Friday, August 31, 2007

August 2007 Reads

Wow, I can't believe the end of August is already here!! Before I head to Alaska, here's the official August list:

34. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (4.25/5)

35. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy (3.75/5)

36. Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult (4.5/5)

37. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel (3/5)

38. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (3/5)

39. His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis (2.5/5)

I just realized that only three out of six of these books are challenge books! Hmmm, I guess that's why I'm behind...well, only in Decades and Book Awards challenges. Oh well! I'll blame it on Taos and the move to Dallas. :)

Total Books: 6
Total Pages: 1,815 (oops!!)
*The picture is of Mendenhall Glacier (from outside of Juneau, which is where we will be on Monday!! Yippee!

His Excellency: George Washington - Joseph J. Ellis: A Review

Title: His Excellency: George Washington
Author: Joseph J. Ellis
Pages: 275
Date Finished: August 31, 2007
Rating: 2.5/5

I am so glad to be finished with this book! As you can tell by the title, this book is a biography of George Washington. I read it for the Non-Fiction Five challenge and was a little worried about not being able to finish it (not only by the end of the challenge, but EVER).

His Excellency: George Washington spans the career and personal life of Washinton as a figure in the French-Indian War to his position as Commander in Chief during the Revolutionary War to his presidency. While the information and the life of Washington are fascinating, the writing style of Ellis was difficult to swallow. There were many times when I did not understand what was going on or would have to re-read paragraphs twice. This was especially true when Ellis was discussing the wars; when he moved on to the presidency, the writing was a little more straightforward. Why was it so difficult? Not only did Ellis use a highly elated vocabulary, but his sentences were so complex that it was hard to discern what he was really trying to say. Sometimes his writing was circular--not really leading to anything at all. Bottom line: not accessible to the masses. Result: I only got/understood a fraction of the information.

Recommendation: As I said before, Washington was a very complex and fascinating individual. He is certainly not the man I pictured him being (he did not want to be president, he was quiet, relatively uneducated, disliked conflict, etc etc). But, it did take a tremendous amount of time and will-power to slog through this one. I felt like I was back in grad school, and if not for the challenge I probably would not have finished it. Again, so glad to be done!! :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson: A Review

Title: Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
Date Finished: August 26, 2007
Pages: 128
Rating: 3/5

This is the story of Jess, who is determined to be the fastest runner in his 5th grade class. In between his duties both to the farm and his family (due to being the only boy), he practices and practices. This is all fine and well until Leslie, a new student who moved next door to Jess, runs in the race as well...and beats all of the boys for first place.

And unlikely friendship sparks between Jess and Leslie, especially given their very different upbringings and lifestyles, and one day they create a world all their own: Terabithia. Throughout their discovery of what Terabithia contains, they also discover themselves and how each has helped the other grow and challenge fears.

While I really liked the story and relationship of Jess and Leslie, I was disappointed with this book due to the previews I had seen for the movie (which I didn't see). I expected adventure and magical creatures and fantasy, but these things were contained *only* within the imaginations of Jess and Leslie. Yes yes, that is what an imaginary world is, but this did not translate well on the page for me. There is virtually no description of Terabithia, nor what happens there (other than a few isolated events). I'm still going to make my brother (he's 11) read this book though. :)

R.I.P. II Challenge

September 1-October 31, 2007

I feel like a big, fat push-over posting this after my last very whiny post about my challenge blues. I really really want to do this challenge, though, and I have found a way without overextending myself! Yippee!! Stop rolling your eyes...

Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the second annual Readers Imbibing Perils challenge (or RIP II) for short. If you haven't already, check it out. His site is beautiful and very halloweeny (my favorite holiday...until Thanksgiving and Christmas that is). I can hardly even wait to put up my own decorations this year. Yeeeeeeh!

So, instead of listing all of the different perils a reader can choose from (which you can read on Carl's very detailed explanation), I have only listed the one I am going to partake in:

Short Story Sunday Peril:

One or many of you wonderful book bloggers used to post entries call Short Story Sunday. This additional peril involves simply reading one R.I.P. short story per weekend.

So, for this challenge, I am going to read my very scary-looking Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. There are 12 stories, and since I'll be gone this Sunday I have 8 Sundays. That makes 1-2 stories a week. Not bad!! Totally controllable! And yes, this is the cover of my book as it is. I picked it up at a booksale a few years ago; the publish date is 1965 which might explain the psychedelic/inkblot cover art. Very halloweeny!!

In the beginning

 Scott and Trish - Taos, NM August 2007

More like in medias res. I am notoriously bad about journaling--apparently except when it comes to books. Every trip that Scott and I have taken, I've attempted to journal (the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper), but every time it just doesn't work. We've taken some pretty amazing trips: Tahoe and San Francisco; Caribbean Cruise; Texas Hill Country--yayaya; our western excursion through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, and Arizona; and our latest trip to Taos for the S. family reunion.

As we are getting ready to embark on our trip to Alaska on Saturday, I wanted to get this set up. It will be a real feat if I can keep it going. But most importantly, we have so many things to laugh at and remember about our vacations that I don't want them to be lost. Scott has a much much better memory than I do. And I could go ahead and journal about our Valentine's trip to Taos three years ago when we got food poisoning from the restaurant where Juan Extraordinare was entertaining us, or of Lucillo on the cruise saying "Peppertime," or of driving through the entire Yosemite park AFTER the sun set. But I want the memories to be fresh. Oh whatever, I may post some about our January trip and our Taos trip. But then again, given my proclivity for procrastination, probably not.

Either way, here's to many happy travels.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stinkin' Challenge Update and Blog Question

Is it the time of the year? Is that why I am having total and utter challenge burnout??

I really really want to get some fresh challenges on my plate since I really don't want to read any of the books I have left, but I just can't commit knowing that I already have about 22 books left to read in 4 months!

I did find a new challenge for 2008: In Their Shoes hosted by Visally. Read any number of biographies, memoirs, and/or authobiographies in 2008. Easy peasy. :) I'm not going to even think about posting my books until closer to January, but oh whatever---I guess I will think and obsess about it a lot.

But on my current challenge front, I don't want to read any of my By The Decades Challenge books. Well, this is all fine and dandy, but I haven't been reading in any particular order, so I have big gaps in my decades (mostly 1970). The real downer is that four of these five books that I have left are also my Book Award Challenge books. So if I don't read them, I'll be behind it two challenges. Encouragement would be great here!! :)

My George Washington biography for Non-Fiction Five is REALLY boring!! If I can read a chapter every night I'll finish it before we leave for Alaska. Of course, last week I said that if I read a chapter every night I would have it finished by yesterday. Obviously since I'm halfway through ch 3/7 that didn't work out as planned. Urg!

The good news is that I am right on target for Something About Me, Armchair Traveler, and Literary Classics challenges. I'm thinking if I can get ahead on these, it will leave more room to read the others that I am dreading.

What keeps you reading?? Oh, I finished Bridge to Terabithia this weekend (not for any challenge at all). My review should be up tomorrow sometime...hopefully.

And now my blogging question: I am thinking about beginning a new blog--totally book UNrelated, but am having a difficult time with the formatting. When YOU as a reader are browsing blogs, do you prefer short blog posts (unlike this particular one) or more detailed posts? Now, this blog would be more for ME as a journal type blog--travel-specific (Adventures of Trish and Scott aka Hubby type blog), but I'm not sure if one post per trip would suffice--a rather really really long post--or shorter posts per event/excursion. Hmmmm...I'd love to hear your input!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Holy Haitus Batman!

Well, I think its been about a month since I've blogged regularly. I finally got my Internet hooked up in the new house yesterday (Hubby and I are no longer in the sticks of Texas, but rather the Big D!!). So, I have been typing typing typing trying to catch up on everything that I haven't been able to say in the past month. These are pictures of my very sad empty bookshelf and the many boxes of books that I still have not unpacked (I do have a few shelves full now and all of my "challenge" books in order).

The kicker is that now that I'm all caught up and starting to get settled, Hubby and I are leaving next Saturday for our cruise to Alaska, so I'll be gone yet again. *Sigh* (Well sort of *sigh* since I'm rockin' excited!)

So, basically here's what I've been up to the past month (in reading anyway). The links will take you to the corresponding post:

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (mostly for fun and because I love all things Atwood)

The Scarlet Pimpernel for the Classics Challenge

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult (for fun and because I love most things Picoult)

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel for the Something About Me Challenge

My July reads summary

And also my final selection for the Something About Me Challenge

I am still setting up house and job searching, but hopefully I will get to catch up on everyone else's blogs that I love so much.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquirel: A Review

Title: Like Water for Chocolate
Author: Laura Esquirel
Pages: 264
Date Finished: August 22, 2007
Rating: 3/5

This is my first selection for Something About Me Challenge. I have wanted to read it for a few years now and picked it up cheap a few months ago at the local bookfair. Perfect! I love when things work out that way.

But, this book didn't do it for me. It was good and I mostly enjoyed reading it, but the book was a little too superficial. What I mean by that is that the character development was very weak, and after reading the book I didn't have any strong passions about what happened to the characters. I liked the way the book ended, but there just wasn't enough narrative depth. Perhaps there is more symbolic and analytical depth to the book, but if I'm not in a grad course I don't necessarily dig or delve into books the way I probably should (i.e. background research, textual research, analytical research, blah blah blah).

The story is of Tita, the youngest daughter of Mama Elena who has to give up her lover, Pedro, due to a family tradition that the youngest daughter must stay home with the mother and take care of her until she dies. Once Mama Elena makes her proclamation that Pedro cannot marry Tita, he chooses to marry Rosaura, the oldest sister to still remain close to Tita.

What I liked most about this book is its focus on food (which I am addicted to) and the passions it creates within people. There was a little touch of magical realism, which I also really enjoyed. The food that Tita created often reflected her moods and emotions causing people to become violently ill when she was sad or euphoric when Tita was exhibiting the same emotions. For me this is where the depth of the novel comes from, but unfortunately the only place.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Something About Me Challenge

August - December 2007

This is it...I swear! I have vowed to myself that this will be my last challenge for the year until some of the others get under control. Well, since I'M the control, and I've determined this is all I can logically handle, this is it. :)

Lisa at Breaking the Fourth Wall is hosting the Something About Me Challenge. The basic premise is to list five books that represent something about me, but the catch is that I don't read this five books--others doing the challenge read them. So, after everyone posts their books, we pick five from the *large* list to read and at the same time learn something about the other participating bloggers. I love this idea and I'm glad that Lisa is hosting!

So, these are the five books that represent me:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - This book restored my love of literature as a high school senior. But also because it is the most romantic book--tragic, but who could forget those harrowing words, "I AM Heathcliff."

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult - Picoult always shows all sides to every story, and this one I could especially relate to as my younger sister had a kidney transplant 5 years ago (when she was 18). Although I wasn't in exactly the same circumstances, I could relate to Kate's siblings.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery - Because I grew up in Canada, and when I was little I wanted to be Anne so badly. I loved her--still do.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding - Because I, like Bridget, obsess about strange things, fantasize about what could be, and over complicate things in my head. I love Bridget--she is my hero.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - Her female characters are all so different, but I think that everyone could find a woman in this novel with whom they relate to. And besides, I think we've all had days like Mrs. Dalloway. (If you've read this and like it, you must read The Hours by Michael Cunningham).

And then these are the books that I have picked from others' lists to read:
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  • Sea Glass by Anita Shreve
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

Yeah! Let the challenge begin...

Keeping Faith - Jodi Picoult: A Review

Title: Keeping Faith
Author: Jodi Picoult
Date Finished: August 19, 2007
Pages: 422
Rating: 4.5/5

After reading The Tenth Circle and Nineteen Minutes earlier this year and feeling a little disappointed in both (relatively, of course), I was thrilled by this book! Its still not my favorite, but out of the five I've read it is right in the middle (which still speaks a lot since The Pact and My Sister's Keeper are two of the best books I've read).

Keeping Faith was of course filled with sticky subject matter. The book begins as Mariah and her seven-year-old daughter Faith walk in Colin (husband/father) with another woman. Colin leaves, Mariah falls into a fit of depression, and Faith begins talking to her "guard" - an imaginary friend that only she can see or hear. After Mariah takes Faith to a psychologist, it becomes clear that Faith is communicating with God. As many of the religious consultants in the book explain, communication with God is one thing, but Faith also appears to be performing miracles as well as exhibiting stigmata on her palms. Not only does this complicate little Faith's life in making her different from the other children that she knows from school, but the press begins to have a field-day with the strange events. And if that isn't bad enough, her father also sues Mariah for full-custody of Faith believing that she is being harmed.

Sticky situations. What I really liked about this book is the grace with which Picoult handles the subject matter of religion. What becomes really interesting throughout the book is that Faith is not Catholic as the stigmata would suggest, nor does she have a strong background in religion as her visions would suggest. Instead, she is a child from a mixed-faith marriage (Jewish and Christian) with very little religious instruction. The other thing that I appreciate about the book is the discussion of second chances, about taking control of one's life, about a mother's love for her child. I would definitely recommend this book.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emmuska Orczy: A Review

Title: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Author: Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Pages: 264
Date Finished: August 15, 2007
Rating: 3.75/5

Set during the French Revolution, The Scarlet Pimpernel is the story of a courageous, but mysterious person who helps the French nobility/aristocracy to escape to England where they can live without the fear of the Reign of Terror. This book was an easy and enjoyable read. Well, the first few chapters were a little drab, but once the action began the story propelled itself with ease.

Caught up in the middle of the drama is the beautiful Lady Marguerite Blakeney, who is married to the dull Englishman Percy Blakeney. Marquerite's brother is in grave danger in France and she must make the decision to help the evil Chauvelin discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel or save her brother. After she makes her decision, the plot falls into a whirlwind of disguise, romance, heartbreak, battles, deception, cunning, and suspense. Alright, so the book is pretty darn predictable, but I still felt myself turning the pages quickly and biting my nails with anticipation. Orczy certainly keeps the reader engaged surprisingly well (for me anyway).

Recommendation: Its a fun book, not the best I've ever read, but I am certainly glad that I did so. Like I said, it is predictable, but still enjoyable. I think this book could be easily enjoyed (except for maybe a certain someone who disdains classics). Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Packing up shop

On the road again! Well, actually, after this weekend hopefully we will stay OFF the road for a little while. Hubby and I are finally moving to Dallas this weekend. So, with packing boxes and also being gone for ten days in Taos last week, I'm a little behind in reading and posting. Oh well! I guess I'll just have lots of catching up to do when we get settled.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood: A Review

Title: Cat's Eye
Author: Margaret Atwood
Date Finished: August 2, 2007
Pages: 462
Rating: 4.25/5

I've wanted to read this book for quite some time and finally bought it a few months ago from Amazon just because. I had recently joined a Yahoo book club, so I nominated the book and it was picked for this month's read. I feel really bad that I've been Internet-less, so I haven't even been able to join the discussion yet, but oh well.

Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine, a middle-aged painter who reflects upon her childhood as she returns to the city she grew up in, Toronto, for her own art showing. Ok, so it sounds like Iris from The Blind Assassin, but if I am remembering correctly the difference is that we see Elaine's childhood from her perspective then, not necessarily as a reflection. I know I'm talking in circles, but to me her memories did not seem colored by age but fresh as if she was experiencing everything right then and there. It's also been almost a month since I read this book (don't believe the post date and time, its wrong!). :)

Basically Elaine doesn't really fit in anywhere as her family uproots a lot when she is younger. When her family does finally settle down, she is befriended by a group of girls. In the following years, the group grows to include the ring-leader, Cordelia. Thus the story truly begins as Atwood explores the cruelties of youth, the illusions of power, and how all of these experiences shape a person. I think that the relationship between Elaine and Cordelia is one that many readers will understand or recognize; I know that some of the elements were very familiar to me--a little too familiar.

Recommendation: I really enjoyed this book, and for me it was more accessible than the other two Atwood books I've read. For that reason, I think perhaps this book might be enjoyed by a wider range of readers, but for the same reason it lacked a little for me. Atwood's prose is beautiful as always, her character development is spot on, her ability to draw in the reader is strong, but it just didn't seem to have the same edge as The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin. But, I think what I really love about Atwood, is that I never know what to expect from her, which makes me really excited to keep reading her books.
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