homer is to a sprinkle-covered donut.

Rank:  (B)- Good, Maybe Read It

It- Stephen King

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1980
Pages:  1090
ISBN:  9780451169518
Genre:  Horror

Started:  Nov. 13, 2011
Finished:  Nov. 30, 2011 (18 days)

Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  Was recommended from several book bloggers

Summary:  A group of 7 childhood friends come together again as adults in their haunted hometown of Derry, Maine to ward off a shapeshifting demon who has terrorized and killed over generations and was thought to have been vanguished but has returned after remaining silent for 25 years.

Review:

I was surprised to find that this novel is nearly as long as Stephen King's most massive undertakings, The Stand and Under the Dome yet in relatively the same number of pages, he weaves a story more focused on the gang of seven and less varied than the other massive doorstop novels with casts of characters bigger than a Kennedy family reunion.

Without the undertones of supernatural phenomena, It reads like a serial killer novel, but definitely not a typical one.  The seven childhood friends all grow up to have successful jobs but each have a troubling personal problem that has lingered with them for most of their lives, from stuttering to psychosomatic disorder, to sexual abuse, and in a terrifying cycle, all are bound to relive the hauntings of their childhood at the hands of an otherworldly creature they thought they had vanquished.

Stan and Mike were my favourite characters: both awkward, shy, introverted outsiders to the gang of seven, yet vital to the story's progression, and the only two of the gang to have the strongest memories of their childhood encounters with It. 

The ending comes off like a fairy tale (a bit dopey but it made me smile) and you come away thinking that things are bound to cycle back around again.  It is a worthwhile read with an exciting and layered story.  At least one character should remind you of someone you know from childhood--King has a penchant for writing diverse child characters so accurately.  It didn't wow me as much as my follow-up read, Bag of Bones, but was a solid investment.

Rank:  (A)- Very Enjoyable, Highly Recommend

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bag of Bones- Stephen King

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters


Published:  1998 (original version; I read the 10th anniversary edition)
Pages:  548
ISBN:  9781439106211
Genre:  Mystery/Horror

Started:  Dec. 1, 2011
Finished:  Dec. 9, 2011 (9 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  It's no secret that I love Stephen King books.  This one was recommended by Two Bibliomaniacs.  Thanks :)

Summary:  A writer whose wife died suddenly 4 years ago returns to their summer retreat, Sara Laughs, where he encounters supernatural phenomena coinciding with the custodial struggle of a young mother with a precocious 3-year-old against the wealthy psychotic father of her dead husband.

Review:

If Daphne du Maurier and Ray Bradbury had a child who wrote a book, would your first guess to his/her identity be Stephen King?  Me neither.

King enters vaguely familiar territory without veering too far from his background in horror fiction with the shocking backstory that is slowly unveiled as writer Mike Noonan (in a thinly disguised likeness of the author) tries to resolve a three-fold mystery: the bizarre nature of his wife's sudden, tragic death; the cause and source of eerie ghost-like behaviour in the house: a bell that rings on its own, refrigerator letter magnets that spell cryptic messages, thumping that responds to yes/no questions, and deathly screams he recognizes as those of his wife's, and the crotchety multi-millionnaire along with his skeletal crone of a constant companion seeking to ruin his widowed daughter-in-law through any means necessary to fight custody of his 3-year-old granddaughter who quickly forms a significant bond with Mike.  Whew...

It takes time for the ball to get rolling and even then the writing is so absorbing that you don't tire of it at all, but in no time, it all comes barreling down the hill.  Like a typically clever mystery, your suspicions are many, but your accuracies are few.  When du Maurier rests and Bradbury reigns over King's brilliant duality of style, the mystery once a tough coconut to crack gets to the centre core and the result is certainly sweet...and a tad bitter.

No Stephen King fan should ignore this book and any dissuaders of his should take notice: I've never been more confident in reviewing a Stephen king book (and I've reviewed 16 of them), and neither should you in reading it.

Rank:  (A+)- One of His Best, Must-Read

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday- Holiday Book Wish List



A weekly meme hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish.

I haven't participated in this meme in some time but this week's topic is irresistible :)

1)  11/22/63- Stephen King
His latest is getting lots of great reviews.  Time travel, alternative history...juicy.

2)  Seriously...I'm Kidding- Ellen DeGeneres
If it's anything like Ellen's show, this should be a cozy barrel of laughs :)

3)  Are You There, God?  It's Me, Margaret- Judy Blume
A children's classic I've never read.  I've got to see what all the fuss is about.

4)  Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck
I've never read anything by John Steinbeck and I'm determined to get a move on.

5)  Karlology- Karl Pilkington
I love The Ricky Gervais Show and Karl's naive, all-too-serious quips are priceless.

6)  Sense & Sensibility- Jane Austen
Sad fact:  I have a copy of this book already (and it's a good, pocket-sized edition) but I have cover envy.  I love the Penguin classics hardcover edition.  And I have the same type of edition of Emma, Lady Chatterley's Lover, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and a similar one of Pride & Prejudice.  And it's preeeetttyyy...

7)  Last Night in Twisted River- John Irving
I've read 3 Irving books and can't get enough.  It's been some time since I've read something of his and have had all good things about his latest.

8)  Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland- Gerald Clarke
This biography is supposedly being adapted into a biopic with Anne Hathaway.  I love the TV-movie with Judy Davis and Garland's life with all its ups and downs was fascinating.

9)  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou
A classic I've been meaning to read for some time.

10)  Contact- Carl Sagan
I need more science fiction (or maybe it should be called science almost-fact, given the accuracies of so many classic books in this genre).  The movie was quite underrated, probably because of silly controversy over the subject matter.

Hope Santa is good to you.  If you've been naughty, you'll get the most boring, long-winded, stream-of-consciousness book with unrelatable characters, no discernible plot, no quotation marks to indicate dialogue, and will be full of typos.  Or Twilight.  Whichever is worse :)  (No offense to visitors who like Twilight--it was the easiest title to poke fun at).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Some Favourite Holiday Movies

Die Hard
You might be scratching your head over this one, but it is set during Xmas and while it's the most unconventional holiday movie on my watch list, it's a great way to start the season off with a bang.  Yipee-kay-yay...

Edward Scissorhands
While not primarily an Xmas movie, the scene of carving the ice angel is the most beautiful holiday image that comes to mind.

Babe
A sweet holiday-ish movie about an unusual bond that makes you feel very warm in the harsh winter season.

The Family Stone
A more recent addition to my holiday movie viewings.  A touching and hilarious family ensemble movie with the tanglings of holiday preparations, feuds and personality clashes.  Fun!

Meet Me in St. Louis
The source of the beautiful song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  Its pastel colours, musical numbers, and the wicked charm of Margaret O'Brien are irresistible.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Ageless, timeless, Dr. Seussiness :)

It's a Wonderful Life
What other movie helps you appreciate the little things in life?  Harry's toast near the end always gets me reaching for the tissues.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
This has been part of an Xmas Eve tradition for the last 15 years or so in my family.  Hilarity is guaranteed to ensue :D

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

This will be my last Monday meme check-in until after the holidays.  I'll get a year-end post up on Friday.  Can you believe...less than a week until Xmas?

Read This Week:  (1)
The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History- John Ortved
A decent critical history of my favourite TV series.  Review coming soon.

Currently Reading:  (3)
Emma- Jane Austen
I'm about halfway through.  It's a fun romp, though I still love Sense & Sensibility best and liked Pride & Prejudice better.

U2 by U2- U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.)
My Life- Bill Clinton

Reviews This Week:  (3)
I got caught up a bit on backlog reviews:
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas (A+)
The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway (A)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers (A)

Two more coming this week:  It and Bag of Bones, both by Stephen King.

Next to Read:
This depends on when I finish Emma.  If I finish it after Jan. 1, I can start a challenge book and I think I'll begin with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  If I happen to finish it before Jan. 1, I'll probably try reading a chunk from my U2 and Bill Clinton books.  Yikes, they're collecting dust!  It's not that I don't enjoy them, but sometimes I just need a break from nonfiction and find escape in a novel.

Have a great reading week :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1940
Pages:  359
ISBN:  9780618526413
Genre:  Modern Classics

Started:  Oct. 29, 2011
Finished:  Nov. 13, 2011  (16 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  On my TBR list

Summary:  Set in the small-town American South during the Depression, a lonely deaf-mute man named John Singer stays at a boarding house where his encounters with a whip-smart tomboy, a sickly black physician and his estranged children, a widowed restaurant owner and a drunken intellect lead to unforeseen changes influenced by his penchant for listening.

Review:

Like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, childhood and coming-of-age in the Depression-era American South is fently rendered in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter through 12-year-old Mick Kelly, an awkward, lanky young girl who you simply ache for as she seeks the Keatsian truth and beauty of the world while stuck in a poor, small town with troubles of its own.

If Mick is the mind of this novel, John Singer is the heart.  A lonely deaf mute separated from his only friend by circumstance, he becomes the go-to listener of the town, unintentionally and even sometimes regretfully as his own problems are never brought to bear (not that anyone offers the same comfort he provides in return) as no one seems to know how to listen to him or, sadly, even tries to.

I saw the movie before reading the book and although it was touching, very well acted by Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke, the book has layers of character development, both painful and wonderful, not seen in the movie.  On the other hand, the relationship between Mick and John Singer is given a strength and depth in the movie that fails to launch in the book.  Their friendship via her love of music and her determination for him to experience it in his own way is a determining factor in the movie's development but is mostly left undescribed and imagined in the book. 

I would recommend the movie as a companion to the book.  I'm not sure how I would have taken the movie if I had read the book first but I'm glad I came away from both feeling fulfilled by its story and its harsh, emotional edge.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Old Man & the Sea- Ernest Hemingway

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1952
Pages:  93
ISBN:  0684830493
Genre:  Modern Classics

Started:  Oct. 28, 2011
Finished:  Oct. 28, 2011 (>1 day)

Where Found:  Book Depot
Why Read:  On my TBR list
Read For:  Back to the Classics challenge (8/8)

Summary:  A poor, frail fisherman in the Cuban Gulf seeks one last big catch in a solo expedition without his young companion.

Review:

Apparently this book, even at a slim 93 pages (in my Scribner Classics hardcover edition with gorgeous illustrations) has bored many readers to tears and turned them off other Ernest Hemingway books, because it's...get this...about a fish.  Well, yes, it is, but you don't really believe that even a heavyweight like Hemingway could draw much depth from just a fish, do you?

I read it in one sitting, which is unusual for me, but was part of a rare literary experience--that a book I didn't expect to like because of so many others' misgivings turned out to be a bright although tiny gem of a book.

Hemingway contrasts age, infirmity, and desire through the unusual friendship between the old fisherman and the young boy--one having the wisdom of life experience, the other with the energy, fearlessness, and youthful exuberance to rekindle feelings of optimism and love in his old friend.  And the fish is not merely a fish, but represents the essence of the fisherman's passion.  But this is the obvious connection that is as clear as a fairy tale moral.  What is tougher to grasp is why the fisherman insists on striving for the seemingly impossible: catching a super-sized fish without his young friend.

**Minor spoiler**
Why doesn't he simply let the fish go?  My impression is that he can only do what he has always loved and risk everything to accomplish this feat, or he would die miserably, wondering what could have been.  It's not an easy concept for anyone to understand but if you can at least sympathize with his plight for strength to succeed in what every caper movie I've seen would call "one last score" before retiring for good.

As much as many others have struggled to stay patient with this story and not feel bogged down by the irony of its heft for such a slim volume of work, complaints about the book seem hyperbolized to me.  For someone who has never fished and has no interest or skill in it, the story spoke to me through its treatment of powerful, familiar themes and metaphors of life and death that are simple, straightforward, but not as obvious as they seem on the surface.  Hemingway stays away from the repetition and monotony that makes some literary fiction seem to scream "This is the point!  Get it?" on every page.  The beauty of the story is in its subtlety that reads like a fable.  I encourage you to set aside what you've heard about it and read it for yourself.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1844
Pages:  396
ISBN:  9780140373530
Genre:  Classics

Started:  Oct. 23, 2011
Finished:  Oct. 28, 2011 (6 days)

Where Found:  Book Depot
Why Read:  On my TBR list

Summary:  Years after being wrongfully imprisoned, Edmond Dantes seeks the truth behind his arrest, justice served to those who wronged him, riches for the friends who stood by him, and to reunite with his beloved Mercedes.

Review:

Quite simply, I loved this book.  Though introduced in my favourite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, as being "about a prison break," it was about so much more with beautifully interwoven themes of revenge, the longevity of love and friendship, loyalty, and the fact that there is no statute of limitations on seeking justice.  The characters were richly developed and all played a significant part in the story.  Unexpected changes came with nearly every chapter after the initial conflict begins.  Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, owing to the fact that the book was originally printed in serial form, the earliest form of the suspense thriller, but is much smarter than the average book in this more contemporary genre.

Along with the books of Jane Austen, this is the perfect introduction to classic literature for young adults. I pictured myself reading and teaching this book to middle or high school students, and just maybe one of them might say, "Oh, this is what they're trying to say? Why can't Shakespeare and all those other old writers write it that way?"

If you're reluctant to read classics or if you love them, you can't do much better than this.  It's a ride without brakes.

Please note:  I didn't realize this was an abridged edition until I started the book, and as much as I loved it, I'm wondering if anyone knows what was edited or changed?  It did seem like some language was modernized and I've read that the page conut is pared down, but I sure hope the original story wasn't mangled in the process!  Otherwise, what edition would you recommend?

P.S.  I'm envious of this Barnes & Noble cover.  Aren't their leather-bound books gorgeous?





Rank:  (A+)- Amazing, Must Read!

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

Our neighbourhood's hydro is being shut down for a few hours, so I have to get this up quickly :D   Can you believe, less than 2 weeks until Xmas?  I've nearly finished my shopping.  Next up: baking.  And I'm playing the newest Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Swod, on the Wii--incredible animation with lots of fun bits from older games.  Ah, nostalgia :D

Read This Week:  (1)
Bag of Bones- Stephen King--Wow, this was a change of pace for SK and I really enjoyed it!  A mini-series with Pierce Brosnan aired last night on A&E (Part 2 is on tonight) but I didn't really get into it.

Currently Reading:  (3)
The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History- John Ortved--Almost finished.  It's interesting...most of the time.  It's not for everyone and certainly not casual reading, but it was worthwhile for me.

These two are on the back burner for now:
U2 by U2- U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.)
My Life- Bill Clinton

Reviews:
I'm behind by 5 now.  Writing reviews seemed like a chore but by putting them off so long, I get back in the mood to write them.  I'll fire some off this week.  Titles to look for:
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas (A+)
The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway (A)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers (A)
It- Stephen King (A)
Bag of Bones- Stephen King (A+)

Next to Read:
Emma by Jane Austen.  I'm in an Austen mood for the pre-holidays :)


Have a great week of reading :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November Wrap-Up & Year-to-Date

*It's beginning to look a lot like...you know*

Read This Month:  (2)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers
It- Stephen King (just finished it last night...almost 1100 pages, whew!)

Currently Reading:  (3)
Bag of Bones- Stephen King--starting this today; I must be on a King fix!
U2 by U2- U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.)--set aside for now; will return to it
My Life- Bill Clinton--will eventually return to

Reviews This Month:  (2)
An Exaltation of Larks- James Lipton (A)
The Stand- Stephen King (A)

Other Bookish Things:
I made plans for these 2012 challenges:
Mixing It Up
What's in a Name 5
New Authors
Outdo Yourself
Back to the Classics

Year-to-Date:  (51)  (actually 53, but some reviews are backlogged...again)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Stand- Stephen King


Purchase: Amazon | Chapters

Published: 1978 (the complete & uncut edition which I read was published in 1990)
Pages: 1141
ISBN: 9780451169532
Genre: Horror/Fantasy/Science Fiction

Start Date:  Oct. 6, 2011
Finished Date:  Oct. 19, 2011 (14 days)

Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: For the SK Challenge but also because it's one of SK's most beloved books and I'd never (*gasp*) read it!
Read For:   Stephen King Challenge (6/6)

Summary:  After an apocalyptic virus wipes out most of the world's population, a scattering of survivors, including a quiet Texan, a pregnant college student, a nerdy teenager, a one-hit singer, and a deaf-mute,  who all have dreams involving an evil Dark Man and a prophetic woman, form a progressive group to rebuild some form of society and order.

Review:

Finally...I read the book deemed to be Stephen King's magnum opus.  Like his similarly plotted but more contemporary Under the Dome, it's a massive, complex undertaking but the 1100+ pages fly by in waves, and I finished it in no time.
Stephen King fans will recognize a number of motifs: dreams, premonitions, hidden motives, shadows eclipsing seemingly decent people with the mask of an evil presence.  Oh and there's cultural references, too, with song lyrics cropping up in an epitaph for each of the book's three parts.  I dig King's taste in rock and roll music :)

The plot is impossible to explain without spoilers, so instead I'll make a short list of thoughts.  I will try to be discrete with spoilers but please note the *SPOILER ALERT*:

  • Nick was by far my favourite character.  I love unlikely heroes and how they deal with being thrust into a role they didn't foresee or even want.  His friendship with Tom brought out his best qualities as a sympathetic person.  I thought his death was a bit cheap and written off too quickly, but his ethereal presence later on in Tom's mind made up for it.
  • I wasn't that taken with Larry, though many readers like him.  He didn't have very much going for him in the way of a personality.  His relationship with Rita dragged on and it could have been better if it was Nadine he met from the start (which I read was how the movie showed it).
  • The twist near the end with the Trashcan Man was fantastic!  His role in the book puzzled me for some time, but never failed to fascinate and then it becomes clear.
  • Nadine and Julie were just creepy.  They almost made Randall Flagg sympathetic.
  • I liked the idea that not all survivors had good intentions (how boring would it have been otherwise?).
  • A lingering question remains with me...What is the condition of other countries post-virus?  There are speculations about Europe, China and India (if I recall correctly) and there is a suggestion that Canada is in better shape than the U.S. (I think someone wanted to head that way), but the rest of the world's status is unknown.
I haven't seen the 1994 TV miniseries with Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Ray Walston, Rob Lowe, and Laura San Giacomo.  Supposedly, there is also a movie remake in the works to be directed by Ben Affleck.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More Challenges...Up to 5 Now

I'm signing up for three more challenges.  2012 is looking better & better :)  Click on the challenge name for the sign-up page.



The Mixing It Up Challenge is being hosted by Ellie @ Musings of a Bookshop Girl.

I love the variety of genres being offered up!  It's great to tiptoe out of your comfort zone every now & then.  I'm going to be quite audacious & aim to complete all 16 categories!  This will also contribute 12 (!) new authors to the New Authors challenge (see below).  My intended reads are:

Classics:  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (cross-over with Back to the Classics challenge)
Biography: A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn
Cookery, Food & Wine: Shameless Explotations in Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul Newman & A.E. Hotchner--to clarify, this book is about Newman's Own salad dressing :)
History: Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy
Modern Fiction: The Girl Who Played With Fire (Millennium series, #2) by Stieg Larsson
Graphic Novels/Manga: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Crime/Mystery: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (cross-over with Back to the Classics challenge)
Horror: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Romance: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence (cross-over with Back to the Classics challenge)
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
Travel: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (cross-over with Back to the Classics challenge)
Poetry: The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Journalism/Humour: Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
Science/Natural History: On the Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin (cross-over with What's in a Name 5 challenge)
Children/YA: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (cross-over with What's in a Name 5 challenge)
Social Sciences/Philosophy: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins





Yay!  I'm glad to be participating in this unique challenge again this year.  There are 6 categories to complete.  Here are my intended book choices (the connection to the category is underlined):

Topographical Feature:  A Tale of Two Cities- Charles Dickens
Something in the Sky:  Cloud Atlas- David Mitchell
Creepy Crawly:  On the Origin of the Species- Charles Darwin (cross-over with Mixing It Up challenge)
Type of House:  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium series, #3)- Stieg Larsson (cross-over with Mixing It Up)
Something Carried in a Pocket, Purse or Backpack:  Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson (cross-over with Mixing It Up challenge)
Something on the Calendar:  11/22/63- Stephen King





These can be authors new just to you, not new as in debuting their first novel this year.  With the books I'm planning to read for my other challenges, I will encounter 18 new authors (so far):

Willa Cather, Charlotte Bronte, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Conan Doyle, D.H. Lawrence, Jonathan Swift, Bernhard Schlink, E. Annie Proulx, Goldie Hawn, Paul Newman (with A.E. Hotchner--OI counted this as one), John F. Kennedy, Neil Gaiman, Ellen DeGeneres, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens (I know, I know...), and David Mitchell.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

I skipped last week's meme post as nothing had changed.  I had more progress over the weekend, finishing the book I've been on for about two weeks, and acquired some early bookish Xmas goodies :)



On Friday, the final Harry Potter movie was released on DVD/BluRay and all 8 movies were packaged in a box set. There were only 2 box sets (!) left on the shelf at Future Shop and one is now mine :) I've now seen all 8 movies and they were fantastic (didn't doubt it from the start). If I had to choose, I think Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix were the strongest movies. I loved how the film tweaked Lupin and Snape's role in PoA and Imelda Staunton was the perfect Dolores Umbridge. Oooh...she was nasty :D  Unfortunately, this set doesn't have many bonus features but no big deal.


I also (finally) found a copy of It by Stephen King, which I'm starting today.  All I know is it involves a freakish clown :D  And I picked up book #3 of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (still need to read book #2), and The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler as I appear to have misplaced my original copy.

And lastly, I got two DVDs: 

Sense & Sensibility
Emma Thompson's adaptation of Jane Austen's novel was bright and refreshing, making the relationships between characters stronger than I felt the novel lead on. 

What's Up Doc?
A hilarious modernized (for the time) screwball comedy.






P.S.  I forgot to mention that I also snagged a 10th anniversary edition copy of Bag of Bones by Stephen King.  The cover is different than this one.


Read This Week:  (1)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers
This was a heartbreaking but beautiful book.  It reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird with its depiction of coming of age in the South during the Depression.  Review coming soon.

Currently Reading:  (3)
It- Stephen King
I'm going to start this today.  I've been meaning to read this for a long time!

U2 by U2- U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.)
My Life- Bill Clinton

Reviews This Week:  (1)
An Exaltation of Larks- James Lipton

Next to Read:
My options are wide open :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bookish Fun

I found these two Q&As while blog hopping today and had to participate.


Jillian @ Random Ramblings posted this Character Tag.  Here's my take on it:


1. Which character would you throw out the window?
Willoughby from Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen.  Arrgghh...he was annoying!


2. Which character would be your best friend?
Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  She's always been my favourite character.


3. If you could make a character come to life, who would it be?
So many options!  I would probably choose prot from K-PAX by Gene Brewer.  He could potentially solve a lot of the world's problems.


4. What traits do you look for in a character?
In a hero, obviously bravery, tenacity, but also a feeling of self-doubt and uncertainty that adds to the story's conflict.  In a villain, assuredness, confidence, and a wicked sense of humour.


5. What would you change in your favorite character?
I think in order to truly love a character, you accept him/her as is, so I wouldn't change a thing :)


6. Favorite male/female character?
Tough one!  When push comes to shove, I would say Anne Shirley and Col. Brandon (from Sense & Sensibility).


7. What two characters from different books would you put together?
Hmmm....this one is stumping me.


8. Favorite book couple?
Anne & Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables; Henry & Claire from The Time Traveler's Wife


9. Cutest character?
I love the conversations between Scout, Jem & Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  It definitely brings out nostalgic feelings :)




Dizzy @ DizzyC's Little Book Blog posted about a 30-day book talk.  I'm taking a shortcut as I won't have time to participate in the long term but here's what I came up with for the topics:


The best book you read last year
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I was lucky enough to read several "A+" books last year.


A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
The Firm by John Grisham.  Probably about 5 times :)


Your favorite series
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.


Favorite book of your favorite series
#7- The Deathly Hallows.  It makes everything come together so clearly.

A book that makes you happy
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen.  *Ahhh* :)


A book that makes you sad
The Green Mile by Stephen King.  Despite being sad, it's one of my all-time favourite books.


Most underrated book
K-PAX by Gene Brewer.  Not enough people have read it.  Amazing!


Most overrated book
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.  Sorry, not for me.


A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
I was skeptical about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and put it off for way too long.  This was snorting milk out the nose funny :D


Favorite classic book
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Very few books are this perfect.


A book you hated
I've written about this enough times but Jonathan Franzen doesn't cut it for me.  Freedom and The Corrections.  Ugh...


A book you used to love but don’t anymore
I'm not sure about this one as I haven't re-read old favourites in a while.  If I had to guess, I think The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger would probably be lukewarm on a second read.


Your favorite writer
In terms of the number of books I've read and liked by him, probably Stephen King.


Favorite book of your favorite writer
The Green Mile with Different Seasons a very close second.


Favorite male character
Col. Brandon from Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen.  He's gentlemanly, thoughtful, generous, and unwavering in spite of other people's feelings about him.


Favorite female character
Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  She`s spunky, romantic, passionate, and literary.


Favorite quote(s) from your favorite book(s)
One of my favourites (I may be paraphrasing) is "'What is the purpose of books,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversations?'" from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.


A book that disappointed you
I was really hoping to like Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut but I couldn't get into it.


Favorite book turned into a movie
It was actually a short story but my favourite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, was in Different Seasons by Stephen King.


Favorite romance book
I only like literary romances like by Jane Austen.  I'm not much for Danielle Steel or novels categorized as romances in bookstores.  With that being said, I would go with Sense & Sensibility.


Favorite book from your childhood
I gobbled up every single Babysitters Club book ever printed :D


Favorite book you own
I own a copy of all my favourites.


A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Too many!  I'm planning to (finally) read Jane Eyre for next year's Back to the Classics challenge.


A book that you wish more people would’ve read
I don't think enough people read books.  Period.  Read anything!


A character who you can relate to the most
I definitely related to Hermione Granger in Harry Potter with her booksmarts and being very studious :)


A book that changed your opinion about something
I can't say for sure that this has happened to me.  I think reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury made me realize just how important it is to protect and cherish the written word.


The most surprising plot twist or ending
Without spoiling anything, I loved how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finished up, especially with Snape :)

Favorite title(s)
I have a top 25 favourite books list.


A book everyone hated but you liked
I don't think everyone necessarily hated it, but I actually liked The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, while most people seemed to find it boring.


Your favorite book of all time
Has to be Anne of Green Gables :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Exaltation of Larks- James Lipton

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1991 (3rd edition)
Pages:  324
ISBN:  0140170960
Genre:  Literary Reference

Started:  Sept. 29, 2011
Finished:  Oct. 6, 2011 (8 days)

Where Found:  Book Depot
Why Read:  I knew that James Lipton had written this book but I thought it was a novel.  When I found the book and skimmed through it, it turned out to be a unique piece of literary reference!

Summary:  The history of venery, a linguistic term referring to collective nouns, is rendered in this handy reference book that traces the origins of centuries-old terms and reflects on more contemporary, unofficial examples.

Review:

First things first: James Lipton is great at writing introductions.  I've read two of his books and they both have intriguing prologues that open up a Pandora's box of fascination with academic integrity and a string of analogies that make clear the intent and heart of the project he undertakes.  An Exaltation of Larks appears on the surface to be a dictionary but it's a very satisfying experience to read chronologically. 

Lipton uses sophisticated vocabulary and his trademark dry wit in publishing nearly exhaustive research supplemented by resources hundreds of years old in a glorified reference book that traces the linguistic history of collective terms from the most common (e.g. a pride of lions) to the lesser known (e.g. a rascal of boys) to the creative puns thought up by academic contemporaries (e.g. under the category of academe: a dilation of pupils!).

The book is a handy reference for teachers and makes for a good icebreaker.  The gorgeous illustrations, designed by Lipton's wife Kedakai, are included on nearly every page and provide further insight into the origins of the terms.  This is one unique book.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Friday, November 4, 2011

Back to the Classics for 2012!

I'm officially signing up today.  You can too @ Sarah Reads Too Much and get all the details there.  Thanks to Sarah for hosting again :)

As for my reading selections, I'm very excited about my choices for the upcoming year.  This may change, but for now, this is what I intend to read:

19th Century Classic:
Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte

20th Century Classic:
My Antonia- Willa Cather

Classic Re-Read:
Pride & Prejudice- Jane Austen

Classic Play:
Pygmalion- George Bernard Shaw

Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction:
The Hound of the Baskervilles- Arthur Conan Doyle

Classic Romance:
Lady Chatterley's Lover- D.H. Lawrence

Classic in Translation: 
The Reader- Bernhard Schlink (Swiss)

Classic Award Winner:
The Shipping News- E. Annie Proulx (Pulitzer Prize)

Classic in a Country I'll Never See:
Gulliver's Travels- Jonathan Swift (Liliput)

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Wrap-Up & Year-to-Date

Read This Month:  (5)
Teacher Man- Frank McCourt
(reviews coming soon for these)
An Exaltation of Larks- James Lipton
The Stand- Stephen King
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas
The Old Man & the Sea- Ernest Hemingway

...and 4 DNFS!

Other Reviews This Month:  (4)
Night- Elie Wiesel (A+)
Sense & Sensibility- Jane Austen (A) (I also saw the movie--fantastic!)
Paul Simon: A Life- Marc Eliot (B)
Pet Sematary- Stephen King (A)

Year-to-Date:  (49)

P.S.  I forgot to list the reviews I did in September, so that's been edited on the September wrap-up post :)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.


Happy Hallowe'en!

I had an annoying nose & throat cold all this week, so it was the perfect time for reading.  Luckily I'm well in time for handing out candy at the door tonight and will be watching Nightmare Before Christmas as I do every year on this day (*What's this? What's this?*) and I taped Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 version) I've wanted to see for a long time.  The 1950s original is still really good and I'd watch Donald Sutherland read the phone book, so there you have it :)

Read This Week: (3)
Reviews coming soon for these two:
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas--Awesome!  Highly recommend.
The Old Man & the Sea- Ernest Hemingway--Read in one sitting. 

and 1 DNF:

We Need to Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver
I got through about 60 pages.  I understand that this was a critical masterpiece to some people but it was way too depressing for me to continue with it.  I knew it wouldn't be a book I could "like" given the subject matter (yet I liked The Handmaid's Tale, Atonement, The Stand, and other books with very sad, even downright miserable circumstances).  The perspective of the novel was not what I expected (not necessarily a bad thing), and I found the vocabulary was impressive, the style interesting, but it was the protagonist, Eva, that made me want to chuck the book across the room.  I've never read about such a dark, depressing character and it actually made me nauseous.  No thanks...

Currently Reading:  (3)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers--Off to a good start.  I saw the movie a few years ago and thought Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke were amazing.

U2 by U2- U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.)
My Life- Bill Clinton

Reviews Written This Week:
Teacher Man- Frank McCourt (A)

Next to Read:
I haven't planned what to read next.  My options are wide open :)

Other Blog News:
Thinking About Challenges...
I could use your input on writing a wrap-up post.

Have a great reading week :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thinking About Challenges...

Believe it or not, 2012 reading challenges are a-coming :)  So far, it looks like two challenges I participated in this year are coming back in the new year:

The Book Vixen is once again hosting the Outdo Yourself challenge, which is a no-brainer to join as I'm constantly trying to read more.  I read so much more this year with starting up my book blog than I ever have and I'm gearing up for even more in 2012.  My initial goal will be Out of Breath (6-10 more books), considering my year-end total will probably be in the 50s or 60s.

Sarah @ Sarah Reads Too Much will soon be announcing details for an encore of Back to the Classics.  Yay!  I really loved that challenge.  It definitely got me off my behind and in gear to read older books I've always wanted to absorb but don't have the incentive to get to.  Can't wait for the new categories!

So that's two challenges I'm signing up for.  I think I will stick to a small, manageable number of challenges so I'm not restricted to a book list and have room for my spontaneous side.  Maybe two or three more...

As for my 2011 challenges....*drumroll please*...ALL DONE!  Yay!  I still have a few reviews to write but having read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway for the last Back to the Classics category in just one sitting, I'm officially finished.  Of course, my total for the Outdo Yourself challenge will continue until December 31st at midnight ;)

I'm planning a wrap-up post to conclude and celebrate the end of my 2011 challenges.  This is where I need your help.  As some of you may already know, this is the first year I've participated in reading challenges (seeing as the blog itself is just 14 months old) and I'm not too sure what this post should be like. 

Do you have any ideas or topics of interest that might be good for a challenge wrap-up post?

Also, is it customary to post it near the end of the year or can it go up any time?

Please post ideas in the comments.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts :)  I'd also love to hear about any 2012 reading challenges you think I'd like to participate in.

Thanks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teacher Man- Frank McCourt

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  2005
Pages:  258
ISBN:  9780743243780
Genre:  Memoir

Started:  Sept. 28, 2011
Finished:  Oct. 5, 2011 (8 days)

Where Found:  Xmas 2010 gift
Why Read:  Being a teacher, I'm always on the lookout for books about teaching & until I came across this book (not previously knowing that Frank McCourt had been a teacher), I thought it would be interesting to read about his experiences.

Summary:  A memoir by the author of Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, the third in a trilogy, recalls his 30-year career teaching English and creative writing in New York vocational, technical, and trade-focused high schools.

Review:

When I was in teacher's college, a principal who mentored our group of teachers-to-be gave us a packet of information that included a stationary template titled "Teaching is Aardvark" with a poor aadvark grasping a pointer and its students standing on their heads.  Yup, I've had days like that and so did Frank "Teacher Man" McCourt.

What was the most refreshing about this book is that his experiences aren't preachy, sugar-coated or self-satisfied vignettes.  They don't even represent "coming full circle" as memoirs tend to show.  McCourt understood how students on a path to technical vocations loathed bookish subjects such as English and how he had to ignore stubborn curricular directives from adminstration in order to strike a light under his students and keep them interested.

McCourt has numerous teaching stories, from taking his class to the park for a picnic of multicultural foods to spice up their vocabulary, accompanying the reading of cookbook recipes with musical instruments, and my personal favourite: eating a sandwich thrown on the floor much to the dismay of the students and swishing the wrapper into the wastebasket.

Thinking outside the box is not only a popular method of teaching in order to reach the kids, but McCourt simply accepts it as the only way to teach.  He is not one to mince words with administration and has a modest outlook on his career.  To "Teacher Man" he was only a listener and a silent partner.  To the few students who told him so, whether in class or years later, he created highly unusual, unconventional experiences for them (and him) to not only write about but to remember that the best stories are lived experiences.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

I skipped a post last Monday as my progress was identical to the previous week.  This past week: progress!

Read This Week:  (1)
The Stand- Stephen King (A)--review coming soon
...and 3 DNFs!  Here's why that happened.

Currently Reading:  (3)
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas--off to an awesome start; definitely influenced The Shawshank Redemption, my favourite movie :)

U2 by U2- Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen Jr. (a.k.a. U2)--fun!

My Life- Bill Clinton--I won't "DNF" this...probably won't finish until into 2012 :)

Reviews This Week:  (2)
A 2-in-1 post for Born Standing Up by Steve Martin & Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.

I'm just behind by 3 now :)

Next to Read:
I'll probably finish off the Back to the Classics challenge (my last one!) with my replacement 20th century pick, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  Wish me luck :)

Other Bookish News:
I went with a friend of mine to see The Ides of March with George Clooney & Ryan Gosling (also a great supporting cast of Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman & Evan Rachel Wood).  It was quite good, full of political scandal and intrigue.  I recommend it...and having two smokin' hot leading men doesn't hurt, either ;)

After the movie, we stopped off at the Indigo bookstore and I couldn't leave without snapping up at least 1 book.  I chose We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (who, until news of the movie version came about, I thought was a man....oops!).  I also got the super fun musical Singin' in the Rain on DVD for just $10 (for me) and an early Xmas gift for my dad.

Have a great reading week!