Sunday, June 29, 2008

Read-a-thon Complete!!!

Whew--24 hours. Sort of. :)
Minutes since last post: 175 (last four hours)
Pages since last post: 172
Books finished since last post: 1 - Al Capone Does my Shirts


TOTALS for the entire Read-a-Thon:

735 minutes (approx 12.25 hours--this could definitely improve next time with some time management!)
739 pages
3 books finished (The Translator, Stardust, and Al Capone Does my Shirts--165 pages read from Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!)
8 or so mini-challenges entered
0 prizes :(
Countless blogs visited (or so it seems!)

**********************************************************************************
Here are the post-event survey questions:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
I think the last two hours were the most difficult. I kept falling asleep while reading Welcome to the World and had to get up every 20 minutes or so to walk around. Well, and I had to take a little catnap from 2:45-5:00 this morning.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Stardust was fantastic! And I think that it helped that I am familiar with the movie and so didn't have to think too much about the plot. Al Capone Does My Shirts was also a fun read and very light. I think lightness is the key to a successful read-a-thon (for me anyway)

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I got SO confused about the mini-challenge deadlines that I missed a few of them. I finally made a spreadsheet with my time zone, the challenge time zone, and the hour numbers to help, but even still there were some discrepencies between Dewey's blog and the challenge blog (no one's fault!!).

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The Cheerleaders were freakin' awesome (especially my unofficial cheerleader, Laura)! Everyone's support was really fantastic and I know I couldn't have done it without y'all. I liked the minichallenges but I wish that I could depend on them being posted at a certain time each hour or every other hour so I didn't have to keep getting up to check for updates.

5. How many books did you read?
I finished 3 and a quarter books!! I had NO idea I would read over 700 pages--which is about 2 weeks worth of reading for me--at least! When the cover of each closed I felt such a sense of accomplishment.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Translator, Stardust, Al Capone Does My Shirts, and part of Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Stardust--hands down. It was funny and magical (and a page turner!)

8. Which did you enjoy least?
None. They were all very very different but all enjoyable in their ways. Next time, though, I'll think twice before picking up a 400+ page book. The shorter books worked better for me.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn't a cheerleader but I tried to cheer others on. Y'all did a great job!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
YES!!!! I had an amazing time. This experience was such a journey from start to finish and I loved every minute of it (even when I was doing the headbob on the couch). I'll still read next time but pay more attention to my posting. I tended to stick to the blogs in my google reader since it was quick and easy, but I'd like to reach out a little more next time.
Dewey, I can't thank you enough. I wasn't going to do this but yesterday morning I thought--what the hell. I am so glad for the experience and can't wait for the next one.

Read-a-thon Mini Challenge: Challenge Pics


I caught Maggie in a half yawn. She says, Mom I'm tired--lets go sleepy!



This is what I wish I were doing.


Just kidding--only 3 more hours to go!! Dang I am tired looking!!

Read-a-thon: Update Hours 19&20

Alright alright alright!! I'm getting a little hungry and my eyes still sting a little, but its getting light outside and I can hear the birds chirping. Only 4 more hours to go!!


Pages: 68 - Mostly from Al Capone Does My Shirts--10 pages from Welcome to the World in search of a vocab word for mini challenge
Time: 65 minutes

TOTALS:

560 minutes
567 pages
2 books finished (The Translator and Stardust)
3 caffeine beverages
2 dance-a-thons
As my google reader has slowed down tremendously I haven't been posting comments as much but still trying to do a little
7? or so mini-challenges entered
No prizes!! What's up with that!!!

Read-a-thon: Update Lost Count (starting 19)

I'm back and hopefully my eyes will last the next 6 hours because I'd like to finish one more book!

Before my little 2 and a half nap (where I clung to the side of the bed because hubby thought he was sleeping alone and was sprawled out--he even hit me in the face with my pillow not quite understanding what was going on when I crawled into bed).

Before nap numbers:

Pages: 90 - Al Capone Does My Shirts (YA and very cute)
Time: 80 minutes (not really sure but it couldn't have been more than that according to my watch)

TOTALS:
495 minutes
499 pages

Is it too early for ice cream???

Read-a-thon Cat Nap

I need to refresh--my reading is much slower and my eyes are burning in their sockets!!! I brewed a pot of coffee and couldn't even make it through one cup. Oh well!

Taking a short cat nap. I hope to be back by 5:00 Central Time, but remembering back to school I remember how well that usually works.

Good luck to all of you who are still awake!! And Laura...what the heck??? :)

Read-a-thon Mini Challenge: Half Way Survey (and update)

Since finishing Stardust I'm not quite sure what to do. I picked up Vanishing Acts by Picoult but put it back down. I'm about 60 pages into Welcome to the World, Baby Girl--but it is over 400 pages long and for some reason I feel more accomplished during the challenge to finish more books. We'll see.

Last Hour: 75 minutes
Pages Read: 70 (includes preface of Welcome to the World...)

TOTALS:
415 minutes
408 pages (not as much as other people but a big fat wahoo for me!!)

*****************************************************************************
MIDEVENT SURVEY

1. What are you reading right now?
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! by Fannie Flagg--might alternate it with some smaller texts.

2. How many books have you read so far?
Two: The Translator and Stardust--two completely different books! One a memoir about Sudan and the other a fantasy book about a fallen star.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'll be happy just to make it through another book!! I still have plenty of time but I'm getting a little sleepy.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Nope! Hubby has been very understanding and even finished up the laundry for me (I still have to iron eventually--he refuses to learn how--even though it is 90% his stuff)

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Bra shopping. :) I started a little bit early but I still had about 2 hours cut out of my 24. It was good to spend some time with family and have lunch with my sister, though.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
That I am having such much fun! I LOVE getting the comments that are so supportive and also visiting everyone else and seeing their progress. I decided to join THIS morning at 8 and I'm so glad I did. I'm also thrilled to have finished 2 books--something I don't even think I did in grad school.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Post the mini-challenge deadlines in actual time instead of blog time because it was a little confusing (had to make a cheat sheet of my times, the pacific times, and the hour times).

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader, if you were to do this again next year?
Plan the reading out better--but with only a few hours of planning I think I'm faring pretty well.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
YES!! I'm doing fine and my reading hasn't slowed (it is amazing how much I can get read in an hour when I really set my mind to it!!), but I keep thinking about how lovely my pillow would feel under my head right now. If I could just close my eyes for five minutes...right. Hubby is fast asleep. Boo!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
Encouragement!!! Everyone is doing a great job, but it is wonderful to know that there are other readers out there cheering everyone on. (My plea to say--don't forget about lil ole me!) :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Read-a-thon: Fifth Update Hours 11&12

Half over?? Part of me says, already? The other half says, that's it?

Pages since last post: 70 - Finished Stardust and LOVED it

Time spent reading since last post: 50 (in the past hour I also took a mini break to eat some dinner and watch a few minutes of Friends with hubby)

Number of caffeinated drinks: Just popped open a cokeinacan

TOTALS:

340 minutes
338 pages
2 books finished (The Translator and Stardust)
2 caffeine beverages
0 naps but 1 minibreak
1 dance-a-thon (in dire need of another)
**Visited lots and lots of blogs--I LOVE the support I am getting so I'm trying to spread it as well Among them: Gautami, Debi, Bethany, Eva, Alisonwonderland and Wendy
5 or so mini-challenges entered
0 prizes, but hopeful!

Getting very sleepy and a bowlful of carbs (pasta) probably was not the best idea. Plus I don't know what to read next. I don't want anything too heavy or long...having a tough time finding something that fits the bill.

Read-a-thon: Update Hour 9&10

Ohmygoodness--hours 9 and 10 are already over?? I got a lot of reading done in the past two hours AND did my dance-a-thon. If you missed the video of my dancing foot either scroll down or click here. I did make a video of my entire person (except the top of my head because it is difficult to video yourself), but it was way too embarrassing to post. ;) I was cuddling on the couch with Maggie (above), but hubby wanted to watch TV so I'm demoted to the bedroom where Miss Maggie is not allowed. GRRRRRR!

UPDATE!!
Pages since last post: 124- Stardust by Neil Gaiman (only around 70 pages left!)

Time spent reading since last post: Due to the dance-a-thon and other shenanigans I lost track--let's say 100.

Number of caffeinated drinks: Just finished the latte (no, I don't mind cold coffee) and might brew a pot or have a cokeinacan

TOTALS:

390 minutes
392 pages (how is that possible? if anything my minutes total is less than stated! Guess I'm picking good easy books to read)
1 book finished (The Translator)
1 caffeine beverage
0 naps (woohoo)
1 dance-a-thon--soooo much fun!
5? participants visited since last post (forgot to keep track this time)
5 or so mini-challenges entered--the latest being Dewey's Move Your Body challenge
0 prizes--come on! This number has to change soon! ;)


STILL having fun--although I am finding my mind wandering more while reading

Read-a-thon: Dance-a-thon (mini challenge)

I created a highly embarrassing video of me dancing--and my head is cut off and I'm wearing my sweats--not pretty. So instead, here is a picture of my foot dancing. But believe me, I had my little dance-a-thon (to Shake It by Metro Station). I'm getting loopy--and the video is shaky. Time to get back to the reading!!

Read-a-thon: Third Update Hour 7&8

Pages since last post: 100 - Stardust by Neil Gaiman (Tristran just met the star!!)

Time spent reading since last post: 95 minutes (not sure if that counts the time it took for hubby to drive me to Starbucks--but I did read a little in the car)

Number of caffeinated drinks: How much caffeine is in a Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte?

TOTALS:

290 minutes
268 pages
1 book finished (The Translator)
1 caffeine beverage
0 naps (I threatened to post pictures of hubby while he was napping and post them on my blog--so he's not napping anymore)
0 dance-a-thons--yet that may change very soon!!
10 participants visited since last post (about--maybe a little more)
4 or so mini-challenges entered (I'm having to keep close track of the time since I missed one and entered another late)
0 prizes. :( Extreme sad face. Ha ha, just kidding!!

Still having a blast even though I need some visene for the eyes.

Read-a-thon Mini Challenge: Hour 5

Ok, I'm really confused about the timing of these challenges--this is supposed to be hour five (which ended an hour ago, but the blog says it ends 11 pacific time, which is 1 my time which is hour 3. Confused...)

But I like the challenge--so here goes:

Vasiliy has asked us to post our favorite quote and mine, of course, is from Wuthering Heights--or at least the first one that comes to my mushy brain. Wait, the first one that comes to my mushy brain is "I AM Heathcliff" but I can't find that quote in my copy. So here is the second best:

"I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquited slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth" (308)

Read-a-thon: Second Update Hours 5&6

First book finished!! The Translator by Daoud Hari
Pages since last post: 70
Time spent reading since last post: 75 minutes
Number of caffeinated drinks: 0 (one gatorade)


TOTALS:
3 hours, 15 minutes
168 pages
1 book finished
0 caffeine beverages
0 naps (hubby is still napping--lucky dog!)
I haven't been counting participants I've visited, but I've been trying to get around.

This is so much freakin' fun! I wonder if I'll be saying that in a few hours. I may have to have a personal dance-a-thon to liven things up a bit. :) Yikes, I just realized I had a lot of errors in this post--please forgive me for future spelling errors as my eyes begin to glaze over and brain goes mushy.

Off to blog hop for a little bit.

Read-a-thon: First Update Hour 4

I feel like I've fallen off the face of the earth!! Yikes! I had to go shopping which ate up 3 of my 24 hours, but I was able to get in an hour this morning before 11 (cheater, I know!!).




Numbers for past hour:
55 minutes
48 pages (woohoo!!)
0 caffiene beverages (this number will probably change soon)

TOTALS:
approx 2 hours (poo!)
98 pages
0 books finished
0 caffiene beverages
0 naps
4 new bras :)

Alright, gonna do a little bit of bloghopping (I'm giving myself 10 minutes!) before it's back to the book. I only have 60 pages left, so I hope to finish it soon. Yippppeeee! Hubby is asleep in the bedroom and I am incredibly jealous right now.

Read-a-thon Mini Challenge: Hour 1

Anyway, I just got back from my morning run (the weather is actually below 90 degrees so I had to jump at the chance!) and I am PUMPED up!! ("American Boy" by Estelle and Kayne on my itunes definitely helps with the pumping up).

MINI CHALLENGE: HOUR 1

Darcy put up the first little mini challenge--getting to know the other contestants:

Where are you reading from today?
***Stinky, hot, sunny, Dallas Texas (north Dallas)--wait, I'm the only stinky part from my run. Whewwwwwwy

3 facts about me
***This read-a-thon scares the crap out of me
***I am going to Argentina in a week to visit my sister!!!! Soooooooo excited
***I've been happily married for a little over two years and we have a dog and a cat.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
***My entire library--over 200 books! Ha ha. I'm a slow reader (average about 30-40 pages an hour), so I'm hoping to get through a book and a half realistically--more ideally. ;)

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
***I'd like to finish The Translator--and with 30 pages an hour I should be able to get it finished by dinner time (if I don't spend too much time blogging!!). It is easy for me to get caught up in blogging, so I'm going to try and keep it to a minimum (maybe a few minutes each hour or every other hour). I'd also like to try and get well into another book--I keep changing my mind on what that will be, though. I thought Fannie Flagg because I love her characters, then Half of a Yellow Sun because I've heard it is dificult to put down...I have no idea!!

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
***Keep it simple and fun!!! I've never done a readathon before, so I don't really have any advice--yet.

Laura--I sooooo wish you were here doing this with me. :(

24-hour Read-a-thon: YAHOO


Ow ow ow owowowowow...stop twisting my arm!! When my friend, Laura, first mentioned this read-a-thon to me, my first thought was...not sure that sounds so fun. Even at my young age of 26, I struggle to stay up past 10:00 at night. Usually my evening ends with hubby and I watching a movie or TV show and me falling fast asleep. We joke that I can't stay awake during any movie--last night I fell asleep during Hairspray!

When I told hubby that I was interested in joining this little shindig--he immediately laughed and told me I couldn't make it two hours. Probably not. My attention span is incredibly short and I can usually only read for an hour at a time--and only a few hours a day.

But--what kind of challenge would this be if I just quit before I even started? So, I'm going to attempt to do the read-a-thon. I'm late signing up, of course, and Dewey's website The Hidden Side of a Leaf is down for some reason (grrrrrr!!), but here I am.

I do have to go shopping with step-mom and sister at noon, so I think I'm going to bend the rules and start a little earlier than 11:00 (I'm central time). But, I got some of my weekend duties (i.e. cleaning the bathrooms) done last night and so all I have to do today is tend to laundry and maybe a little ironing (during which I can finish Hairspray).

I'm going to temporarily abandon Tess of the D'Urbervilles, which I'm enjoying but frankly too exhausted from work to read right now. Instead, I'm going to attempt to read some of the shorter books on my shelf. The plan is to start with The Translator (about 180 pages), then Saint Therese of Lisieux (about the same length), and then maybe a Jodi Picoult book. That's probably overzealous of me and I probably won't make it to a second book, but I thought I'd be prepared so I won't stare at my bookshelf aimlessly looking for the next book.

So...yay!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Springtime on Mars - Susan Woodring

Title: Springtime on Mars
Author: Susan Woodring
Date Finished: June 23, 2008 #35
Pages: 177 (ARE)
Rating: 3.5/5

In Springtime on Mars, a collection of eleven short stories, Woodring delves into the lives of very different people and their hidden desires, fears, wishes, and secrets. From an estranged father who doesn't quite know how to interact with his teenage daughter, to an elderly second-marriage couple coming to terms with their new life together, a woman who lusts over the bag boy at the grocery store, and a woman who loves a boy that no one else can.

While these stories couldn't be more different from one another, the common thread throughout them all is the introspective look at what makes ordinary events extraordinary to the individual--the way that the person handles the death of the President, the way that a woman yearns to know her place within a new family, the way that a young girl searches for acceptance and care from her neighbors. On the surface the events in the stories are mundane, but the honesty that Woodring explores within her characters is what makes this collection one that can be appreciated by a range of people.

I marked several passages throughout the book where Woodring takes a simple event and shows how it emotionally affects the character. In the below example, the main character has had an emotional breakdown in the middle of the grocery store:

"Maud dabbed at her eyes with the tissue Donald had handed her and she wondered where it came from. He was not the kind of man to carry tissues, and now, he had given her one and he was moving his hand, rubbing lightly across her back. The picture came to her of what Donald himself had looked like in high school, the person he had been, and she saw his clam, quiet manner, him sitting at the back of every classroom... She thought of his birdhouses in the backyard, of how he had let the children god, of how he stood on the porch and looked back at their house and found something new to start each time. She wondered if it was the same with her, if she ever seemed new to him, if there was anything more for them to do with each other" (97).

I don't know that it is the best example of what I am trying to get at, but it shows the quiet way in which the reader can see the innermost thoughts of the character. I didn't love every story in the book--I felt myself drawn more to the character's whose emotions I could really relate to, but because of the wide range of emotions, I think that all readers can find a little bit of themselves in these stories. Because the stories are so deceptively layered, I think this would be a great selection for a bookclub--nothing fantastical happens in these stories, but in a way I think that makes these stories more relatable and real. Overall, a pleasant and enjoyable read.

**Part of Blog Stop Book Tours--check out the website for more information on Springtime on Mars and Susan Woodring

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Date Finished: June 21, 2008 #34
Pages: 259
Rating: 3.5/5

When I read A Handmaid's Tale about five years ago, I realized that I really like dystopian literature and have since been steadily trying to read through the canon. I didn't love Brave New World, but it definitely provides some interesting food for thought.

In the year 632 AF (After Ford), the social structure of civilization looks a little different than how it does now. In the first chapter, the reader, with a number of students, is taken on a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. This is where the new babies are born--not from a mother's womb, but essentially from test tubes. It is here that the infants are born into their pre-determined social sphere (Alpha being the highest, Epsilon the lowest) and then conditioned through sleep hypnosis so they will fit in with their given social status. Only the Alpha and Beta babies are born of one egg and one sperm; the rest bud off from the same fertilized egg so that thousands of babies can be produced at the same time.

In this society, there is no religion, there is no family, there is no commitment to anyone else, and if life begins to get a little difficult there is always a tab of soma that can be taken for a little mental holiday. When two characters, Lenina and Bernard, decide to go on vacation together to visit the Savages in New Mexico, their lives turn topsy-turvy when they decide to bring a Savage, John, back to civilization with them. The Savage cannot reconcile the decisions and actions of those in the civilized world and begins to question the basis of their beliefs.

There is too much in this book for me to discuss here--and this is another one of those books where everyone can take away something different. What struck me as one of the most curious aspects of this civilization is that the citizens are sheltered from any type of pain or hurt. They don't have literature because they can't understand the elements of feeling, they can't have only one partner because of the attachment (no marriage at all!), there is no God or religion. In a discussion between John, the Savage, and the Controller, the merits of an easy life versus a difficult life are explained and John exclaims:

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

The Controller answers:

"Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind" (240).

Yes, John says. What is a life without a little pain to balance--to make the good that much sweeter? But, this is only a small part of the book. Even though I had to laugh at the fact that this is a commonly assigned high school book despite the discussion of god and especially the blatant promiscuity, there are so many themes to be discussed: technology, family relations, education, class system, etc etc. I would recommend this book to those who are interested in these themes--aren't we all??--but don't be frightened by the first few chapters. I had to re-read several passages until I became more familiar with this foreign world. After those first chapters, the book was very engaging and even at times gripping. I got lost in a little bit of religious discussion near the end, but overall it was a fascinating little book.

Also read and reviewed by:

Rhinoa from Rhinoa's Ramblings
Raidergirl from An Adventure in Reading

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream; Once Upon a Time II Complete!

Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Author: William Shakespeare
Date Finished: June 19, 2008 #33

A Midsummer Night's Dream begins with a father's command that his daughter, Hermia, marry Demetrius. Hermia doesn't love Demetrius, though; she and Lysander are very much in love. However, her father tells her she must marry Demetrius or face death or a life of celibacy.

Hermia and Lysander run off into the woods together where scheming fairies reside. The king of fairies, Oberon, is upset with the queen of fairies, Titania, and decides to play a trick on her. When she falls asleep, his servant, Robin Goodfellow (or Puck) will rub a flower on her eyes so that when she awakes she will fall desperately in love with the first thing that she sees. After Oberon overhears a conversation between Helena and Demetrius, who have gone in search of their friends Hermia and Lysander, Oberon tells Robin to use the flower on Demetrius so that he will fall in love with Helena--thus solving everyone's problems.


In classic comedic error, Robin rubs the flower on the wrong man's eyes and Lysander awakes to find himself in love with Helena. In an effort to correct his mix up, he also rubs the flower on Demetrius's eyes so that both men are in love with Helena. Meanwhile, Titania awakes and falls in love with an ass (see the pictures)--much to Oberon's amusement. The rest of the play is the undoing of Robin's actions so that the right people end up in love with the right people.

The tale is a fun and magical one, but my favorite part was the last act when handy-men (i.e. a weaver, carpenter, tailor, tinker, etc) get together to put on a play for the wedding party. The play is not very good and the audience makes it clear to the actors how the play should go--while the play is in action. The other parts of the play with the mixed lovers was humorous, but the play within the play was the true treat. This isn't my favorite Shakespeare comedy (I really loved Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night), but I'm glad to have read it and can't wait to revisit the movie with Michelle Pheiffer and Kevin Kline.

I was surprised I didn't see more posts on this play, but here's what I found--let me know if I've missed your review:

Petunia from Educating Petunia
Nymeth from Things Mean A Lot
Stephanie from Confessions of a Bookaholic

**********************************************************************************
ONCE UPON A TIME II CHALLENGE COMPLETED!!

With finishing this little play, I've also completed Carl's Once Upon a Time II Challenge. I started blogging right before the challenge ended last year, so I was thrilled to be able to participate this year. I chose to read a book from the four genres--folklore, myth, fantasy, and fairy tale and as a bonus A Midsummer Night's Dream. I discovered Terry Pratchett and his Discworld as well as Gregory Maguire--both of whom I will be reading more of! My list is as follows:

Indian Tales from Picuris Pueblo
Retold Classic Myths
The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett
Wicked - Gregory Maquire
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Shakespeare

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Rumor of War - Philip Caputo

Title: A Rumor of War
Author: Philip Caputo
Date Finished: June 16, 2008 #32
Pages: 356
Rating: 4.5/5

After reading Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried last fall (review here), I was eager to finally get into A Rumor of War. While the books are similar in the respect that they both discuss the Vietnam War--a war I know relatively little about, there are many differences. While O'Brien's discusses the greater aspect of the war as it affects several soldiers that the reader gets to know, A Rumor of War is Caputo's actual memoir of his year (1965-1966) in Vietnam and focuses mostly on his own experience and the experience of his specific company--Charley Company. [**I have no desire to get into the current war discussion nor express my personal beliefs--I hope none of my comments on the book are misconstrued].

Because Caputo was part of one of the first battalions to go to Vietnam, the memoir begins explaining the lofty expectations of the soldiers: "They were to a man thoroughly American, in their virtues as well as flaws: idealistic, insolent, generous, direct, violent, and provincial in the sense that they believed the ground they stood on was now forever a part of the United States simply because they stood on it" (27). The soldiers had the idea that they were going to win the war quickly. They were arrogant, bored, and impatient for fighting--and even when the fighting did come it was sparse and uneventful.

Soon, though, it became apparent that this war was not going to be the same type of war that had been fought in the past. It was as much a mental war as a physical war--a war where fear of the unknown always haunted the soldiers, a war where the elements were as dangerous as the unseen guerrillas, a war where men began to question their own purpose and the purpose of the war. By the end, Caputo explains:

"My mind shot back a decade, to that day we had marched into Vietnam, swaggering, confident, and full of idealism. We had believed we were there for a high moral purpose. But somehow our idealism was lost, our morals corrupted, and the purpose forgotten" (345).

There are so many things that were powerful about this book. And it isn't necessarily and anti-war book but rather a book explaining the psychological effects the war had on its soldiers. This war not only changed the soldiers from eager and willing soldiers to disillusioned men, but it also changed our nation to one who was willing to fight for JFK's myth of Camelot (a theme discussed throughout the novel) to one who couldn't remember what the myth was in the first place. Caputo explores the similarities between the Vietnam war and WWI--a war that changed how warfare was perceived (first trench warfare and the second guerrilla warfare), and the weapons had evolved, and how the war changed each generation permanently.

Caputo writes with beautiful and lyrical prose--sometimes even urgent prose. It is evident that he believes in what he is writing and has deliberated over what the war and his experience meant to him. I dogeared several pages and had a difficult time choosing which passages to use to depict Caputo's writing. He makes every bit of the book come to life-the beautiful and dangerous scenery of Vietnam, the fear of the soldiers, the pain and even momentary elation. There were a few times when the writing felt a little jumpy, but I feel that he is being true to the fact that he can remember what he can remember--not every detail. Some of the details in the book are rather gruesome--especially during the middle section where Caputo is "the officer in charge of the dead"--the one who keeps track of the wounded and killed.

I would recommend this book--I'm actually taking it to Dad tonight. This book makes me curious to know more about the war--especially since just a tiny slice was detailed in the book. I would be interested to know how the soldiers changed as the fighting began to change and as the soldiers began to realize more and more they were fighting a war they would not/could not win. All in all, I found A Rumor of War to be an important and and emotionally moving book.

Two Challenges Completed!!

I just realized that I've been finished with Dana's Chunkster Challenge for a while now. Oops! :) I switched out one of my original books, but since it was for a longer book I don't feel bad. This challenge is great because I tend to read shorter books because I can read more of them. I keep saying I'll finish with my current challenges, not join any more, then just read my big fat chunksters the rest of the year. Probably not going to happen...bleh! I really enjoyed all of these books:

The Book Thief (my favorite of the group)
The Other Boleyn Girl
Snow Crash
The Robber Bride
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I also finished Annie's What's in a Name Challenge. I loved this creative idea and would definitely be eager to join again next year (hint hint Annie!). :) Honestly, I'm not sure what my favorite or least favorite was for this challenge because all the books were so incredibly different.

For this challenge we had to read six books with a different element in each title: weather, color, animal, first name, place, and flower:

Snow Crash
Mother of Pearl
All the Pretty Horses
Angela's Ashes
Salem Falls
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Title: Ender's Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Date Finished: June 12, 2008 #31
Pages: 226
Rating: 4.25/5

*Note: this post does contain my thoughts on the book, but I'm taking the scenic route to get there:

I heard of this book through blogging--I'm not sure that I had heard of it before then. But then my sister read it this year for her sophomore English class and a coworker listened to it and I realized I needed to pick it up soon--even given my apprehension of science fiction novels.

While at the bookstore with hubby, he expressed some interest in this one and I jumped at his interest since he hates reading. I've mentioned before that he is dyslexic and struggles with the difficulty and frustration of reading. Harry Potter was actually his first book--one that I loaned to him when we were next-door-neighbors in college.

So, we got the book and when we were driving to my dad's over Memorial Day weekend (a one a and a half hour drive each way), he suggested that I read it to him instead of reading my book to myself. Last summer I read Harry Potter 6 to him while on our various cartrips--a re-read for both of us before the new one was released--and even though reading aloud is exhausting, it makes the trip go much faster for each of us.

During that weekend and then this past weekend on our three hour cartrip to his parents house, I read much of the book to him. My mouth gets tired and I get tongue-tied, but I love love love reading to him. Because this is a part of my life that I rarely get to share with him, I revel in the moments when we can discuss the book and get excited over the same parts in the novel--speculating what will happen and exploring the themes presented. I was sad when we got home on Sunday with 40 pages left in the book, especially when he decided to finish the book without me.

The bottom line is that because I read most of this book aloud, my experience was very different from if I had read the book to myself, by myself. We got to know the characters together, I got to explore the voice of each character when trying to bring each alive. My favorite parts were when the characters were in heated discussions or when little Ender was having personal moments of crisis and both of us were able to hear the passion that comes out of the text. Although I have found that my mind wanders too much for listening to audiobooks, I have fallen in love with the experience of reading aloud.

Thanks for indulging me. :)

Ender's Game is the story of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, a young child of six who is taken away from his family in order to attend Battle School. There he will learn the skills he needs in order to fight the Buggers who are threatening earth with destruction. He leaves behind an abusive brother and a loving sister to join a world he knows nothing about--one where he will have to grow up rather quickly.

At the Battle School, Ender is pushed to his limits, but his brilliance shines through and he quickly excels through school leading groups of other children in battle simulation--or games--and shows the adults his promise as the one who could save the human race from the Buggers. Back at home, tensions are building in the world as the Russians and the countries of the Warsaw Pact are putting pressure on the other nations. Ender has a lot resting on his shoulders--will he be The One that can save the world and defeat the Buggers? If so, will peace between the worldly nations hold or will hell break loose without the common fear of the Buggers holding the different factions together? And will it ultimately cost him his childhood?

As I mentioned before, the characters come alive in the novel. It is difficult not to fall in love with little Ender (who doesn't seem very little after he stops acting like the child he truly is)--he is vulnerable and afraid, he loves and is passionate, he feels and has hope. And while we don't get to see too much of his brother, Peter, and sister, Valentine, these characters develop throughout the novel providing a strong foil to Ender. There is also a wide cast of other characters that I loved getting to know through their interaction with Ender. Hubby and I had some great laughs over the dialogue--and we were reminded often that first and foremost, these characters were children when they called each other names such as fart eater. :)

I have two qualms with the novel. First, because I am not a visual person I had a tough time imagining some of the battle or game scenes in the novel. This is where hubby came in because he is incredibly visual. I would stop reading and he would explain to me what the students looked like while in battle. If I hadn't read these parts aloud--having to read every single word--I probably would have done a lot of skimming. I found myself doing this while reading the remainder by myself and didn't get quite as much enjoyment. Second, I was a little disappointed with the almost ending. Hubby was telling me about the huge twist, but when I got to it I wasn't surprised by it. However, a few pages later my twist came and I was rewarded with chills. We didn't agree on liking the ending, but I loved it. The ending is beautiful and hopeful (sort of) as it brought everything full circle.

So, thanks to those who reviewed it before me:

Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot
Kim from Bold.Blue.Adventure
Debi from Nothing of Importance
Raidergirl3 from An Adventure in Reading
Jeane from Dog Ear Diary

Monday, June 9, 2008

Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury

Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Author: Ray Bradbury
Date Finished: June 9, 2008 #30
Pages: 215
Rating: 4.5/5

Laura from Reading Reflections recommended this one as a "future" classic for my classics challenge, and since it is relatively short, I thought I'd squeeze it in and see what it is all about. My only other Bradbury book so far is Fahrenheit 451, and while this one is very different, I enjoyed it just as much.

Will and Jim have always lived in close proximity--both in age and as next-door-neighbors and companions. When a carnival unexpectedly blows into town in the middle of the night, right before their birthdays, it becomes clear that the two boys are very different from one another in what they desire and wish for. As the mysteries of Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show begin to unravel, Jim becomes intrigued by what he can become while Will becomes frightened and urges Jim to use his common sense. Will it be too late for Will to help Jim see the truth, or will he make a mistake that will change his life forever?

Right away I was sucked into this little novel. Bradbury uses suspenseful language that drives the plot and kept me turning the pages. He doesn't give anything away too quickly, so the book retained its air of mystery until the last page. There were even a few times when hubby walked in on me reading the book and gave me quite a startle! In addition to Bradury's use of mystery, he also provides a vivid description of the events and the surroundings to paint a colorful picture of the novel. From a scene at the beginning of the book as a storm is rolling in:

"But by the time the last stroke of nine shook everyone's fillings in his teeth, the barbers had yanked off the sheets, powdered the customers, trotted them forth; the druggist's fount had stopped fizzing like a nest of snakes, the insect neons everywhere had ceased buzzing, and the vast glittering acreage of the dime store with its ten billion metal, glass and paper oddments waiting to be fished over, suddenly blacked out. Shades slithered, doors boomed, keys rattled their bones in locks, people fled with hordes of torn newspaper mice nibbling their heels" (16).

This is the type of book that contains so many themes and motifs that everyone reading it could come away from something different. Because much of the book has to do with enjoying one's life, the message that I took away was live now--don't wish to go back, don't wish to go forward. Be happy and don't take life too seriously or you will find your soul withered away. Laugh and sing and don't fear death.

Dolce Bellezza reviewed it
Let me know if you've also reviewed it and I'll add it on. :)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mother of Pearl - Melinda Haynes

Title: Mother of Pearl
Author: Melinda Haynes
Date Finished: June 5, 2008
Yearly Count: 29
Pages: 445
Rating: 4/5

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for at least five years knowing nothing about it. I'm glad that a friend informed me that it was set in the south so I could add it to one more challenge--because sometimes I need that motivation to finally read a book. Really? Yes.

Mother of Pearl, set in the deep south of Mississippi, is about a number of characters who couldn't be more different from each other. However, an event brings the characters together in an unlikely bond--one that changes everyone's life forever. At the center of the group is a teenage girl, Valuable Korner, who is struggling to know herself and find her place in the world, and a young man, Even Grade, who is searching for meaning in his life as well as a family of his own. Through these two characters, the plot winds together melding the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the religious and spiritual, the gay and straight, and the black and the white during the 1950s when tolerance was sometimes difficult to find.

While some of the symbolism of the book was lost on me, I couldn't help but be swept away in Haynes' rich Southern language. I think I read somewhere that she is also an artist? and it shows in her careful attention to landscape and setting. When I opened the book to read, I was transported from my hot, muggy Dallas to hot, muggy Petal, Mississippi, but everything was so much more beautiful there that I wanted to grab and ice tea (which I don't drink) and sit on a rocker on my front porch (which I don't have) to take everything in.

In addition to her ability to write the landscape, Haynes wrote characters that were flawed, funny, sad, heart breaking, and hopeful. I grew to care about the people in this book--including Valuable's colorful lesbian aunts, Even's neighbor Canaan who philosophizes on the nature of man, and Joleb, a troubled soul who finally finds his way. I would recommend this book, but I think it would work best in a book club setting where all of the different themes and ideas can be teased out. The book was a little slow getting in to and there is a little bit of language and sex (including taboos such as incest), but the message that we are all human--part of one common world instead of little tiny circles--is one that we can all relate to and learn from.

Laura at Reading Reflections also reviewed it. Have you read it?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Classics Challenge List

Um, I guess since I'm hosting the challenge I should go ahead and make my list...right? I don't really want to yet because like many of you I keep changing my mind, but I'm in the mood to post something and probably won't finish my current book (Mother of Pearl) until this weekend. So...here goes!

I'm going with Option 3--at least 2 countries, at least 2 genres

1. The Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller (US - Drama)
2. Swiss Family Robinson - Johann David Wyss (Switzerland)
3. My Antonia - Willa Cather (US)
4. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (World!)
5. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (Great Britain)

Bonus (this is where I had the most difficult time choosing)
6. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

Now, of course I have the right to switch out books if I choose. :) Ha ha ha! I'm also thinking The Road and Ender's Game and Half of a Yellow Sun as my bonus books, but I thought I'd pick one that isn't currently on any of my challenge lists.

I can't wait for July to be here! I've loved reading everyone's lists so far and can't wait for the reviews. Thank you all for being so supportive!! Have you signed up yet with Mister Linky?? Click the button above to sign up. :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tagged?!?!? Orbis Terrarum and 123 Page Memes

So, I guess I was only officially tagged for the 123 Page meme, but I wanted to participate in the Orbis Terrarum meme as well since I'm loving the challenge so much.

First, if you are participating in Bethany's Orbis Terrarum Challenge, pop over HERE to participate in her fun meme.

1.) What country do you always go back to in your travels (not just while reading for OT)?

It seems that the country I read most from (outside the US) is the United Kingdom--particularly England. Although last year I traveled a lot to the Middle East (Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey) and this year I've been to Africa and will continue to go back (Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria). Maybe next year I'll focus on Asia and Russia!

2.) If you could visit 4 of the countries you have read about in your life (that you haven't been to yet), which would they be and why?

Holland - Anne Frank Remembered (Gies)
India - Midnight's Children (Rushdie); Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert)
New Zealand - The Bone People (Hulme)
Eastern Europe - The Historian (Kostavos)

3.) Have you ever dreamed about a country you have read about, that you have never actually traveled to- except in your dreams?

I don't remember a whole lot of my dreams, but the other night, while in the middle of Anne Frank Remembered, I had horrible dreams about hiding people and being caught by the Nazi's. The only other thing is that while in grad school, I would fall asleep while reading but be dreaming that I was still reading--very freaky!

4.) In what ways has reading about different countries opened up your perspective about global issues?

I think that I haven't really ventured out of my comfort zone until recently, so I am just starting to discover these global issues through reading (versus other media like the news). Reading these books has certainly helped me not be so ethnocentric and has helped me be aware of some of the things that are happening in other cultures/countries. The thing that reading gives me to that the news doesn't, is for a minute (or few days), I can see what is really going on not just at the forefront, but also in individual people's lives--how these events are really affecting people.

5.) What countries have you felt your judgment was off about-after reading about that nation?

I can't claim to be completely judgment free, but I try try try not to be. If anything the books help me understand a little more.

6.) Which is your favourite book that you would recommend for this challenge (you don't have to have read it during the challenge)?

I really liked The House of the Spirits by Allende and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Kundras.

7.) I am thinking about hosting again, for a full year next time starting in January, do you have any constructive criticism, is one book a month about right...more? less? Give me some thoughts.

I like the shorter challenges better. If I have 12 books on my list I tend to get a little bored and antsy. But for you, Bethany my dear, I will do a 12 month-12 book challenge if I have to. :)

8.) Anything else that you have been wanting to tell us all about? let us have it!

You've been a great hostess and I love your enthusiasm! AND I love the map you periodically put up showing our progress!
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I was tagged by Valentina for the 1 2 3 Pages Meme:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Anne Frank: The Diary of Young Girl (yay...picked it up yesterday! Can't wait to read)

"Still, I wouldn't dream of pointing out to Mummy that, in the case of her daughters, it isn't at all as she imagines, because she would be utterly amazed and wouldn't know how to change anyway; I want to save her the unhappiness it would cause her, especially as I know that for me everything would remain the same anyway.
Mummy certainly feels that Margot loves her much more than I do, but she thinks that this just goes in phases! Margot has grown so sweet; she seems quite different from what she used to be, isn't nearly so catty these days and is becoming a real friend."

Since I think I am the last person on the planet to actually do this meme, if you think YOU are the last person on the planet who hasn't...TAG YOU'RE IT! :)

Happy Sunday.
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