Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Catch Me If You Can - Frank W. Abagnale

Yikes—can’t believe I’m a week and a half past the read-a-thon and still have a few reviews I need to get out. I try really hard not to procrastinate because I know if I get behind the chances of me getting caught up might be slim (this is what happened when I kept a written journal). Luckily I’m reading Middlemarch and will be for a few more weeks, so I’ve been able to take my sweet time. I have to admit that it was kind of nice with the blogosphere being so quiet last week, but I’m back at 100% (was dancing and singing in the car this morning…yes, I am one of those people), so now I just have to write my reviews and get caught up on bloghopping. Yippee!


Title: Catch Me If You Can
Author: Frank W. Abagnale
Published: 1980 Pages: 285
Genre: Memoir (NF)
Rating: 4/5

I’m sure many of you have seen the movie, Catch Me If You Can, but if not: Frank Abagnale left his tumultuous homelife at the age of 16. His parents had recently divorced and Frank found himself depressed and ready to move on. Over the next few years, he posed as various high-powered professionals—airline pilot, doctor, lawyer, teacher—without even a high school diploma. He began his criminal career by performing clever little capers, in the beginning at his father’s expense, but by the time he was caught he had led a full and adventurous, albiet short, criminal life:

"I was a millionaire twice over and a half again before I was twenty-one. I stole every nickel of it and blew the bulk of the bundle on fine threads, gourmet foods, luxious lodgings, fantastic foxes, fine wheels and other sensual goodies. I partied in every capital in Europe, basked on all the famous beaches and good-timed it in South America, the South Seas, the Orient and the more palatable portions of Africa" (4).

Simply put, this book was fascinating. I loved the movie, but the book goes into so much more depth as to how Frank pulled off his stunts and faked his way into some very lucrative positions. Many of the times he fell into the right place at the right time, but there is no doubt that he is an incredibly intelligent and resourceful man. I was constantly amazed at the detail he put into his cons and how well thought out his fraud crimes were. My husband read this book a year ago, so it was fun to say, "Hey Honey, remember..." and then quickly chat about whatever little tidbit I had just discovered. Great for holding my attention during the read-a-thon!

As for the writing, Stan Redding is the ghostwriter and I'm not sure what that entails or how heavy his hand was, but I was pleased with the detail and description in the book. The style was very easy to consume, but I did have a difficult time understanding sometimes the complicated nature of his schemes, especially when he was involved in complicated bank robberies. It is also amazing to me how trusting people were--or oftentimes just ignorant. Most of these events happened in the 1960s and I think with today's technology many of these crimes could not have been committed with such ease.

I'd definitely recommend this book. It was fast and fun. The information was interesting and the writing was engaging. There certainly was never a dull moment during Frank's short criminal career. I did have to wonder whether all of the stories were true, but I guess it can all be backed up in some fashion. The FBI was investigating Frank for years before they were finally able to nab him (and then he still escaped out of the bathroom in an airplane!). I'm telling you--this story will keep you on your toes!

Finished: April 18, 2009 (during read-a-thon)


So this reminds me--Non-Fiction Five challenge starts on Friday!! If you haven't signed up yet, head over there. I'll put up a Mr. Linky each month, but I don't think I'll keep them sticky. What do you think? This would be a great one for your list, especially for apprehensive non-fiction readers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Salon 4 - ARCs, etc.

Is it just me or has the blogosphere been relatively quiet this week? I had expected the read-a-thoners to be posting reviews of all the books they read last Saturday/Sunday, but I haven't seen a lot of that. Maybe you're like me...just a little bit burned out.

This was one of those weeks. I think it was partially so icky because of the extreme high from the read-a-thon (did you see how excited I was at 6:00 am??) that my mood had no where to go but down. Top it off with a busy week at work and my husband being sick with whoknowswhat. I took a half day on Friday so that I could come home and unwind for a bit, but when I got home I found that my dog had been sick all over the house. My half day turned into a trip to the vet day. Certainly not my idea of unwinding.

I had another little source of disappointment this week that has sparked two questions--one about ARCs and another about what works well on your (my) blog. I'll save the later part, what works well, for next week's Salon so that this post doesn't start to get really unruly--especially as I'm sure I'll be doing my fair share of rambling.

ARCs, Author Interviews, Guest Posts

Let me preface this conversation by first saying that I am NOT trying to hurt anyone's feelings or saying that seeking out/accepting ARCs is a bad thing. I'm not singling anyone out and I hope I don't offend anyone with this conversation. As for me, my email is not being beaten down with offers of ARCs. I've tried not to dwell on the fact that I don't receive a million offers, and I really am ok with that. I'm ok with saying no to a book that doesn't interest me. I stopped seeking out ARCs last December when I realized that my intake was getting a little over the top, although I only took in about 16 books last year from authors, publishers, and publicists. I still have a handful of those books sitting on my shelf to be read, which is why I deleted my email subscription to Shelf Awareness. There are just so many other books on my shelf that I want to read as well (I'll talk about this more next week with what works well).

I made my first exception this year when I was approached about participating in a TLC Blog Tour for Tea and Other Ayama Tales. The book sounded like it was right up my alley. And it was! I was excited and worked really hard on my review. I wanted to do a good job for the author and for the ladies at TLC, and I have to admit that I was disappointed at the relative lack of interest. This got me to thinking about ARCs and author interviews and guest posts. The connection? Lately I don't pay as much attention to these types of posts and I'm wondering how alone I am in my lack of interest.

How do you feel about posts about ARCs, author interviews, and guest posts?

Do you read them all? Are there getting to be too many or would you like to see more? If X amount of people are reading the same book and interviewing the same author, do you read all of those posts? Do you find guest posts interesting? Are you leery of reviewers who are always giving praise to every book they receive (I think this topic has been well covered this week and we don't really need to go there). Do you enter all the giveaways in hopes that you'll get a shiny new book in the mail? Are you a new blogger trying to figure out how you can get your hands on ARCs as well?

Who are the publishers really trying to reach by sending out their books to bloggers for review? Are they trying to reach US (ie book bloggers) or do they just want a review out there so that if someone else Googles their book several reviews will pop up? For those of you speaking on panels in the next few months, I'd LOVE to know why publishers are reaching out to bloggers and what they hope to accomplish by sending us books. I know that my personal TBR has increased because of it, but certainly we are not the end of the line, right? Certainly these ARCs are not just for OUR benefit? I'd love to hear your take.

Like I said, this is not meant to be a stab at anyone who reads a lot of ARCs. There is certainly an audience for it as you can tell by the number of comments some of these reviews receive. For me, I sometimes miss the blogosphere before the flood of ARCs--I miss seeing reviews for the books I've heard of or the books I have on my shelf, and I'll be honest in saying that I gravitate towards the bloggers who are still reading those types of books. Yes, I know I need to get with the program and accept that the blogosphere is an ever evolving world. And I think it should be. And the attention that bloggers are getting from publishers and authors is really exciting. We are valid and our opinions do matter. But I'm curious about your opinions on ARCs, etc.--any and all.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales - Eleanor Bluestein (and interview)

Title: Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales
Author: Eleanor Bluestein
Published: 2008 Pages: 234
Genre: Short Story, Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

When Trish emailed me about reading Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales for TLC Book Tours, I immediately jumped at the chance to read this book. I love world literature and discovering new places, and I was so intrigued at the thought of Eleanor's fictional country of Ayama Na. I'm always apprehensive about receiving books, especially short story collections, but I couldn't have been more pleased with this book. Well, there is one way I could have been more pleased, but it is a catch-22 type thing. I'll explain in a bit.

Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales is a collection of 10 interconnected short stories about the people of Ayama Na, a fiction country in Southeast Asia. Although the book got off to a slow start for me with "Pineapple Wars" and "Hamburger School," the former a story about a man struggling to cope with his dying father and the latter a story about the continual abuse of a young girl at her father's hand, soon I was entrenched in the Ayama Nan culture and couldn't get enough. Bluestein has created such a rich and realized country and culture, and she tackles heavy themes of a struggling country amongst capitalist giants, old traditions juxtaposed with modern desires, the tourist's perception of an antiquated and often destitute culture, and tribal living in a world that is rapidly changing.

As I mentioned above, the book started slow for me, but the more I read the more I began to think about Ayama Na and its people. The events that happen in this book are oftentimes heartbreaking, there were things that made me angry, I sometimes laughed at the biting humor and the ironic turns of events. This is the type of book that made me think and the stories will continue to stick with me for a long time to come. While the culture might be unfamiliar, with any world literature novel, the shreds of humanity are familiar. There are bits and pieces of each of these characters that we can relate to or sympathize with.

One of my favorite stories is "Skin Deep" about a beauty queen contestant whose talent act is ventriloquism. Her dummy gains a voice of her own and chastises Song Li, the contestant, for partaking in such a meaningless event when she could be doing much more good in other ventures. As Song's mother says, "Did you work for your beauty?...Did you study for it? Did you earn it? It cost you nothing--this beauty. And nothing is what it's worth!" (77).

In another story, "North of the Faro," a young palm reader, Rianna, finds that the advice she gave a young man led to his unfortunate death. Wracked with guilt at the harm she has done, she finds the boy's family. The mother attacks Rianna, and in an attempt at atonement she allows her face to remain scared: "...they passed a small round mirror forward to Rianna who held it up to look at herself. Sleek, smooth, raised, and red, the fresh scar that crossed her cheek from the outer edge of her eye to the joint of her lips had yet to attain its full topographical dimension or develop the iron-rich earth tone it would acquire as it matured, but this face she'd intentionally altered matched the roughness she felt inside and seemed to her as if it were the face she'd been destined to for all her life" (200).

This review is get a little lengthy, but there is so much in this relatively short book. The stories in their own ways are quiet and it is certainly a character-driven book as Bluestein writes the most intimate thoughts of the characters. If you like books about other cultures, this one is for you. If you like short stories, this one is for you (there is never a feeling of incompleteness that I often find with these collections). Character-drive stories? Yup, for you too. Of course there were stories that didn't speak to me as much as some of the others, for example "Cut the Crap Machine" and "AIBO or Love at First Sight," but as a whole this collection really swept me away. So how could I have possibly been more pleased? I wanted more of these characters. I wanted their full stories. I wanted a novel about each character. But on the other hand, the short stories gives such vast and varied glimpses of the entire Ayama Nan culture. I'll definitely be looking for more by Bluestein in the future.

**********************************************************************
INTERVIEW WITH ELEANOR BLUESTEIN

I had the pleasure of asking Eleanor a few questions about her writing process for Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales. She was gracious to answer my questions, and I hope you'll find her answers as fascinating as I did.

Trish: On your website you mention your educational background as being science based (an undergraduate degree in Biology). Have you always been a writer or is this a new exploration for you? How/why did you make that first leap?

Eleanor: After college I taught science to 7th and 8th graders and then took some years off to be a full-time mom. At that time, a younger sister in college passed along books from her literature courses, and I saw what I’d missed as a bio major. I took a writing class at a university extension program and started writing fiction. When I returned to work as a science textbook editor, I kept writing fiction. I have a few unpublished novels under my belt, so writing was not a new venture for me when I began these stories.

Trish: Ayama Na is a fictional country in South East Asia. Can you explain your process of creating such an intricate and in many ways fully realized country and culture? As readers we can see many many truths, however fictionalized, in the small country trying to come to terms with the past and present, Westernized ideals and Ayama Na traditions. What was your inspiration in creating Ayama Na?

Eleanor: I’d traveled to Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, and Viet Nam, but it was Cambodia, with its tragic recent history, young population, and rapid modernization, that captured me. In the stories, I tried to imagine the psychological and emotional feel of life under these very challenging circumstances, but I found myself combining sights and sounds of the various countries I’d visited without being faithful to any one of them. A fictional country solved that problem for me. Then I threaded fictitious street names, bits of invented language, a currency, a political system, and a common history through the stories. Ayama Na keeps the feel of Cambodia, though, in the characters’ back stories, the graft and corruption, the war-torn landscape, and the dizzying westernization. I read and did research for specific details as I needed them.

Trish: As a former student of post-colonial literature, I recognized many post-colonial themes in Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales, including the use of the native language interspersed within the English writing. Is the Ayama Nan language based on any others? Why did you chose to include these phrases, sometimes with definitions, sometimes without?

The sounds of other languages must have influenced me, but it wasn’t conscious. In the case of idioms, I mostly translated. In the case of expletives or exclamations of woe, I mostly figured the reader would get it. But this analysis is after the fact—when I wrote the stories, I just proceeded intuitively. I realize that using bits and pieces of the Ayama Nan language makes no sense, actually, but it sounded right to me, probably because the English I hear is peppered with words from other languages—ay caramba, mamma mia, oy vey, for example—and these additions seemed to make character’s voices earthier and more vivid. My son read this book and was confounded by the Ayama Nan words. It wasn’t logical to him, period. And he’s right—it isn’t logical. It’s an illusion that I don’t think it pays to examine too carefully.

Trish: I love how we see different aspects of the varied culture through the (short story) format, but I'm curious if you had thought about any of these stories in a longer context? Do you have any plans to revisit Ayama Na in future writings?

Eleanor: I never had a longer form in mind, although I have imagined the lives of some characters beyond the stories. I foresee regrets for Song Li, the beauty pageant contestant in “Skin Deep,” and maybe for Pania, the teenager in the title story, “Tea.” I tried various endings for both of those tales. Ultimately, the endings I settled on satisfied me because I think it takes a few generations to break away from family or cultural tradition—the first generations are just too conflicted. Again, I’m analyzing after the fact; as I wrote I just aimed for something that felt true. I’m at work on a novel right now and have no plans to revisit Ayama Na, but you never know.

Trish: Ok--one more. :) If you could chose one thing, what would you hope your readers would take away from a reading of Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales?

Eleanor: I hope readers will close the book with a feeling of the sadness and tenderness of this world. Something like that—a sense that life is hard and we have to be kind to one another. OK—that’s more than one thing. ;)

Thank you, Trish, for the opportunity to answer these questions for your readers.

Find Eleanor on her website and read a summary on TLC Book Tours.

*********************************************************************

I have an extra copy of Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales that I would love to giveaway. If you are interested, please leave me your email address and why you are interested in reading this book in the comments. Yes, silly goose, you must do both to be eligible. I'll draw a winner on Saturday April 25.

And the winner is...BETHANY! Thanks guys for coming by. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Outsiders and Sam's Letters to Jennifer (2 mini-reviews)

After every read-a-thon I get a little case of blog/book burnout. I'm trying not to go there this time, so I'm keeping these two reviews short. I have a book tour review for Thursday and will probably post "regular" reviews on the other read-a-thon books over the next few weeks. Is everyone else all caught up on sleep yet?

*****************************************************************************

Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton
Published: 1967 Pages: 180
Genre: YA Fiction

At first glance Ponyboy Curtis might seem like any other teenage boy, but he and his brothers belong to the Greaser gang who is at constant odds with the Soc gang. The Greasers are poorer or lower class kids whose parents mostly don't care what they're up to or in Ponyboy's case an orphan whose older brothers are raising him. The Socs are wealthier and seem to have everything going for them. When the two gangs fight together, they fight to the death. What happens, though, when young Ponyboy gets mixed up in one of these vicious fights?

Man, when I get to rambling about a book I get to rambling (well, I'm rambling in my head and my hands are fighting to keep this brief). I liked this book, but I think I would have liked it better if I read it when I was in high school. Seems to be a cult classic, and I can certainly see why. There is a lot of emotion and depth found in the story and it is impossible not to like Ponyboy and to cheer him on. One of my favorite quotes from the book (and a theme running throughout--Cherry is a Soc who befriends Ponyboy):

Maybe Cherry stood still and watched the sun set while she was supposed to be taking the garbage out. Stood there and watched and forgot everything else until her big brother screamed at her to hurry up. I shook my head. It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset (41).

See...I can keep it short! By the way, how did I not know that the movie was so star-studded?

*****************************************************************************
Title: Sam's Letters to Jennifer
Author: James Patterson
Published: 2004 Pages: 263
Genre: Fiction

Other than listening to one of his audiobooks, this is my first taste of James Patterson. It was perfect for the read-a-thon as the pages just flew by. If I were to be really honest (which I will be), I've gotta say that this book wasn't my cup of tea and I won't be rushing out for more Patterson. Let those tomatoes fly this way; I'm ready.

When Jennifer's grandmother, Sam, is hospitalized, Jennifer discovers a bundle of letters that Sam has written to her. Within these letters is Sam's story of heartache and love, of finding and living her life. The letters are a type of parallel to Jennifer's own life and they teach her that she must heal and move forward with her life. Of course there is a lovely neighbor, Brendan, who is willing to help her live a little.

I realize that nothing I say is going to please anyone, so I'm just going to get on with it. This is the type of book for me that is complete brain candy--a harmless read but with very little mental stimulation. Great for comfort, but I can only handle a few of these a year. Curiously enough, it's the type of movie I would probably eat up. I'm a sucker for a great romance movie.

The end. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Read-a-thon Hours 23-24 and End of Event Meme


I did it!!!! I'm celebrating with a little bowl of ice cream that I'll regret later today (it's 6:20 am now), but I don' care! At 7:00 on the dot, Maggie and I are retiring to bed. Woohoo!

UPDATE FOR HOURS 23&24
Since last update:
Pages: 107 (Tales of Beedle the Bard-finished!)
Time: 60 minutes

TOTALS:
1034 pages read
792 minutes reading (13.2 hours)
410 minutes blogging (6.8 hours)
170 comments left (probably more)
5 books finished (The Outsiders, Catch Me If You Can, Sam's Letters to Jennifer, Fun Home, Tales of Beedle the Bard)
5 caffeine beverages
11 mini challenges
20 minutes exercise
35 minutes driving
0 Prizes (infinite sad face!!)

End of Event Meme
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 22--I started to fall asleep at the end of Fun Home. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't meet my time goal and actually did worse than last year, but I wouldn't trade that for the commenting I did.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
All of my reads were very quick, but Fun Home was outstanding.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Everything was great!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The enthusiasm of everyone

5. How many books did you read?
Five books!!

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Outsiders, Catch Me If You Can, Sam's Letters to Jennifer, Fun Home, Tales of Beedle the Bard

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Fun Home

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Tales of Beedle the Bard (too tired to really grasp anything)

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
Comment comment comment. :)

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Same. Reader most of the time, cheerleader when I can be

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all of your supportive/funny/insightful/inquisitive questions. I really cannot tell you how much they kept me going. For me, the interaction is what makes this event so special. Reading straight for 24 hours is productive, but not nearly as fun.

Read-a-thon Hours 21-22

I'm starting to fade fast. I may try to spend more time on the Internet and less time reading. Hate to do that, but I finally put Lexi to bed (she won't sleep if I'm up), and Maggie is nowhere to be found. And people are dropping like flies. Really--caffeine doesn't have a big affect on me, so the Mountain Dew was mostly for taste. :) I'm determined to make it the full 24 this time!!!!

UPDATE FOR HOURS 21&22
Since last update:
Pages: 79 (Fun Home-finished!)
Time: 60 minutes

TOTALS:
947 pages read
732 minutes reading
325 minutes blogging
152 comments left
4 books finished (The Outsiders, Catch Me If You Can, Sam's Letters to Jennifer, Fun Home)
5 caffeine beverages
9 mini challenges (remember Dewey and limerick below)
20 minutes exercise
35 minutes driving
0 Prizes (infinite sad face!!)

Remembering Dewey Mini-Challenge
I think that in some shape or fashion all of us have been touched by Dewey. Even if you didn't know her before she passed away, you're participating in this wonderful event that she started. I wasn't as close with Dewey as some of the other bloggers, but we shared some similiar interests in books, so of course I haunted her blog. I was lucky enough last March to win the prize for her blogiversary, and I chose the book The People of the Book because of her review here. I still haven't read the book, but everytime I look at it on my shelf I think of Dewey. And I think of how she compared it to supreme pizza when she wanted chocolate and wine. I told her that I liked supreme pizza just fine. :) I have a feeling that Dewey will continue to be a strong presense in the blogging community for some time to come.

Thanks Eva, for hosting this great mini-challenge.

Read-a-thon Limerick (I'm pretty pleased for 4:30 am--fudged the rhymes a bit, but who isn't tired enough to notice)
There once was a girl named Trish
who liked to catch some fish
When she could she 'thoned
and read like it was on
even though everyone else had ditched

Who's up for a little dance-a-thon? You know you like to move it move it (and watch Apolo and Juliance shake it--mama!)


Read-a-thon Hours 19-20

Chuggin' the Mountain Dew. OK--I cheated and took this picture right before my battery died. You know what's crazy? I've actually contemplated making that damn video of me singing that goofy song. (I sing randomly all the time--just ask Laura). You're a meaaaaan one, Mr. Grinch.


UPDATE FOR HOURS 19&20
Since last update:
Pages: 138 (Sam's Letters to Jennifer-finished!)
Time: 70 minutes (seriously, this was the fastest read ever)

TOTALS:
868 pages read (surpassed last time's total!!)
672 minutes reading (won't make my goal this time)
295 minutes blogging
130 comments left
3 books finished (The Outsiders, Catch Me If You Can, Sam's Letters to Jennifer)
5 caffeine beverages
9 mini challenges (none this time?)
20 minutes exercise
35 minutes driving
0 Prizes (infinite sad face!!)

I'm hanging in there pretty well. My eyes are a little dry and my tummy has a rock in it, but otherwise doin' good. It was around this time in October that I started to fade quickly, so I'm gonna dive back into Fun Home (although I don't want it to end...which is why I set it down to begin with).

Think I'm gonna do a dance-a-thon.

By the way, it is 2:41 central time here. What time is it there??

Read-a-thon Hours 16-18

UPDATE FOR HOURS 16-18 (trish is starting to get loopy...)

Since last update:
Pages: 182 (Fun Home and Sam's Letters to Jennifer)
Time: 105 minutes (both reads are REALLY quick...)

TOTALS:
730 pages read
602 minutes reading
255 minutes blogging
114 comments left
2 books finished (The Outsiders, Catch Me If You Can)
4 caffeine beverages
9 mini challenges (see re-read and goofy Trish song minis below)
20 minutes exercise
35 minutes driving
0 Prizes (infinite sad face!!)

Yes, we did read at IHOP, but very little--only for about 30 minutes. I got out of my routine and was really confused when I got home. For some reason I thought I was only out 2 hours, then 4 hours! In reality only 3 hours. I'm on track now.

Scotty is in bed (boo!!!), but he did make me those brownies. :D Once he's in bed, these are the toughest hours for me. Feels so lonely! Anyone else fading a little bit?


Signs I'm doing the Read-a-thon

Um--were the videos not enough? If my camera wasn't dead, I'd sing you all this song:

Oh read-a-thon, I love you so much. Love that I get to read and blog all night with such wonderful buddies. Oh read-a-thon, you are so fun to me. Except when I'm tired and my husband is in bed and my cat can't be found and my tummy is rumbling and I ate too many brownies and my eyes are stinging. But besides all of that--Oh read-a-thon. I love you so much.

You know you can picture it after seeing the videos...huh?

Re-Read Mini-Challenge (my battery is dead, so no pictures for a while)

I don't generally re-read books because I feel like there are so many books that I need to read for the first time. But some that I would like to re-read: The Handmaid's Tale, Wuthering Heights, Persepolis, The Time Traveler's Wife, Remains of the Day, Kafka on the Shore (really, there are SO many!!). :P

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Read-a-thon Hours 13-16??

UPDATE FOR HOURS 13-16?? Yowsa!

Since last update:
Pages: 71(Fun Home)
Time: 54 minutes
35 minutes driving; 30 minutes having fun with the girls

TOTALS:
548 pages read
497 minutes reading
225 minutes blogging
110 comments left
2 books finished (The Outsiders, Catch Me If You Can)
4 caffeine beverages
7 mini challenges (see non-fiction mini below)
20 minutes exercise
35 minutes driving

We had a GREAT time at IHOP, but I think our waitress thought we were kind of weird. :) Pictured below left: Krystal, Trish, Laura, Kari







Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity (blueberry). LOVING Fun Home!!
Is this a change for me to plug the Non-Fiction Five challenge??? Hosted HERE on my blog. :)
LOVE non-fiction. Reading my second NF book of the evening!!!

Read-a-thon Halfway Video

Video time: 30 seconds (I'm not cool enough to figure out real vlogging). :P

My Google Reader must hate me because I'm not getting the 'Thon posts on time...saw this at Anna's...been waiting for it. Since the video this morning, I stripped the makeup, so this is Trish in the raw. Looking a tad tired, but still me. :P And yes, it is not uncommon for me to normally talk with this much enthusiasm.

A note on IHOP. We had planned a 2 am meeting, but decided we probably weren't going to want to eat pancakes that late/early. Plus driving that late (I have bad night vision). Plus carb overload.

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?
Fun Home--Loving it!

2. How many books have you read so far?
Two Books: The Outsiders and Catch Me If You Can

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Finishing Fun Home and reading Beedle the Bard

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Nope. Free as a bird. :)

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
No real interruptions. Hubby was gone most of the morning. I'm about to have to get into the car to go to IHOP. Wish I could teleport like Hiro from Heros.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How fast time goes!!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
My usual quips about the mini-challenge times (some people are giving the time in Pacific instead of GMT; not knowing exactly when a challenge starts and ends; my reader not updating quick enough and me missing a few here and there). Otherwise, YOU HOSTESSES ARE DOING A FANTABULOUS JOB!!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
This is my third time, so I've got the rhythm down pretty well.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Yup, a little. Hopefully I don't go into a pancake coma later. :)

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?
YOU GUYS ROCK! COMMENT COMMENT COMMENT!

I'll be reading for another 30 minutes or so and then off to IHOP. See you in a few hours.

Read-a-thon Hours 11-12

UPDATE FOR HOURS 11&12 (HALFWAY!!)

Since last update:
Pages: 94 (Catch Me If You Can and Fun Home)
Time: 85 minutes (Fun Home will certainly bolster my ratio--quick read but loving it!)

TOTALS:
477 pages read
443 minutes reading
174 minutes blogging
82 blogs visited (comments left, not individuals)
2 books finished (The Outsiders, Catch Me If You Can)
2 caffeine beverages
5 mini challenges (see letter mini-challenge below)
20 minutes exercise

For those of you who mentioned it (Bethany) YES I do think it is possible to turn into a superhuman and read faster during the 'thon. :P LOL! I think I'm just more focused than normal...I usually daydream a lot. And the commenting is really fun for me, and it really doesn't take too long. Are you taking breaks to make sure you visit the other 'thoners? (no I'm not lecturing if you're not)

Had some cereal--normally I don't allow Maggie onto the furniture, but I thought, what's the harm? She wanted my left overs! We're halfway through already! I'll probably read for another hour, then do my update, then head to IHOP!!!! Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity here I come!













LETTER MINI-CHALLENGE
Dear Mr. Abagnale (from CMIYC),

You're story is simply amazing. I loved all of the details about your different escapades and I am convinced that you are a genious. It does make me wonder, though, that if you were such a brilliant con-artist, are you pulling the wool over my eyes? I sincerely hope that you have not conned your readers into believing something that is not true. For two reasons--because I spent a good chunk of the 'thon on your story and because I so thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sincerely,
Trish :)

Read-a-thon Hours 9-10

UPDATE FOR HOURS 9&10

Since last update:
Pages: 62 (Catch Me If You Can)
Time: 63 minutes
Scott got home this hour, so I spent a little face time with him, which was a great break. Hopefully I'll finish CMIYC this hour. Ready to move on! :)

TOTALS:
363
pages read
358 minutes reading
140 minutes blogging
65 blogs visited (comments left, not individuals)
1 book finished (The Outsiders)
2 caffeine beverages
4 mini challenges
20 minutes exercise

Thank you everyone for your encouraging comments. I've been trying to do my best to make my rounds as a sort-of cheerleader also. It's been a lot of fun seeing everyone's updates. :)

I love Toto--reminds me of that episode of Scrubs. Krystal - I can't listen to music while reading. I'm easily distracted.

A note on my page/time ratio. I do NOT normally read this fast (usually average 30-40 pages an hour). For some reason I turn into super reader during the 'thon. Total anomaly.

Off to break out the Oreos!!

YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

Read-a-thon Hours 7-8

UPDATE FOR HOURS 7&8 (ALREADY??)

Since last update:
Pages: 53 (Catch Me If You Can)
Time: 55 minutes
20 minute run

TOTALS:
301
pages read
295 minutes reading
110 minutes blogging
50 blogs visited
1 book finished (The Outsiders)
2 caffeine beverages
3 mini challenges
20 minutes exercise

How you guys doing?? Is time flying for you as well? I'm a little tired but managing.

Decided to take a brief run, so I didn't get as much read this hour and probably won't spend as much time blogging/commenting as usual. What am I listening to? See video below for a little groove time.




Read-a-thon Hours 5-6

UPDATE FOR HOURS 5&6

Since last update:
Pages: 78 (Catch Me If You Can)
Time: 80 minutes

TOTALS:
248 pages read
240 minutes reading
70 minutes blogging
40 blogs visited
1 book finished (The Outsiders)
2 caffeine beverages
3 mini challenges (see below for youtube challenge)
Things are going good, but I'm starting to get a little restless. I might go for a short walk this hour--can you believe we are a quarter of the way through??

Maggie gets much blog love, but here is a picture of Lexi. It's the best I could do since she hates having her picture taken. Scott just bought this stuffed frog for her and it ribbets.

YOUTUBE VIDEO CHAIN MINI CHALLENGE

Well, I was going to save this for the wee hours, but I've got another video up my sleeve. Without further ado--last year's 'thon big hit (or so I've been told). The Harry Potter Puppet Pals!!!






One more plea--KILL WORD VERIFICATION. Just for today???

Ron Ron Ron Weasly!!!

Read-a-thon Hours 3-4

UPDATE FOR HOURS 3&4

Since last update:
Pages: 82 (The Outsiders and Catch Me If You Can)
Time: 75 minutes

TOTALS:
170 pages read
160 minutes reading
34 minutes blogging
20 blogs visited
1 books finished (The Outsiders)
1 caffeine beverage
2 mini challenges (cover attraction @ Book Gazing)

For those of you who asked--I AM a morning person. Scott took the picture below and wanted to know why I didn't use the whole couch. I don't know. If you look closely, you can see Lexi under the table (and of course Maggie by my side).



BOOK GAZING MINI CHALLENGE!

Jodie asked us to pick a book from our stack and take a picture based on the back cover blurb. I chose Fun Home because it is nice and shiny. the back cover: "Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father." My father isn't late and we get along great now, but things weren't always so peachy. Here is a picture of the book and a picture within of me and my dad when I was little. We're "reading" the comics. :)



How's everyone doing??? Thanks for all the great comments--YOU GUYS ROCK!

Read-a-thon Hours 1-2

Already a great start to the morning (the first time I've actually started on time)

UPDATE FOR HOURS 1&2

Pages: 88 (The Outsiders)
Time: 85 minutes

TOTALS:
88 pages read
85 minutes reading
0 minutes blogging (about to start)
0 books finished
1 caffeine beverage
1 mini challenge (introduction meme)

INTRODUCTION MEME
Where are you reading from today?
McKinney, Texas! (north Dallas)

3 facts about me …
1. I wear a mouthguard at night because I grind my teeth
2. I'm the oldest sibling of four
3. One of my favorite movies is When Harry Met Sally

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
11, but I hope to read 4-5

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)?
4-5 books, 1000 pages, 16 hours reading, and loads of fun

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Get into a routine. Comment a lot to cheer others on. But most importantly HAVE FUN!!!

Read-a-thon!!! Kick-off Video


Hope the video spreads some excitement--I tried to keep it really short since I know we're all busy and frantic this morning. Sorry it is so dark, but it's difficult to video yourself with your camera and I promised myself I would only take one video--no do overs. :)

It's bright and early (well dark and early) here and I woke up at 5:30, admitted defeat at 6:00 and got up, and here I am! The coffee is brewing, I've got my snacks set out, my books are stacked, and I'm ready to go!!!!! And I'm REALLY excited. Could you get that from the video? :P


Seems like I got more snacks than that, but it's a good start. Oh man--forgot to include the Brownie Mix that I conned Scott into getting for me (the whole..."you could make me some Brownies while I read" bit). Not sure what I'll start with first--maybe The Outsiders since I'm already 30 pages in.
Few things about comments today:
**I will not be responding to comments on my blog today like normal. Last time if there were questions, I answered them on the next update post. Seemed to work well.
**Also, I plan on leaving a zillion comments today, so I will not be subscribing to follow up comments. Just FYI. :)
If you haven't joined yet--it's not too late!
HAPPY READ-A-THONING!!!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Moon - Stephenie Meyer

Title: New Moon
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Published: 2006 Pages: 563
Rating: 3/5

Since this one has been around so many times, I'm skipping the usual review format for the self-interview format I used for Twilight. I can't/won't talk about this book without spoilers--so be warned. :)

What kind of place was this? Could a world really exist where ancient legends went wandering around the borders of tiny, insignificant towns, facing down mythical monsters? Did this mean every impossible fairy tale was grounded somewhere in absolute truth? Was there anything sane or normal at all, or was everything just magic and ghost stories? (293-4).

Trish, you read Twilight back in January and had to admit that you actually liked it--why did you wait so long to pick up New Moon?
Since I refuse to purchase copies of these books, I had to wait until I could borrow a copy from a friend. I may have squealed a little with glee when I finally got my hands on this one.

So...what did you think? Was it as enthralling as Twilight?
No! I read the first hundred pages with relative ease, but then Edward left and there was this whole side story with Jacob. I like Jacob well enough, but let's face it--he's no Edward. I actually put the book down for a few days to read my bookclub book (The Glass Castle), and didn't even really think about it at all. It wasn't until Edward came back in the last third of the book that I found that itch to keep turning the pages.

You would consider yourself "Team Edward" then rather than "Team Jacob"?
Yes--my crush on Edward has not subsided at all. I admit that Jacob's body warmth does sound incredibly appealing compared to Edward's coldness, but other than that I was bored with the storyline. It felt like Meyer was trying to stretch out the story--forcing the parallel between this book and Romeo and Juliet. Mostly, though, the werewolf storyline seemed heavy handed and contrived. I was glad when she switched the focus back to the vampires, but then all that work she did creating the werewolf plot just disappeared. I'm guessing it will be more prevalent in the next book.

And Bella? You mentioned not being really annoyed with her in the first--did you see a change with this edition?
Bella still didn't get on my nerves like I suspected she might or like others suggested she would. Yes she is whiny. And the whole "hole in my chest" bit was obnoxious. I think it is dangerous to present this kind of obsession with a boy to teenaged readers, but that's a whole other enchilada. I didn't like that Bella was putting herself into danger all of the time just to hear Edward's "voice," and I hated how consumed she was with becoming a vampire. It irked me that Alice, who I really like, gave in so easily to Bella's pleas. Hmm--from that answer it does sound like I was annoyed, huh?

Will you continue with the series, or have you had enough?
I have the next two books sitting in my car, so I don't really have to wait. But, I'm in no big hurry to continue with the next chapter. I'm guessing I'll give it a few more months and then pick up Eclipse. It is a little promising now that Edward is back in the picture, but I'm not eager to start in with a icky werewolf/vampire/human love triangle.

Have you rented the movie yet?
No--but it's only a matter of time before it finds its way into my house. I think Scott is itching to rent it, although he would never admit it. I'm still boycotting Robert Pattinson as Edward. Big Fat Ick!! :)

Any final words?
Vampires--HOT. Not people/subjects I normally read about, but oooh man! Even if I do have to endure reading the description "marble" twenty million times.

Date Finished: April 12, 2009 #18


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Salon 3 - Why I love read-a-thons

HAPPY EASTER! I hope everyone is having a lovely day. I'm currently in Coleman with my in-laws. Today's post is all about Dewey's Read-a-thon. Read-a-thon is this Saturday at 1 GMT.

WHY THE READ-A-THON IS EVERY BIT AS COOL AS YOU THINK IT IS (or not as scary as you think it is)

I thought about doing a video post to tell you why the read-a-thon is so much fun and why you should join, but I figured I'd just end up yelling "Read-a-thon! Read-a-thon! Read-a-thon!" in an overly excited tone. I'll spare you for now, but I wanted to share the top 10 reasons why I love the read-a-thon so much (and other miscellaneous information overload).

1. Being able to reenact those teenaged years when you could stay up for 24 hours with no worries

2. Reading and blogging for 24 hours without the guilt that you should be doing something else

3. Meeting and connecting with other bloggers all over the world who are doing the same crazy thing you are

4. Mini-challenges: a great way to give your brain a rest after a long stretch of reading

5. Snacks. Junk food. Caffeine. Whatever your poison, I know I'm not the only one who stores up on yummy foods to eat throughout the day and night

6. Remembering Dewey, the fabulous blogger who started this incredible community builder two years ago

7. Reading for a cause--I'll be donating $5 to ProLiteracy for every book I finish during the 24 hours (see a list of suggested charities here--definitely not an exhaustive list).

8. It's the silliest fun one could possibly imagine that involves reading and blogging (yes, you know I'll be posting that Harry Potter Puppets video again)

9. Accomplishing what you thought was impossible--reading more than you expected and staying up later than imaginable

10. Hours of cuddle time with your favorite cuddle-buddy (for me, Maggie)

Yippeeeeeeeee!!

The read-a-thon is really what you make of it. It is scary and daunting. It's tough to set everything aside and devote all that time to reading and blogging. But it is such wonderful fun. Even if you can only participate for a few hours here and there, join for a few hours. Even if you can't read, visit a few blogs and cheer us on. We LOVE cheerleaders. We LOVE comments. We NEED the encouragement. And finally, forgive us for seriously jamming up your readers throughout the event. :)

This will be my third time participating in the read-a-thon. When my friend Laura first tried to talk me into doing the read-a-thon last summer, I scoffed at her, telling her that staying up for 24 hours did not sound like fun. I'm a slow reader and have an incredibly short attention span. I can barely read for an hour without getting restless. Laura ended up not being able to participate that time, but I decided that morning to jump on the bandwagon. I had the time of my life.

Read-a-thon Tips
(please fill me in with your tips, too!! I'd love to add them to the list)

The Books:

**Keep a stack of books handy. If something doesn't catch your attention immediately you can quickly move on to something else

**Pick books that are short and don't require a ton of attention. Put that War and Peace back on the shelf...right now! Eva has created a big long list of books that are sure to keep you reading through the wee hours.

**Include some Young Adult titles in your stack--they provide a perfect break from heavier reads and they are sure to keep your full attention. (Tip from Laura)

Before the Read-a-thon:

**Either pre-prepare some meals or have quick and easy things on hand. Don't want to spend time cooking! (Hence all the yummy snacks--Jodie suggests a combination of sweet and salty snacks for variety)

**If you will be doing blog updates (which I recommend!!), make a template beforehand so you can just plug in numbers and quickly post

**Get all of your weekend obligations like cleaning out of the way early. You'll be too tired on Sunday unless you are a superhero (which I don't doubt some of you are).

**Let people (friends/family) know ahead of time that you'll be participating in a 24-hour read-a-thon so that they don't think you fell off the face of the earth when they try to get ahold of you (tip from Joanne)

**Laura and I created a spreadsheet to help us keep track of minutes and pages--very handy! We also have a column for the hour, our time zone, and the read-a-thon time zone. This time we'll also add time spent blogging, mini-challenges entered, bloggers visited, etc.

During the Read-a-thon:

**Don't overload on the caffeine. While in small doses it can be OK, it might make you jittery and then crash. Especially if you aren't used to it.

**Take some time out of your reading to join a mini-challenge or do some cheerleading. If you spend the whole 24 hours reading you'll certainly get a lot accomplished, but you'll miss out on the community building aspect.

**Don't torture yourself. If you can't make it anymore, don't worry (I've never been able to make it the full 24 hours, but I'm gonna try my darndest this time).

**Keep your camera charged and handy so you can include fun pictures of you, your books, your cat, your food, your reading spot, etc. (Tip from Laura)

*************************************************************************

Throughout the week I'll be cleaning and doing laundry so I don't have to worry about anything over the weekend. I'll be compiling my books so I don't have to find something to read at 2 AM. I'll be making a list of participants so that I can cheer you on. And, of course, I'll be piling up my read-a-thon snacks. What I'm looking forward the most, though, is meeting Laura (and maybe Kari) at 2 am at IHOP for a late-night Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity.

The books I'm thinking about reading (um, I'll probably only read four of these--see tip about choices!!):
*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Shaffer and Barrows
*Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
*Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abagnale
*Tales of Beedle the Bard – JK Rowling
*Second Nature - Alice Hoffman
*Sam's Letters to Jennifer - James Patterson
*The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie
*Notes from the Underbelly - Green
*The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
*Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
*Cause Celeb - Helen Fielding
*Animal Husbandry - Laura Zigman

Anything up there that you've read and recommend? Anything you think I should steer clear of?

What is YOUR favorite part of the read-a-thon? Any special memories? What are your fears? What tips do you have to share? Have I twisted your arm and convinced you to join or did you already sign up weeks ago? Read-a-thon!Read-a-thon!Read-a-thon! :D

Yayyyy Read-a-thon! Sign up here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Non-Fiction Five Challenge Sign Ups

Non-Fiction Five Challenge
May 1 - September 30, 2009


After hosting the Non-Fiction Five for two years, Joy has graciously passed the torch onto me. I'm thrilled to be carrying on one of my favorite reading challenges.
Button by Nymeth

Button by Bethany

The Rules (unchanged from previous years)

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2009 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found each month on this blog)

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

3. If interested, please sign up below with the link to your NFF Challenge post (all choices do not need to be posted and may change at any time)

PARTICIPANTS




My Tentative List:
~Stalin's Children - Owen Matthews
~The Lost City of Z - David Grann
~1776 - David McCullough
~The Tender Bar - J.R. Moehringer
~Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

Title: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Date Finished: April 8, 2009 #17
Published: 2005 Pages: 288
Rating: 5/5

I know you're eyeing that 5 out of 5, but let me tell you--it has been a long time since I've read a book that so completely consumed me. Often, even if I'm really liking a book, I'll get a little bored halfway through, but with this one I could not put it down and kept turning page after page all the way until the end. What a great surprise given the mixed reviews I've seen for this book.

The Glass Castle is Jeannette Walls's memoir of growing up in extreme poverty, and sometimes even extreme neglect, with parents who clearly loved her and her siblings, but did not know how to provide for the family. Jeannette is the middle child, with an older sister, Lori, younger brother, Brian, and a baby sister, Maureen. Jeannette and her siblings became fighters and survivors as their parents dragged them from hovel to hovel--sometimes living in dilapidated shacks, sometimes living with relatives, sometimes just squatting wherever they could find shelter. They were always doing the "skeedadle" to escape the law or debt or to try and find work--first through small desert towns in the west and eventually in West Virginia.

Walls tells her story with biting and bitter humor, but there is also such tenderness and hope in her voice as she tries to understand why her father refuses to find work (he is convinced he has been blackballed by the unions) or why her mother puts up with her drunken father who gambles and drinks away their little money or why her mother chooses to lounge about when she has a valid teaching certificate and can get a job at the drop of a hat. Everything to her parents is an adventure, and I had to sometimes laugh with sadness when Jeannette's mother was so backwardly positive about everything and how her father was always able to convince the kids that he never let them down.

The book is sad and heartbreaking, there is no doubt. And there were things that made me want to scream and throw the book at the wall. I spent a great deal of the book being incredibly angry at Jeannette's parents and their actions (or lack of action). What kept me compelled to keep reading, though, was knowing that Jeannette and her siblings made it out of the hole their parents dug for them and that they succeeded despite everything that was thrown in their way. Jeannette never lost faith and continued to persevere even when it seemed that everything had been taken from her and her sisters and brother.

I wish I could find a short passage from the book to show Walls's writing style, but her paragraphs flow so beautifully that it was difficult to find a self-contained passage. In the passage below, Jeannette's father keeps throwing her into a hot spring before she knows how to swim; the second passage is when Jeannette is a teenager trying to grapple with her mother's wild mood swings.


I staggered out of the water and sat on the calcified rocks, my chest heaving. Dad came out of the water, too, and tried to hug me, but I wouldn't have anything to do with him, or with Mom, who'd been floating on her back as if nothing were happening, or with Brian and Lori, who gathered around and were congratulating me. Dad kept telling me that he loved me, that he never would have let me drown, but you can't cling to the side your whole life, that one lesson every parent needs to teach a child is 'If you don't want to sink, you better figure out how to swim.' What other reason, he asked, would possibly make him do this?
Once I got my breath back, I figured he must be right. There was no other way to explain it (66).

****************************************************************

It was hard for me to believe that this woman with her head under the blankets, feeling sorry for herself and boohooing like a five-year-old, was my mother. Mom was thirty-eight, not young but not old, either. In twenty-five years, I told myself, I'd be as old as she was now. I had no idea what my life would be like then, but as I gathered up my schoolbooks and walked out the door, I swore to myself that it would never be like Mom's, that I would not be crying my eyes out in an unheated shack in some godforsaken holler (208).


I would highly recommend this book. Yes, there have been a lot of mixed reviews. Yes, the subject matter is tough to swallow. Yes, it might seem a little inconceivable that Walls can remember so vividly to when she was three years old or that all of these things could truly happen to one family (some people think this--this is not necessarily my thought). But despite everything else, this book has so much emotion and heart and I think you'll find yourself cheering for Jeannette all the way until the end. If you're looking for a good non-fiction book for the NFF challenge (hint hint), this would be perfect.

These people read it too:
(If I'm missing yours, please let me know--the search results went crazy with this one)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Arthurian Challenge and Some Awards

First of all, did you know that there is a Mister Linky devoted to your April Classics Challenge Reads? I only mention it because a few people didn't realize. Every month I'll put up a new Mister Linky.


Despite my good sense I've joined Becky's Arthurian Challenge. Against my good sense because one of my challenge rules is that I must already own elligble books. In this case I don't own any.

Challenge runs April 2009 - March 2010 and Becky is really flexible with the rules. Many many thanks and hugs to Nymeth who helped me make my list:

*King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table - Roger Lancelyn Green
*The Age of Chivalry - Thomas Bulfinch
*The Once and Future King - TH White
*The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
*The Merlin Triology - Mary Stewart

I'm looking to read the basics here, so if you have any recommendations to add, please let me know!

*************************************************************

AWARDS

I've been blessed with a few awards this past week and am excited to pass them on (and of course these awards go straight back to the awardees).

Karen from BookBath presented me with the Zombie Chicken Award (I love this one!)

“The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…”

I'd like to pass this one on to these five bloggers:

Chris from Book-a-Rama
Joanne from The Book Zombie
Charley from Bending Bookshelf

Stephanie of Open Mind, Insert Book passed me the Proximidade Award

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

I give the Proximidade Award to:
Corinne from The Book Nest
Kathy from BermudaOnion
Joanna from It's All About Me

Chris from Book-a-Rama and Dolce Bellezza gave me the Sisterhood Award

Which I present to:

Natasha from Maw Books
Jeane from Dog Ear Diary
Samantha from Sam's Book Blog
Valentina from Valentina's Room
Nicola from Back to Books
Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit

I can't tell you how much it means to receive your support and recognition. Thank you thank you. Please pass these awards on to other wonderful bloggers.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Salon 2 - Intimidation

First I want to thank you all for your overwhelming welcome into the Sunday Salon last week. I was all revved up with so much to talk about, but now I'm wondering to myself how I will fill an entire post. I guess that's how it goes. :)

A few points of follow up from last week's post. I don't work as an editor or do anything really that uses my English degrees; I work at a small insurance company that primarily provides workers compensation for construction companies. I'm also no longer living in Smalltown, Texas (Coleman). Scott and I only lasted about 7 months before packing up and moving to Dallas, where I grew up. We've been living here for a year and a half. Funny how things work out.

Intimidation
I think a lot of you can relate when I say that I know more non-readers than readers. And even most of the readers I know aren't quite as crazy about books as I am. I have never really been able to understand why some people enjoy reading more than others. I think some feel that reading is a chore or that it takes too much work. For my husband it is a little bit of both--he is dyslexic and struggles to the point of frustration. It is difficult for me to come to terms with this sometimes, and I have to be as understanding as I can. I truly believed that readers are simply wired differently than nonreaders.

Because I know so many non-readers, I'm always getting questions about how I choose my books or what I'm currently reading. Most of the time these questions are, unfortunately, rhetorical--questions of politeness or conversation. And then there are those who scoff at my yearly numbers--most times I don't tell people how much I read. And frankly, you all read a heck of a lot more than I do!! And then, finally, there are those who take a look at my book list and comment on the weird, obscure books that I read. Commenting that I read things that go way over people's heads.

Not true, I scream in protest! Sure my bookshelves are lined with classics and literature, nonfiction and world fiction, but as much as I try to read those types of genres, I still have to work myself up to pulling them off the shelf. Every single time. I don't think I'll ever pull Austen or Dickens off the shelf without some type of apprehension. Cold sweat is more like it. Russian authors are sure to put me into immediate panic mode. Books over 500 pages? Sheesh--I usually leave those to collect dust for years. I still buy them hoping that one day I'll have the courage to open them up and dive in, but I have to admit that I am an intimidated reader.

After my cousin posted a comment on my recent Picoult post about the nature of books that I read, I got to thinking about what I do read and my constant intimidation. If I had to pinpoint what exactly it is about these books that intimidates me, I'm not sure that I could do it. My copy of Les Miserables is over 1200 pages--about three weeks of reading for me. Other than short stories here and there I haven't read enough Russian literature to even begin to know why it is intimidating. Classics are a little daunting--the language and writing is sometimes antiquated and difficult to follow. Nonfiction is sometimes dry and overloaded with information.

Why do I read them, you ask? First, I usually end up enjoying these types of books despite my trepidation. And second, I thrive on being challenged. As much as I bitch and moan about a book being too difficult or whine about the reading taking me too long, I love the complexity found in the books that intimidate me the most. I guess hard work pays off? Something like that. And not always...as I'm sure you've experienced for yourself.

Some of the books on my shelf that I'm too intimidated to read but hope to work up the courage one day:
*Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
*Middlemarch - Elliot
*Satanic Verses - Rushdie (even though I loved Midnight's Children)
*Les Miserables - Hugo
*Vanity Fair - Thackeray
*The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana - Eco
*East of Eden - Steinbeck
*Underworld - DeLillo
*Crime and Punishment - Dostoevsky (Man--those Russians!)
*Ahab's Wife - Naslund
Have you read any of these? Can you give me good solid reasons not to be intimidated? :)

I could ramble on if I let myself, but I'm out of steam. Plus after last week's near essay length post, I'll keep this one shortish. I guess in short I try to read a little bit of everything--from different genres to different authors to different time periods. But, I've never been strong in literary criticism or being able to pick apart a book on my own to truly understand everything. I have to work at these things. And sometimes I'm up for the task, but a lot of times I'm not. A lot of times my courage wins the battle, but often enough the scaredy cat in me lets those books sit on the shelf for far too long. And in the end there usually is not a whole lot of real basis for my intimidation. Not sure that intimidation is going away anytime soon. One day, though, I hope to kick its butt.

So my questions for you--What intimidates you in the world of reading? Do you avoid those books altogether or muster up the courage and plow through? Are you a fearless reader who tackles anything and everything in sight? Are there certain genres that you avoid like the plague?

Happy Sunday and thanks for visiting! Next week's Salon--10 reasons you must join the read-a-thon. :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The World's Cutest Toes

Brooke is apprehensive about Baby Emma being plastered all over the Internet, which is her prerogative. So instead, check out these beautiful little toes. Don't you just want to eat them? I love little Emma so much--she is perfectly in absolutely every way.


Oh fine--a few more. I won't tell if you won't!



Friday, April 3, 2009

The Septembers of Shiraz - Dalia Sofer

Title: The Septembers of Shiraz
Author: Dalia Sofer
Date Finished: April 2, 2009 #16
Published: 2007 Pages: 338
Rating: 4.25/5

I first heard about this book from Bethany and Dar and immediately after reading their reviews I put the book on my wishlist and shortly after ordered it from Amazon. And on my floor this book has patiently been sitting for months. Oh the life of a book addict. :) Gotta have it now so that I can read it later...you know you do it too...

The Septembers of Shiraz takes place in the early days of the Iranian Revolution (1981) and is centered around the Amins, a wealthy Jewish family. Parvis, the elder son, is living in New York City to attend school, but the rest of the family is trying to survive among the political and religious upheaval in Tehran. Isaac, the patriarch, is arrested and taken away to a terrible prison. It seems his crime is living a prosperous life and possibly his Jewish connections to Israel. In his absence, Farnaz, his wife, and Shirin, his young daughter, do what they can to protect their family and safeguard their lives.

I was truly swept away by this book. It is incredibly fast-paced and easy to read, but at the same time Sofer forced me to slow down and really take in what was happening to the Amin family. Each chapter focuses on one of the four characters--Parvis in New York, a non-practicing Jew who falls in love with a Hassidic neighborhood girl; Isaac in prison, not knowing what his crime is or if he will ever see his family again; Farnaz trying to hold together the household when her life has become so uncertain and she doesn't know who she can trust; and little Shirin who doesn't quite understand the new rules of her new world.

Sofer gives her readers a lot to contemplate in this debut novel. I dont' think I've read any accounts of Jewish people in Iran, so it was an interesting perspective--especially while imprisoned, Isaac is trying to come to terms with the differences in his beliefs and the Muslim beliefs. Last year I read My Father's Paradise, a non-fiction book about the author's Jewish family in Iraq. The book talked a lot about the treatment of Jews after Hussein's rise to power, and I would highly recommend to those interested in the topic. Along with different religious themes, Sofer also tackles the subjects that the revolutionaries grappled with--education, treatment of women, wealth--what makes a person worthy and who decides what is worthy.

The simple and flowing style of Sofer's writing made it a pleasure to read, and while the subject matter is oftentimes heartbreaking I didn't feel like the events were ever sensationalized. For the most part the book is very introspective and contemplative, something that I look for in books. If I had a complaint about this one, it would be that it was too short. It seemed that everything happened so quickly and I only got to know the characters a little bit; the story of Parvis in New York was especially underdeveloped. All in all, though, I would definitely recommend this book. I'll definitely be looking forward to future books by Sofer.

Also read by:
~ Lesley ~ Bethany ~ Dar ~ Literary Feline ~ Amanda ~
(If I missed your, I apologize--please provide me with a link and I'll include it)
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