Thursday, September 30, 2010

[Fenway Park] offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities.

I was expecting to have the second book in the Lilith's Brood trilogy done before today and that I'd have a post ready.  Yet the world-at-large got in the way so while I can see the end coming up I haven't yet reached it.  I thought that meant I'd just skip the post this week and move on but I do have something I want to write about.  The other day my dad sent me a piece from The New Yorker written by John Updike in 1960 about Ted Williams last game at Fenway Park titled "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu".  (That was a flurry of prepositions for you.) 

I'm not exactly sure how/why Dad found this story (a question I should probably ask him) but when he read it he said he thought of me.  Now, I wouldn't call myself a sports fan.  I know of them, I've been to many baseball and hockey games but honestly, I couldn't tell you any highlights from the game and sometimes I'm not even 100% sure who won.  But both Dad and Boyfriend are huge sports fans, hence the reason I have been to so many games.  But the sports aspect wasn't why he thought of me.  Part of it was because it is about Fenway Park and because I live in Boston and have been to several Red Sox games he thought I'd be interested to hear what Fenway was like back then.  But more than that he sent me the story because Updike wrote it and he thought I'd enjoy that, regardless of what the topic might be. My dad has selected enough winners (Catch-22, Slaughterhouse 5 and I swear I'll pick up The World According to Garp soon) that at this point if he suggests I should read something, I read it.

I've never read anything by John Updike before, so if anyone has any recommendations please throw them my way.  Actually, I constantly mix up John Updike and Upton Sinclair.  It's the "up" in the name.  One day I decided they were the same and each time I hear either name I have to think "Is that the meatpacking rat guy or the other one?"  Please help me fix that problem.  But for now, onto the essay.

I love Updike's prose.  As I mentioned, I don't really care about sports but his writing pulled me through it, made me want to keep reading and made me sad when it was over as I thought "Why haven't I read anything by him before?"  As Dad described it: "Updike is a wonderful observer of people & his surroundings and his prose is always smart and expressive."  I couldn't have said it better.  The prose isn't always easy but it's lyrical and written in such a way that you can feel Updike thought about each word he selected.  Nothing is accidental and simple (not easy) words carry a powerful description.  Yes, it helps to know your Greek myth references* in order to understand how Williams is like Achilles, but don't avoid this piece even if you don't know your Achilles from your Agamemnon.  Not particularly caring about baseball hasn't stopped me from enjoying it!

*Again, thank you Dad for buying me that book of Greek mythology when I was little.  As you said, if you want to understand Western literature you need to understand Greek myths and the Bible.  Why you thought a 8 year old would get that or care, I don't know but it seems to have worked so bravo!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Ten Literary Couples and Fellow Bloggers

The good people over at The Broke and the Bookish have a weekly top ten meme and this week's topic is Top Ten Favorite Fictional Couples.
  1. Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare.  I love these two.  They're quick witted, they're sarcastic, and they are far more interesting than Hero and Claudio. 
  2. Mr. Darcy and Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by  Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I would have said these to from P&P but since I haven't actually read that one yet (I know I know, I'll get to it!  Promises) I went with the version I have read.  And besides, the relationship has the same dynamic, there are just more ninja/zombie fight scenes. 
  3. Hermoine and Ron from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Hmm, another couple I love that bickers all the time.  I'm seeing a theme emerging.  I wonder what Boyfriend's take on this is.  Anyway, I love not only do these two already have the old-married-couple-constantly-bickering down pat, but they are both so different they make such great sense together.  
  4. Thursday Next and Landen Park-Laine from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. See here's a couple that actually likes one another. Alright, maybe it wasn't so simple in the first book but the conflicting emotions come from a deeper place than the cliche of they-hate-each-other-but-really-love-one-another.  Don't get me wrong, I love that cliche (see examples above) but it is nice to see a change.
  5. Bottom and Titania from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare. I know they're not really a couple or not a happy-ever-after couple but I love these two.  And really their love is no more or less real than what the fairies leave Helena and Demetrius with.  While we're at it
  6. Helena and Demetrius from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare.  OK so as I just said above, these two are only together because some fairies squeezed "the aphroditic juice of a hermaphroditic flower" into Demetrius' eye (thank you Complete Works Abridged) but I get a kick out of Helena's awful character and really the scene of Helena chasing him around the forest is great.
  7. Biff and Joshua (Jesus) from Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. Not a romantic couple sure but a couple nonetheless.  Biblical bromance?  (My blog is going to get burned at the stake now, isn't it?)
I'm having trouble coming up with more and don't want to force this so I'll stop there.  There are a lot of couples on that list that have fairly contentious relationships.  I wonder what that says about me...

I have been totally slacking on my fellow bloggers post and I want to fix that.  I've found so many fantastic blogs so here's one more you should check out cos she rocks:

Literary Musings - I've been following Brenna over at Literary Musings for awhile now and I don't know why it's taken me so long to bring her up here.  Her blog is a nice mix of a meme here and there, lit related posts and comics and reviews of all styles.  My recent favorite post of hers is "That bookstores are such places is always hoped for..." which mentions the Strand in NYC and it's literary counterpart.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A cancer growing in someone's body will go on growing in spite of denial.

I'm currently re-reading Dawn, the first part of the Lilith's Brood trilogy by Octavia E. Butler.  I originally had to read Dawn for a college class: Gender, Sex and the Rhetoric of Science.  It was a great class but it involved a lot of strange books to read and this is up there.  I think the quote on the back of the book sums this up nicely, at least the first book:
Lilith's Brood is a profoundly evocative, sensual - and disturbing - epic of human transformation.
"Evocative", "sensual", and "disturbing" are 3 very good words to describe this book. It's not a traditional sci fi book, according to my very limited understanding of sci fi.  OK, I guess according to my limited stereotype of sci fi.  There are aliens involved and, again this is based on my sci fi generalizations, while they are main characters, they are consistently a source of disgust for the main character Lilith.  There is none of the sense of camaraderie between Lilith and the Oankali that you might fight in something like Star Wars. Everything is so literally alien that Lilith can never completely trust Jdahya (if you know the pronunciation for that, please feel free to add it in the comments. In my head I pretty much just call him "Jad"), any of the other aliens she lives with or the living ship they're on.

The books is written in the third person limited and I keep finding myself repeatedly surprised to find that the story isn't in the first person.  Not that I think stylistically it would be better in the first person, but rather I'll read something that says "she said" and I'll have to go back and re-read before I remember that Lilith, the main character is the "she" and there is no I.  I'd say this is just the case with the style, but I never noticed it with other works, such as Harry Potter (the Wikipedia entry may have pointed out that's written in the same  narrative mode).  You end up empathizing with Lilith so completely probably because Butler has made the aliens so incredibly, well, alien. This style connects you to Lilith without actually letting you as close to her as a first person narrative would do.

I've obviously mentioned a number of times already that aliens play a big part of this book, but I want to again stress this doesn't feel like a typical sci fi book.  There isn't really (so far or in what I remember) much action.  Thus far the book is really an examination of free will or rather the removal of it.  The Oankali want Lilith to learn about them and they want to learn about her but they do keep her ignorant of their actions.  They keep her a prisoner, though a prisoner in nice conditions.  The book opens while Lilith is in isolation and Bulter is such a talented author that within a few pages you really feel Lilith's pain and fear.

The book is split into 4 parts: Womb, Family, Nursery and The Training Floor.  The first two sections deal with Lilith learning about and coming to terms with the Oankali and the second two sections deal with Lilith teaching other humans about the aliens and how to survive in the jungle.  I found I was more interested in the first two sections and wished these parts were longer.  There's more action in the latter sections but I liked the tension and learning about the aliens and the ship with Lilith.  Because I related to her in the first sections I found myself frustrated with the other Awakened humans when they wouldn't just play nice.  Obviously this would have made a much less interesting book but I felt Lilith's frustration and hopelessness. 

When I began reading the book I had only planned on reading Dawn.  The book went by so quickly and I'm not ready to be done so I'm going to continue on Lilith's journal and start reading Adulthood Rites the next part of the trilogy.  I've read the first few pages before, right after I finished Dawn the last time, but books for class got in the way of me finishing it.  At least I'm hoping that's why I never finished it and not because it was so bad I blocked it from memory.  I suppose I'll find out soon.

Title quote from page 39

Butler, Octavia E. Dawn. Lilith's Brood.  Warner Books, New York.  1989.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Blog Hop XI

Once again, it's time for the book blog hop, hosted by Crazy-for-Books.  This is really a great way to find other bloggers so if you have time to take part, you should check it out!

This week's question is: "When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book?"

I usually post a couple entries about a book as I'm reading it.  I want the blog to be more like a literary conversation than just straight reviews and I tend to write general overall impressions while focusing on certain elements in the different posts.

What about you?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Favorite Shakespeare Quotes

Yesterday, as part of the Top Ten Tuesday, The Broke and The Bookish asked people to name their top 10 favorite literary quotes.  I loved this topic and I was impressed by how many people keep track of their favorite quotes.  I do not do this, though I wish I did.  I know I won't start though.  I'm never reading near a notebook or something where I can stop and write down quotes.  And I don't like writing in my books, so I won't have the option to go back later.  Hell, as it stands for this blog I just have to try to remember the quote I want to use for the title of a post, or else just happen to be near a computer at the time.  So because I'm not nearly as organized as so many of you (and partially because I'm jealous of your organizational skills) I did not partake.  I know any quotes I come up with will just be ones I was able to find at that moment and because I wouldn't even be near my bookshelf, it would mostly be me trying to find posts online.

I was disappointed but then I realized something: I'm a bit of a Shakespeare nerd and I can probably remember lots of Shakespeare quotes.  Hell, had I thought of this when I was near it, I own an entire book of just Shakespeare quotes.  So I know I'm late but here are my top 10 favorite Shakespeare quotes in no particular order, other than the order I remembered them in

1. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
Creeps in this petty place from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
Who struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.  It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth V.v.19-28

2. What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals -- and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me
Hamlet II.ii.303-312

3. Demetrius: Villain, what hast thou done?
Aaron: That which thou canst not undo.
Demetrius: Thou hast undone our mother.
Aaron: Villain, I have done they mother.
Titus Andronicus IV.ii
(Right after this line I just hear "Oh snap!")

4. The course of true love never did run smooth.
A Midsummer Night's Dream I.i.134

5. Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediment. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Sonnet 116

6. Reason and love keep little company together now-a-days
A Midsummer Night's Dream. III.i

7. Put money in thy purse
Othello. I.iii.338, 339-340, 341
(I'm presenting most of these without explanation since for the most part I don't think they require it.  This is a fairly vague quote and, if you aren't familiar with the play, you may not recognize it or understand the situation surrounding it.  Iago is one of my favorite characters and I love his powers of manipulation.)

8. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em
Twelfth Night. II.iv.145-146

9. If music be the food of love, play on
Twelfth Night. I.i.1

10. To thine own self be true
Hamlet I.i.78

So I know that reads a bit like Bartlet's famous quotes (which is actually the book I own, though it's somewhere in Long Island at this moment) but really the well known quotes are well known because they're so great.  Besides I don't want to go all hipster and start listing out more obscure quotes to make myself seem pretentious.  "Oh you hadn't heard that quote before?  Yeah, it's still pretty underground.  You gotta be really tuned in to get it." 

Monday, September 20, 2010

But it was a fine and exciting Ladies' Mile, doped-up baby or not

As soon as I read that quote I wrote it down for this post.  And I like it best without context so if you'd like to know what he's talking about you'll just need to read the book.

I've finished up Finney's Time and Again and the book was still a good time my second read through.  I mentioned in my previous post that I've read this before so you can be sure I do enjoy this book.  It has a great mystery of a letter referencing "the Destruction by Fire of the entire World" (317) and what some odd tombstone markings mean.  Even though I have read the book I couldn't remember the details so it was fun to try to solve the mystery a second time around.  Finney manages to tell a convincing story of what life was like in 1880s New York and the book includes pictures and sketches from the time to help give the reader a good idea of the styles of the time. 

I've found with most of my reviews I write about the things I loved about the book, which makes sense since I like all of the books I've read since beginning this blog but it gets a bit redundant to keep repeating gushing reviews.  Keeping this in mind, I wanted to point out a couple problems I had with the novel.

The book feels uneven.  Part of the time the book reads like a travelogue, with Simon just describing 1882 NYC from a 1970s point of view.  Then there's some of the sci fi aspect, with a government agency funding a program to just see if people can go back in time by, well, thinking really hard that they can and then a pretty simple story of Simon observing a letter being delivered.  These 2 parts are a little odd but do work together somewhat, but then suddenly the story takes this dramatic turn to an action and thriller tale. It just happens suddenly and goes on for so long that it feels like it's actually part of a different book. 

Simon isn't a very sympathetic character, in my mind anyway and the problem is I think he's supposed to be.  He's not the anti-hero that's so popular now so I think Finney just didn't create a great main character. The supporting characters, Rube, Julia, Pickering, are all fantastic.  And Pickering certainly isn't likable but he's at least fun to watch.  Simon is arrogant and a bit sexist but it's like Finney didn't realize he'd made him that way.

Here's one other small problem I have with the book, though really I suppose it's a problem with the author.  Finney has Simon bemoan how awful the world is nowadays (well the 1970s) and how wonderful and amazing it was in the 1880s.  I hate this Golden Days nostalgia, the idea that everything was so much better, simpler, happier, blah blah blah back way back when.  The selective memory that leaves out the negative aspects of the past or that forgets the awesome things about today just annoy me.  Eventually Simon does realize that the people of 1882 did have a very hard time and things weren't all sleigh rides and singing around the piano, but he stills sees 1882 as a much better time: "Life [in 1882 New York] still had meaning and purpose in people's minds; the great emptiness hadn't begun" (379).

Overall this isn't my favorite book and I don't know that I'll be checking out much more of Finney's work, but I did like this book enough to read it twice.  Overall the good outweighs the bad, but the bad is still noticeable.

Title quote from page 184

Finney, Jack.  Time and Again.  Scribner Paperback Fiction, New York. 1970.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Blog Hop X

Once again it's Friday and time for the blog hope, hosted by Crazy-for-Books.  I missed the hop last week due to lots of travel but I'm around this weekend and ready to find some new blogs.  So this week's question is: In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, let's take time this week to honor our favorite book bloggers and why we love them!

I actually started a post about this the other day so this hop seems like the perfect reason to post it.  That and it means I've pretty much already answered it, so less work for me!  Below are some blogs I love checking out, though this is far from an extensive list.  I will get back into the habit of following up the Hop with a list of blogs I love to read but if you'd like to see my previous entries about other bloggers you should read check out my posts here, here and here.   And now onto some other bloggers:

When I first started blogging I saw all of these book blogs getting these snazzy awards.  Anytime I saw someone get it I would scan their list of blogs to see if I was one of them.  When I finally was I did a little happy dance.  I know that these awards are pretty much chain letters: you don't have to do anything special to win, other than to be awesome in one of your reader's eyes. I still get this little blogger high when I see an award but I have been failing in terms of thanking people on my blog.  I want everyone to know how thankful I am for the awards so I wanted to do that here!  This list will hopefully also give some of my other readers some other amazing blogs to check out.

A Thousand Books with Quotes - This is great collection of quotes from books.  I love that this isn't the typical book review blog and I always enjoy checking it out.  You find great quotes and new books to check out.

My Reader's Block - She participates in some fun memes (read: ones I actually enjoy reading instead of ones I sigh and skip over) and her reviews of mostly mystery books give me a whole new genre of books to look for!

Sarah Reads Too Much - Sarah reviews some books I wouldn't normally pick up but her descriptions make the book sound like something I would enjoy.  I've added The Nanny Diaries to my unofficial TBR list.

The Far Too Important Blog - Geophrie's blog covers a little bit of everything.  At least a little bit of everything that I like to read about.  The book reviews are fun and I love the Project Runway recaps and the post about how bachelorette parties need to get out of the gay bars.  Wonderful funny stuff!

The Book Stop - CurleyGeek mentioned me as part of the Blogger Appreciation week and I was so flattered I sent Boyfriend to read the post so he could see people do seem to like my ramblings. (Not that he didn't believe me but he made me blog so he wanted some credit.)  Her reviews are very thought provoking and she opens up intelligent conversation.  It's always a treat when I see she has a new post.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The only possible way you can do this is to just go ahead and do it.

If money was no object and I could live anywhere in the world I would live in the Dakota.  I love New York City.  I love that there's always something going on, always something to see and do, a million places to eat (I love food) and I can't imagine getting tired of it.  One of my favorite places to be on a nice day is Central Park.  It's exactly how I like my nature: surrounded by buildings. 

So if any of my readers currently live in the Dakota and are thinking "I could use a change of scene but I want to keep paying for this place" then I have a deal for you.  I will live in your awesome apartment for you!  I know, I'm a saint.  All you have to do is continue to pay the rent/mortgage/property taxes because there is no way I can afford any of this. Park facing preferred, serious inquiries only, kthxbai. 

Boyfriend and I have been torturing ourselves watching the Selling New York show because we're slightly masochistic.  They haven't done an episode at the Dakota (yet!) but the gorgeous apartments did make me think of Jack Finney's Time and Again.  Boyfriend made me read this originally.  I made a comment about going to the bookstore because I needed a new book to read and he apparently took this as a threat and started digging through his things to find a book that would keep me from adding to our growing library.  I was suspicious of his selection, but I gave it a try.  Every once in awhile Boyfriend apparently knows what he's talking about and I enjoyed the book.  I even enjoyed it enough to read it a second time.  Granted this is partly motivated by a lack of new books and the fact that moving is expensive so I'm trying to save my funds.  (I can't afford new books and I want to live in the Dakota. Come on lotto!)

Time and Again is a secret science fiction book.  I didn't know what to expect when I picked it up, but time travel was out of left field.  Boyfriend isn't really a scifi fan and the cover of the book doesn't suggest anything other than a period piece.  But I like the unexpected showing up in my books and that certainly happened here. Or maybe the time travel is all in Si's head and he's really just a crazy person stumbling around NYC thinking it's 1882.  I don't actually remember the details of the book all that well, which is nice because that means I'm enjoying knowing the book without actually remembering how things turn out.  I already know I like it, even if I can't remember why.

It seems I've said a lot here without actually saying anything.  The talents of a (former) English major.  I'll have more about the actual book in another post, once I read some more of the actual book.

Title quote from page 13

Finney, Jack.  Time and Again.  Scribner Paperback Fiction, New York. 1970.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Foreign Alphabets

My brother is not much of a talker yet the conversations he and I have generally leave me laughing.  He's a man of few words, but at least he doesn't waste his time on boring speech.  (I on the other hand, as evidence by this blog, can ramble for days.)  In a brief departure from all things literature I wanted to share a quick conversation Brother and I had*.  It has to do with the alphabet so it's every-so-slightly book related.  And it's my blog so whatever.

Brother: Alphabets are hard to learn.
Red: Like ABCD?
Brother: Like that, but in Japanese.
Red: I didn't realize they actually had an alphabet.
Brother: They have 2 alphabets in essence.  One is used for inherent Japanese words, and one used for borrowed words. Both of which are longer than our standard alphabet, and that's not even getting into the Kanji.
Red: Why are you learning the Japanese alphabet?
Brother: Cause I'm taking Japanese
Red: orly?**
Brother: It's my elective.
Red: So you decided to pick a super hard elective on top of all your engineering stuff?
Brother: Well the alphabet will be the only real challenge.
Red: So you have to learn 3 alphabets?
Brother: Pretty much.
Red: You should have taken Italian: 1 alphabet that doesn't even have all of our letters. Screw J,K,W,X,Y.
Brother: They are the outcasts of the English alphabet anyway.  I don't know how Z and Q squeeked by though.
Red: They needed "pizza". Q is suspect though.  I think it hid behind R.  They like to roll their R's so Q just hid behind it.
Brother: I think Q pulled something dirty to switch with K.
Red: Ah, totally! "Taqe that K!"

*The convo is edited a bit, not to add in any witty remarks that were thought of after the fact or to change the language, but to eliminate some of the back and forth that happened in between. I also added things like punctuation and capitalization. Brother and I are  both lazy and leave these out of IM talk but it's easier to go back and re-read the stuff when it's there.

**I use stupid internet slang with certain people.  Don't judge me.  Also notice that in IMs I use internet slang like "orly" and Brother says things like "in essence" and "inherent Japanese words" in normal conversation.  Even though I have the English degree I shouldn't be too surprised he's beating me in one of our Words Free games. I did manage to destroy him the first time but he's mounting a comeback.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm always finding people at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both

As I promised in my last post, I've finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It was hard to get through the end.  Every page has another heart wrenching situation for the characters deal with but it never feels melodramatic, it never feels forced.  I was worried the book would go down that road.  I suppose anytime I see "New York Times #1 Bestseller" plastered on the front of a book I get a little nervous the book will be manipulative of the characters and ultimately of the reader.  It's an unfair preconception on my part, I know, and at some point perhaps I'll work on it.  I did take a class in college called The Modern Bestseller and it mostly confirmed those beliefs.  Luckily for me I heard enough reviews from other bloggers that I was willing to give the book a try.  That and I didn't know about it's NYT Bestseller status until I already decided to buy it.

I mentioned the book is especially heart wrenching at the end and of course this isn't too surprising for a story about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.  The blows little Liesel has to take, one right after the other, are devastating for her and it was difficult for me to read this book in public.  The reader is warned about the horrors that are coming before they actually take place because the narrator Death keeps telling you what's going to happen, before he gets back to telling the story.  Rather than ruining the ending this just serves to build the tension.  I ended up on the edge of my seat wondering if this was the moment Death was referring to earlier.  I don't know that I necessarily liked this technique because I spent so much time waiting for the other shoe to drop that I'm sure I missed important points.

The next parts will contain some spoilers so heads up.

There were 2 deaths Death said on multiple occasions were coming and while I may have missed other subtle points waiting for it to happen, this did not make the deaths any less powerful.  When Liesel sees the LSE carrying Rudy's body I was devastated.  I had to take many breaks while reading the scene of her kissing Rudy while the LSE tried to remove the bodies and get Liesel to safety.  The whole block was destroyed and there is so much pain to take in but the fact that Liesel essentially breaks down at this moment is hard to read.

The second part I guess wasn't the direct death that was so painful but instead it was the imminent pain and suffering that was about to happen.  Liesel and the others are watching Nazi soldiers lead a group of Jews through the town on the way to a death camp and Liesel is searching for Max, the Jew her family had sheltered.  When she finds him she runs into the crowd and stands with him.  It's not the violence of the scene but that there is this pocket of love within so much hatred that is so touching.  both Liesel and Max knew that the consequences would be harsh for this behavior and yet it doesn't matter.

Thank you to the bloggers that recommended this book in your own reviews.  I won't be adding this my pile of books that I read over and over again but I was pleasantly surprised to so enjoy the book.

Title quote from page 491

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lack-of-reading excuse

I feel like I've been slacking on my next Book Thief post but that's because I've been totally slacking on my reading.  Here's the deal: as I've mentioned 100 times, I recently moved.  I'm still in Boston but I'm in a new neighborhood which is closer to my work.  Hooray because that means instead of having to go 14 stops on the subway, I now go 5.  And there's a transfer in the middle which makes the whole ordeal seem less painful.  So while it's great that my commute makes me want to physically harm less people on a regular basis, it also leaves me much less time for reading. 

I'm still loving The Book Thief but I don't have my normal reading schedule and I've yet to get into a new reading schedule.  I have a couple trips coming up so I'll have lots of free time to read and hopefully I'll not only have my other Book Thief post completed but I'll also have a new book started.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

West Coast Rap and Western Civilization Epic

At times I find myself making connections that seemingly make no sense.  I'll hear something or see something and it will remind me of something that seems to exist in an entirely different realm.  I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  It's mostly a confusing thing during conversation when I bring up what appears to be a non sequitur but I swear there was a connection in my head.

Not long ago I was listening to some of the number 1 hits from 1995, thanks to the Children of the 90s blog.  Among the choice selections here is "California Love" by Dr. Dre and Tupac.  Now I am not a fan of rap, however Tupac holds a special place in my heart.  Many an afternoon in high school was spent sitting in my friend's basement playing Golden Eye and listening to the All Eyez On Me album. (Ah, the suburbs.)  I won't say I'm a fan of Tupac; it's more of a Stockholm Syndrome but with music because I had to listen to it so often. 

Anyway, I'm listening to "California Love" and I get to the end of the song where they are just naming different cities in California ("Inglewood always up to no good"). I'm not from California so it did nothing for me personally, but I imagine people getting excited when they hear their hometown.  This is where that odd connection comes in: right after I thought about how I didn't really care about the cities listed but someone must I thought of The Iliad.  There's a long scene in The Iliad where Homer just names all of these different Greek city-states.  (I'm not going to include examples because 1) I'm lazy and 2) I don't have the book in front of me and an internet search is taking more than 4 seconds to get me what I want so I quit.  Tenacity is clearly not a trait of mine.)  When I last read The Iliad in college I remember the professor explaining this long, boring and essentially narratively-pointless part of the story as being a matter of pride for people listening to the tale.  Just as those imaginary club goers in my head get excited when they hear their town called out in "California Love" so did those ancient Greeks get rowdy when their hometown is mentioned.  (I hope you're now picturing ancient Greeks in a modern club because I am.)  

I suppose even without a direct or even conscious connection, The Iliad is still managing to influence modern works.  Or else I just see connections where none exist.  But if you'd like to play 6 degrees of The Iliad with something else as random as west coast rap, please include it in the comments!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Blog Hop IX

I was debating skipping this week's hop, hosted by Crazy-for-Books, but then I realized that hurricane is supposed to hit the East coast all weekend and I'll probably be trapped inside so what better to do with my time than hop around and find some new book blogs.  So there you go, a hurricane induced hop.

This week's question is "Do you judge a book by its cover?"
Yes, I definitely do.  If I'm not already familiar with the author or the book a cover will either make me walk on by or pick it up.  I have not (yet) bought a book based entirely on the cover but a good cover will be a way for the book to get a foot in the door.  Or a page in the door I suppose. 

What do you think?  Do you judge books by their covers?  Do covers matter?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First the colors. Then the humans. That's usually how I see things.

This is the second book I've read because of reviews from fellow book bloggers (the first was Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You) so thanks to everyone who read and suggested The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I underestimated how long it would take me to read Tropper's book and all of my other books were packed for the move so I was at a bit of a loss as to what to read next.  I started reading Lamb again but Boyfriend is currently in the middle of it so he was anxious to get me another book and get Lamb back.  Even though he's been reading it for about 10 years (or like 5 months but it feels like 10 years).

So we were out shopping and I decided I'd buy a new book so he could go back to not reading Lamb.  I saw both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Book Thief sitting on a shelf.  Now, I'm supposed to be reading TGwtDT for my book club (apparently I'm the only one to have read What's My Name, Fool? and everyone picked another book before our meeting) but I wasn't really in the mood for it.  I've read mixed things about Dragon Tattoo but excellent things about The Book Thief so I'll just have to rush to get the book club book finished in time at some other date.

First of all, I didn't realize The Book Thief is considered a children's book.  I'm halfway through the book and it wasn't until this morning when I glanced at all the awards listed on the back of the book and saw "Winner of the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children's Literature".  What now?  This book is?  Really?  I know it deals with children and I was thinking that the sentences are very simple but it doesn't feel like it's talking down to the audience. I thought it was a stylistic choice that works for the narrator.  Maybe it's because the subject is the Holocaust that I didn't think of it as a children's book.  Maybe I'm not familiar enough with children's lit to know it unless it's very obviously for children.  Now that I've typed that I don't even know if I could describe the rules for "very obviously for children".  Roald Dahl comes to mind.  As does Louis Sachar.  OK I won't keep naming children's authors but what I am going to say is this book doesn't feel like those.  It feels more mature than a children's work.

Death (with a capital D for those familiar with Moore's work A Dirty Job) is the narrator.  It feels a bit like a gimmick, that Zusak could have just made an outside person the narrator and not have it be Death.  But the fact that Death is the narrator didn't distract me from the book and it gives the opportunity to have an omnipotent unbiased narrator.  The story can explore so many more other characters that a single human narrator wouldn't be able to look at.

As I mentioned, I'm only about halfway through the book so I hope to have additional concluding thoughts but so far the book is very touching and very moving and I'm really enjoying it. 

Title quote from page 3.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blog Tag!

I was supposed to start reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for book club (because apparently I'm the only person that read What's My Name, Fool?) but instead of buying TGwtDT I picked up  The Book Thief instead, entirely based on reviews from people in the book blog world.  So thank you all that posted about it! 

While I work on reading this new book, Ms. C over at Coffee Tale Reviews has pulled me into a game of blog tag and I kind of have the mentality of a small child so I love games!  So you're supposed to answer the questions below and then tag some of your favorite bloggers.  And as Ms. C said, if you don't want to play, no worries.  Just know that I'm a big fan of your blog.

  1. Milk or dark chocolate? Dark.  I really don't like milk chocolate unless there's a fair amount of other flavors to temper it.  I'm not a fan of milk in general so I guess this makes sense.
  2. What's your favorite color? Currently green in all sorts of shades, especially bright ones.  I used to have a lime green phone that I may have selected mostly based on the color.  I'm easily impressed like that.
  3. Do you have any creative hobbies? It's sad how little creative work I do now.  I used to do a lot of photography and drawing but I haven't done either in awhile.  I did just recently buy a DSLR camera in the hopes of getting back into photography.  I figure if I don't have darkroom access (because I'm too lazy to find some) I can still play with some nice digital photos.  And I suppose this blog can count as a creative hobby since I started it in an attempt to get back into writing.
  4. What was your favorite subject in school? English, but I suppose that isn't a surprise considering a) I got my degree in English and b) I write this book blog thing.  I also enjoyed the photography classes I've taken but I gave math a lot of leeway to do it's own thing.  
  5. What is your favorite season?  Why? I used to always consider winter my favorite season because I loved how it looked and I was an avid snowboarder.  I now haven't been snowboarding in roughly the last 6 years and I have to walk a portion of my way to work which means I kind of hate winter now.  That's probably too strong of a word, but I'm sure once winter comes to Boston again I won't think so.  For now it's fall.  I like when it's not too hot (I'm too pale for the sun) but it's not freezing either.  And fall has Halloween and Thanksgiving and since I'm a big fan of food, these are 2 of my favorite holidays.
  6. Who inspires you to sing like crazy when nobody is around? Pretty much any song I know at least a portion of the lyrics to inspires me to sing like crazy and people can be around.  I have no problem belting out songs with close friends or Boyfriend nearby, looking at me like I'm nuts.  We've had the Broadway version of American Idiot in the car that I love singing along to and we recently added an 80s CD (new wave & hair bands) so I've been going to town on that one too.  What's more fun than belting out "You Give Love a Bad Name?" 
  7. What's your favorite dessert?  Can you make it? I don't really have one favorite, go-to dessert.  I really like panna cotta and bread pudding, neither of which I've ever tried to make so who knows how it would go.  This question is making me think about desserts I can make and I just realized I have a recipe for key-lime raspberry bars with a coconut shortbread crust that I want to make again.  So I didn't answer the question but I did think of something to do this weekend.  Assuming I can find where I put that recipe.
  8. How did you learn to cook? Cook by watching my dad and grandma, bake by watching my mom and other grandma. A couple of my friends are amazing cooks as well but I don't know if I really learn from them so much as sit in wonder while they buzz around the kitchen.  I used to look through my friend's books when he was in cooking school and I thought they were very interesting if way over my head.  I'll let him do all the heavy culinary lifting
And now a few bloggers I love reading that may enjoy a game of tag

The Book Stop
The Far Too Important Blog
Literary Musing
Lit Addicted Brit
The Space Bard