Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Salon 9: Why Do We Blog Survey

Good morning and happy Sunday! Hope everyone's having a great weekend so far. We've finally come into full blown summer in Dallas and I feel like I'm wilting. Don't know what that means for August!

I saw this over at Molly's (Cozy Book Nook) and I couldn't resist doing this little survey for this week's Sunday Salon. I've been thinking about these types of questions a lot lately, so I hope you'll join in and do the survey as well.

Why Do We Blog?
1. How long have you been blogging?
I started blogging in June 2007. I can't believe it has been almost two years! (technically I had a blog in grad school for one of my teaching courses--if you pop over you'll see my last assignment which was a literacy autobiography. Kind of fitting that my last entry there was about reading and this blog is dedicated to reading. Most of the other posts are mostly my woes of teaching freshman English at Texas Tech. Kind of funny to look back on. I should save these posts before they vanish into neverneverland).

2. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging about reading when I stumbled upon another book blog through Yahoo Book Clubs. I was intrigued that there was this whole other booking world on the Internet. Honestly, I wish I could remember what exactly I thought when I started discovering book blogs. I don't know that I thought I would still be blogging two years later or that this world would become such an important one to me.

3. What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?
Many benefits! I've talked about this a lot lately, so I'll keep it pretty brief (ha! can Trish keep anything brief, you're thinking?)
**Interaction with other readers all over the world. Really, if you guys weren't so awesome, I'm not sure I would still be blogging.
**Record of my reading thoughts. I did this on paper once upon a time, but I got lazy with it. And I can type faster than I can handwrite.
**Challenges! I've always been an eclectic reader, but I've now realized my boundaries are limitless.

4. How many times a week do you post an entry?
I usually end up with two posts a week on average but I think I'd like to be at three a week. Right now I think I'm averaging one Sunday Salon post and one book review. I'd like to get two book reviews up a week, but I haven't been reading that fast. Truthfully, I don't understand the need to post something every day, but I guess if I read faster or if I had something interesting to say I would?

5. How many different blogs do you read on a regular basis?
Right now I am subscribed to 85 blogs in my Google Reader. But about a dozen of these are family and friends and some are just challenge blogs, so maybe 65-70 book blogs. Some I read religiously when I get a spare moment, some I just skim through. I've been subscribing to a lot of blogs lately and then taking some off and resubscribing to more. It's a constant cycle, but I will always have that handful that are my favorites.

6. Do you comment on other people’s blogs?
Yes!! Get ready for a long answer because I am really passionate about commenting. I don't think I'm the best commenter in the world, but I do try really hard. It's tough to keep up with so many blogs, especially when some of these have posts multiple times a day. I'd like to be able to comment on everything but I can't. And you all know I'm really hard on myself about this. I've been a little bit better about my self-guilt lately, especially when I realize that not everyone comments on every one of my posts. It's just impossible to be everywhere all the time. But if I had to guess? I'd say I leave at least 50-100 comments a week? Wow--would be interesting to keep track of this!

Part of what makes blogging so worthwhile for me is the interaction with other bloggers and I get this through commenting, especially when the blogger comments back to my comments as I try to do here on my blog. I've really gotten to know other bloggers through comments and I feel like my personality really comes out in my own comments. Sometimes snarky and sarcastic, usually enthusiastic, mostly interested and caring. I think my posts have become a lot more personal over the past few months and my voice comes out more and more, but I'm still a huge fan of comments--leaving and receiving. Even though we can say that we blog for ourselves, isn't it more fun when blogging becomes a discussion or dialogue between two people who are interested in the same thing?

7. Do you keep track of how many visitors you have?
I do use Google Analytics, but I don't think those stats are really indicative of anything useful. The amount of visitors I receive is pretty constant, dipping a little on Friday and Saturday and spiking a little on Sunday and Monday. My two biggest spikes since keeping track are during the read-a-thon and that ARC post. I don't know how many visitors a "normal" book blog receives a day, so it doesn't really matter to me either way. And most of my visitors are probably random search engine hits. It's funny to me to see my most hit on posts--they are usually the same posts each month and they are older ones. Portrait of a Lady (maybe my first book post and it is awful), A Rumor of War, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Keeping Faith, Snow Country. Interesting, huh? Part of me thinks it's high school students wanting information for papers. Ha! Anyway, this is why I don't put a huge stock in visitors.

8. Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?
No. There have been a few times when I've been reluctant to hit the "publish post" button and a few times when I've gone back to my post and edited things, but I don't regret anything I've posted. Although, I've wondered about some of my comments on other people's blogs. I'm a playful and snarky person by nature and my tone is sometimes misconstrued, when I'm teasing the other blogger. But I think by now most of you know that I'm poking you in the ribs a bit. :) I always wonder if I've offended someone, but I can't worry about it too much. I guess I just have to know that my intentions were good and that's what matters. Right?

9. Do you think your audience has a true sense of who you are based on your blog?
I hope so. I used to be really guarded when I first started blogging, not wanting to get too personal. But as I started getting to know bloggers better, I felt more comfortable letting my personality out a little more. Now I'm full blown rambly Trish like I am in real life. Aren't you sorry! Although my blog is book based, I have talked a lot about myself and while we can't really know know know someone we haven't met and interacted with face to face, I'd like to think that if we met, the dynamics would be the same. In some sense I'm even more me here and in my comments than I am in real life. What? There are no pretenses here. I can be who I am and you can take it or leave it. Doesn't always work that way in real life.

10. Do you blog under your real name?
Yes. When I started my book blog my name was "Bookaholic" but as soon as someone responded to me by that name, I changed it to Trish. I didn't like the anonymity. Maybe it was just the negative connotations of the name.

11. Are there topics that you would never blog about?
Yes. Religion and politics immediately come into mind. But since this is a book blog, I don't have to worry about that. :)

12. What is the theme/topic of your blog?

13. Do you have more than one blog?
Yes. I also have a personal/travel blog but I'm lazy and don't update it often. I still laugh at the thought of someone who writes about books for fun as being lazy. I've thought about doing a blog about working out, but I think I'd be too lazy to update that one too.

**Molly originally did the survey for a teacher Ms. Mazzola--you can leave your meme link over at Ms. Mazzola's original post

On another note, my fingers are getting restless, so I'm gonna make another quilt! I feel like I've kind of reached the big girl leagues with my fancy cutting mat and rotary blade that I got on Lisa's suggestion. My design will be a disappearing nine patch, but I think I picked too many bright colors. Really--I have NO idea what I'm doing! Of course I'll keep you posted. I've thought about doing a Friday feature like Lisa does about In Real Life stuff, but I'm not sure I can commit to another post--especially on Fridays. Hmmmm....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett

Title: The Light Fantastic
Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 1986 Pages: 241
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5

A year ago I discovered Discworld for the first time with The Color of Magic, and I can't believe it has been that long since poor Rincewind was left hanging over the side of the world! I have loved my Discworld journey thus far, but I have to say I preferred The Color of Magic just a tad. Perhaps timing? But now I'm really looking forward to traveling around at leisure (check out this Discworld reading guide the lovely Nymeth introduced me to). I'm thinking about pursuing the "Death" novels or "Witches" novels next.

What is Discworld? Well, I'm probably not the best to describe it to you, but it is a world (flat) that rests upon four giant elephants who stand upon an even more giant turtle, A'Tuin, who floats leisurely through space. The Discworld series contains over thirty novels, The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic being the first two. These two are sequels, but as I understand the rest are pretty much stand alone novels with running themes.

The Light Fantastic is a continuation of Rincewind and Twoflower's journeys across Discworld. Rincewind is a fairly inept wizard who cannot perform magic because long ago a spell lodge itself in his mind. It happens that this spell is an incredibly important spell from a powerful collection of eight and the fate of Discworld rests in all eight of these spells being said at the same time. When a giant red star begins on a crash collision course towards Discworld, the importance of that spell grows exponentially, but can Rincewind stay out of enough trouble to keep himself alive and the spell safe?

Reading this book provided for constant amusement. I love the tongue-in-cheek humor of this novel and the cleverness. Pratchett doesn't always give away his humor easily, and I always felt satisfied when I got it. In one scene, Twoflower is playing a game of cards: "It's a special kind of playing...In your language, it's called a thing you put across a river, for example" he concluded, "I think." "Aqueduct?" hazarded Rincewind. "Fishing line? Weir? Dam?" "Yes, possibly." So, I'm thinking to myself--I know there's a joke here. Ooooh! Bridge! :) As with CoM I felt like I never quite got everything that should have been funny, perhaps because I'm not as familiar with the fantasy genre, but I definitely had a lot of giggle out loud moments.

And then there were the things that made me go "hmmm." Poor Death is so misunderstood, and even though he plays a small role in these two novels, he's one of my favorite characters. "The Death of the Disc was a traditionalist who prided himself on his personal service and spent most of the time being depressed because this was not appreciated. He would point out that no one feared death itself, just pain and separation and oblivion, and that it was quite unreasonable to take against someone just because he had empty eye sockets and a quiet pride in his work" (104). Although the subject matter and humor make these books feel light, Pratchett is always seeming to sneak in more serious food for thought.

One of the qualms that I have with this book, and I fear the rest of the series, is that there are no chapter breaks. Looking back at my review for CoM, it seems that I had a difficult time following that book as well. The focus of the novel shifts frequently and I often had a tough time figuring out what was going on. I've tried to put my finger on what it is that I'm having a tough time with, and I think that Pratchett transitions so quickly that my brain doesn't always have time to process. This works well for me visually (like a movie), but in a book I felt like I always need to backtrack a bit to remember what was going on. Because I was reading this book in short amounts, it was a big pitfall. Other than that I really enjoyed the book. It seemed like this novel was more plot driven than the first, and that helped me focus more on the story. I would recommend this book, but read Color of Magic first.

Have you made the journey into Discworld yet? What are your favorite Discworld novels?

Date Finished: May 27, 2009 #27

Mr. Linky Problems

I'm having problems with Mr. Linky, so you might notice that the Linky for the Classics Challenge and the Non-Fiction Challenge have disappeared. Not sure exactly what is going on (still trying to sort through my email from being out of town), but I'll try to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Is anyone else having this problem? How did you fix it?

In the meantime, just copy and paste your link (url...not actual link) in the comments of the review post and I'll add them when the problem is resolved.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Salon 8 - Juggling Act

I can't believe this is already my eighth Sunday Salon post! I've really come to love writing these each week and hearing what you guys have to say about various topics. It has been tough this past month with being out of town every weekend (I'm at my dad's lakehouse this weekend), and trying to think of a topic ahead of time. All week I've been trying to think of a topic I really want to write about--rating systems? blogging stats? comments? organizing books? reading beyond the surface? I couldn't really formulate my thoughts coherently on any of them.

I finally decided I'd skip Sunday Salon this week--I've been so busy with work and other things that I haven't even been on my google reader all week, have been terrible at responding to comments left on my own blog, have barely gotten anything read. And then it hit me--my topic for this post. Juggling it all!

Sunday Salon 8 - Juggling Act

We're all really busy people--whether we are students, full-time workers, parents, spouses, friends, active in the community or with other activities. I know I never have time to do everything that I want to do. Lately I've been leaving my house at 6:30 in the morning and getting home at 6:00 pm. Once home, I try to get a workout in, clean the house, cook dinner, spend time with Scott, try to get a few minutes of blogging in before I'm in bed at 10:00. Doesn't sound very busy when you really think about it, but I'm always in bed wishing I had been able to do just one more thing during the day.

So this got me to thinking--what tricks and tips do you have to help you fit it all in? How do you manage to prioritize your life so that you get all of your obligations out of the way so you can still do the things you want to do. Because lets face it, ironing probably isn't on anyone's want to list.

My tricks and tips? Well, I'm hoping you guys will give some good ones that I can steal them! :) One thing that I try to do every day is leave my house for work just a little bit early so that I can have 30 minutes to read before work. Yes, I read in my car and it isn't the most comfortable spot, but sometimes that 30 minutes is all I get. Another thing that I try to do is make a big enough meal for Scott and myself that we can have leftovers the next night (which means a lot of casseroles!). This is easier for just the two of us, though, than if we had a family to feed. Um, ya, so that's all I give me what you got!

I hope everyone is having a great [holiday] weekend! We're predicted to have rain, but I'm crossing my fingers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Middlemarch - George Eliot

Title: Middlemarch
Author: George Eliot
Published: 1871 Pages: 838
Genre: Classic/Literature
Rating: 4/5

What to say about a book that I've been working on for a month? Well, for starters--as my mom would say--Wahoo Waterloo! Actually, this book has nothing to do with Waterloo. :) A little personal history of this book: I was assigned to read this book for a sophomore level college course (not sure the course topic other than British Lit--we also read Tom Jones, Pride and Prejudice, and Hard Times). I read about half the book and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. That was probably 8 years ago! I've been intimidated and scared by this book, but I've done it. I've finished. My review will be rambly long, but I'll try to break it up so you can skip around if you choose.

Middlemarch is an intimate look at the lives of certain citizens of the town of...well...Middlemarch. Eliot does not focus solely on the rich nor the poor but a mixture of the two and everything in between. The characters are servants of religion, doctors, philanthropists, farmers, artists, intellectuals, wives, husbands, sisters, parents, children. I guess it could be said that there are two main characters, Dorothea Causabon and Tertius Lydgate, and although these characters are not love interests as many main female and male characters are expected to be, they are dear friends who help each other grow throughout their trials and triumphs. You know I hate summaries--basically this is a nineteenth century soap opera. As Virginia Woolf said, "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people."

What I liked
That I finished it? Ha! One of the things that I really appreciate about this book is that Eliot created a small world with complicated characters that I was interested in for 840 pages. Sure there were times that I got bored and wanted to skim through (I didn't!), but I began to care deeply for the characters and what happened to them throughout the novel. I also found Eliot's writing insightful and sincere. I kept a pencil with me at all times and shamelessly marked up my copy of this book. I was always finding something to think about just a little bit more, and as the narrator notes: "I at least have so much to do in unravelling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe" (141).

What I struggled with
This paragraph could be quite long if I let it. This was not an easy book for me to read. When starting the book I decided I would read 35 pages a day, which is an incredibly modest amount, but I was rarely ever able to read 35 pages in one sitting. Middlemarch is hands down one of the most tedious and difficult classics I've read. I had to do a lot of re-reading and I had to make sure my mind was in the right mode. If you undertake a reading of this book, give yourself time. Be patient. I think those who have finished can attest that it will be worth the work, but it will be work (unless you are a superhero reader). There were certain plotlines that were absolutely lost on me--mostly the politics and the working relationships. Luckily the more important plotlines (important to me, that is) were easy to follow.

The Characters
Middlemarch has great characters. I think Dickens' characters are still my favorite, but what I really liked about the characters of this book is that they are so deeply flawed. Dorothea has crazy notions at the beginning of the book and falls into a loveless marriage with a "dried bookworm towards fifty" (23). Everyone told her she was crazy, but did she listen? Of course not and she becomes miserable. Lydgate, in my opinion, also marries someone who is not suited for him, and they come into money problems and his medical practice suffers, but he is too prideful to comfort in his wife. But with a ginormous novel, the characters grow and develop. They work through their conflicts (mostly) and become better people. I loved Dorothea--she is a strong and independent woman and I can't help but wonder how much of Eliot is Dorothea (when I think of Eliot I think of an incredibly progressive woman--but my knowledge is limited). Something that could fall in the "Struggles" category is how many characters there are. So many! And with names like Featherstone and Farebrother I got incredibly confused. And the political guys? Forget it! Mostly they were like a bunch of sqwaking hens to me.

I'm starting to lose steam! The narrator is omniscient, but every once in a while an "I" will get thrown in (for example the quote above). This really annoyed me as I wasn't sure who this narrator was supposed to be. Mostly the narrator was unobtrusive, though. There are about a million themes running through this book--inheritance and birthrights, money, education, land ownership, medicine, marriage and love (Eliot lived unmarried with George Henry Lewes), politics--and probably the most fascinating to me was the role of a woman. The female characters in this book are so varied in personality and ideals and I loved seeing the different interactions with their male counterparts.

In the end?
I'm glad to have read it. It will go back on the shelf--but this time on the "read" shelf. And boy does that feel good. Will I read it again? I'd love to. Probably not for years, but I know that I achieved a very basic reading of this incredibly complex and rich novel and need to really dig deeper with the next reading. I now wish that I had finished it for class--I'm sure I would have learned a lot. Do I recommend it? Eh... If this were half the size, I'd say yes! If you devour classics, definitely add this one to your list. But as I said before, make sure to keep your patience in check. I'm guessing in the end, though, you'll appreciate this classic as well.

What is your Middlemarch? You know, kind of like the White Whale of reading...?

Date Finished: May 21, 2009 #26

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot Diaz
Published: Pages: 335
Genre: Literature/Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

Well, it's been over a week since I finished this book and I'm still trying to sort out my thoughts. This was my pick for my work book club and we certainly had more than enough material to talk about in our meeting--I didn't even have to pull out those discussion questions! I think the general consensus was that we all more or less liked the book, but all of us had troubles expressing just how we felt about it. Yup--looks like there might be a rambly book post down below.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is about so many things and I'm not sure it is even accurate for me to say it is mostly about the brief or wondrous life of Oscar Wao. In the prologue of the book, the narrator explains fukú--a curse that traveled first from Africa to the New World and inflicted generations of families. And as he explains: "I have a fukú story too. I wish I could say it was the best of the lot--fukú number one--but I can't. Mine ain't the scariest, the clearest, the most painful, or the most beautiful. It just happens to be the one that's got its fingers around my throat" (6).

So while this book is certainly about Oscar Wao and in many respects Oscar Wao is the unlikely hero of this tale, the story begins long before Oscar with his grandfather, Abelard, and his mother, Beli, in the Dominican Republic. Diaz (or more accurately the narrator Yunior) shares the history of the Cabral family curse beginning with Beli's beautiful sister who caught the eye of the Dominican dictator El Jefe (Rafael Trujillo), Abelard's famous last words, Beli's exodus to New Jersey after a tumultuous adolescence, and Oscar's eventual--well, I don't want to say it, but the title does imply that his life is brief...

Since there's no way to really explain this book, and because you all know how much I hate writing up summaries, I'll skip to the good part--the rambling part. Except there are so many things to talk about with this book that I have no idea where to begin. I could talk about the narration--how for at least half the book the reader is unaware who the narrator is, and even still I'm not exactly sure why Yunior is telling the story. Yunior roomed with Oscar for a short period during their time at college and he didn't really care for Oscar--or maybe he did but he just didn't know how to show it. Yunior was in love with Oscar's sister, Lola, though. I loved the narration style of this book. I felt like I was chilling with Yunior and he was telling me all about this geeky fantasy loving fat kid, Oscar, and his cursed family's even crazier story--the tone very conversational and intimate. In many ways Yunior is "in your face" but it somehow worked for this story.

And then there's the other stuff you've heard about this book--the language, the footnotes, the use of Dominican slang, the jumpy narration (Lola makes a few brief appearances as narrator), the fantasy references, the violence. It almost seems like Diaz made a big list of all the things he could throw into this book, but all of these things worked together to make an effective story (note: breaking these up into smaller paragraphs hopefully to make it easier to digest rather than one giant paragraph). The language is strong. For the most part it didn't get to me me, but there was about 50 pages in the middle of the book where I really struggled. There was an obvious tone change during this section (when Oscar and Yunior are roommates), but once that passed I was fine again.

The Spanish didn't bother me. The way that I look at it: the Spanish is mostly Dominican slang which means that a large majority of Diaz's readers can't understand exactly what is being said. I don't think he meant for us to understand everything that was being said. To me, it was like adding texture to the writing. The footnotes were at times distracting because I would forget what was happening in the narrative, but they were fascinating. I know very little about the Dominican Republic and I was glad to learn more about the country and culture.

The violence isn't over the top, the narration is a little confusing but manageable, and 90% of the fantasy references went straight over my head (although I was thrilled to understand the Watchmen references!). But like the Spanish, the fantasy wasn't a distractor--it just added to the complexity of the text and some people will get it and others won't.

And that's the thing about this book. I think everyone will take away something different and every reading will enlighten the reader just a little bit more. The book is incredibly rich and I could certainly use a second reading of the book to pick up all of the little nuances and subtleties that I missed the first time. I think some people would get frustrated by a book like this, but I love a book that will still have me thinking about it long after the cover has been closed (I'm still thinking about that Murakami book I read in January!). I couldn't recommend this book to everyone--especially because the language is quite strong--but it is one that I will continue to remember and think back on. Oscar is an usual character--in many ways he is a little bit irksome--but he is tenacious and I won't easily forget him or his family's story. I can't say I loved it, but I liked it a lot and the more I think about it the more it grows on me.

For a balance of opinions:
~ Heather J. ~ Nymeth ~ Sheri ~ Care ~RegularRumination ~
*please let me know if I've missed yours by leaving the url below. I was surprised at how few returns I got when searching my google reader for reviews.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Salon 7 - Outside Looking In

I hadn't planned on a Sunday Salon post this week, but I got back to Dallas earlier than expected and Scott is off at some type of baja racing rally thingy at Texas Motorspeedway which gives me a free evening to myself to do whatever my heart desires (and my washing machine is broken so I don't have to feel guilty about neglecting the laundry).

What? You have a blog? About books??

I was in Salt Lake this weekend and was able to catch up with a lot of family members who I hadn't seen in quite some time. A few of them know I keep a book blog and we got to talking about book blogging and blogging in general. I never quite know how to talk about my blog with others. These particular cousins know about my book blog because they keep their own personal blogs, but I don't usually bring up blogging with other people. When people ask, "what do you do for fun," for some reason "blogging" is never an immediate response, although I do spend a bit of time writing my own thoughts and reading those of others.

Honestly, I only have a few close friends and family members who even know that I book blog. I've found that people don't always know how to respond to my book blogging habits, so sometimes its less awkward to not talk about it at all. My parents always ask why I don't go into publishing or get my PhD--well, because reviewing books for a living is very different from doing it for fun and I hate writing research papers. How do I possibly have time to keep up? I don't know--how do you have time to watch 4 hours of TV a night? You write about every book that you read? Why? Because I like sorting out my thoughts and keeping a record. You mean you are friends with these people you've never met? *sigh* yes! OR there is the non-response--the "not really sure what to say to you having a blog" response.

Maybe I just have a difficult time explaining to others why it is I love blogging so much. I know why I love blogging--the connection, the recommendations, the venting, the writing about books--but how to explain that to someone who doesn't blog and especially someone who isn't a big reader? Sometimes I get some strange looks when people find out I have a book blog--and there are others who don't understand what I do and think I have some type of online book club. And the challenges--oh baby is that hard to explain! And in very broad and general terms, I think some people just don't get blogging. A journal? Why have something that anyone can see? I wonder if any of you experience these types of comments in your real life as well.

So, my Sunday questions to you: Do your family, friends, acquaintances know that you blog? How do you bring it up in conversation? How do they react to your blogging habits? Are they mostly receptive or do they look at you a little sideways? What are your experiences with mixing your blogging world with your personal world? Or do you keep the two absolutely separate? I'd love to know your thoughts!


I'd like to thank everyone and send out a giant hug for all of the comments and emails last week about my grandpa's passing. It was a sad week and it was very difficult to see my grandpa in his casket and later at the burial site. He was an amazing man and will be greatly missed by many. Including his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, he had 87 direct descendants. He was 87 years old when he died last week. We all shed a lot of tears, but we also had a lot of laughs. And I think grandpa would have wanted it that way--to laugh and laugh and laugh. And we can all imagine him laughing with us (he had the best sense of humor). Below is a picture of me and my grandma. I love her tremendously--more than I could possibly express.

This and that:

It will probably be another slow month of blogging for me. My work hours are increasing over the next month and a half, which means that my prime reading time will get cut (before work and during lunch is when I do most of my reading). I'm going to try and do better about my reviews this next month, although I'm guessing that my shortened time will mean less reading and less reviewing anyway.

Scott and I are also going to start looking for houses again after a long break of no looking. Life kind of got away from us for a while, but we're ready to be in a place of our own again (we've been renting "temporarily" since moving back to Dallas almost two years ago). I feel like I need to start making this a focus/priority so that Scott and I can continue to be on the same page for what we want.

I've struggled the past few months with commenting, and I just have to come to terms with the fact that I can't comment as much as I want to and I can't comment on every post. I hate having to admit that, but I also need to stop self-guilting. I just can't keep up, especially as I've been subscribing to more and more blogs lately and there are so many posts (how do you guys manage to find time to post so often!?). I'll still be around--I'm not taking a break or going anywhere--but I also need to allow myself to hit that "mark as read" button and not feel guilty.

Middlemarch? I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I have about 150 pages left and hope to get several read tonight while Scott is out. I was hoping to finish by this coming Thursday, but with my new work hours, I'm not sure if that's doable. Might have to get up even earlier to read! I've been averaging about 35 pages a day (at 840 pages you do the math), so hopefully I'll be able to manage at least that. I'm still really enjoying it, but there are some story lines that I like better than others. And I left my dang reading glasses on the plane! Oh boy am I irked.

I'm blabbing. So much easier to babble on than write coherent thoughts about books! :)

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Self-hosting? What's the deal?

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Another question (you know you love me).

Why self-host? What's it all about? I know nothing about it except that there is already a, so there goes my brilliant plan to make that my website. :)

Just curious--seems like everyone is doing it lately. The only difference I notice is that the little "B" in the corner of the blog disappears so I have to figure out other ways to log onto Blogger before leaving you a comment. Sometimes I feel like a big dummy. I can't even figure out how to use feedburner! Sheeesh.

Oh! And why do my LOL cats cut off on the right side? My other pictures don't do that? :(

And yes, there will be a Sunday Salon post tomorrow. And yes, I've finally written my thoughts on Oscar Wao for Monday. Just need to skim back through Fun Home and I'll be in great shape. Trying not to be totally lame (although I'll be out of town for the fourth weekend in a row next weekend...sigh).

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling

Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: 2008 Pages: 107
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale
Rating: 3/5

Has it really been two weeks since I posted about an actual book? Time has gotten away from me, as I suspected it would, ever since the read-a-thon. Or maybe it's just because I'm not keeping with my book a week average since I'm still slogging through Middlemarch and will be for another week or so. Without the pressure of having reviews piling up, I've been taking my time--even though the reviews are piling up anyway. Ah well.

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of [five] stories written for younger wizards and witches" (vii). After each story is Dumbledore's commentary on the reception of the tales for the wizarding community or insights into what the tales mean. One of my favorite stories is "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" about a group of ailing witches who make their way to a healing fountain in order to be cured of their pains or losses. Along the way they meet a luckless knight and together they try to decide who is worthy of being healed by the fountain. In the end, they overcome their problems without the aid of magic and lead happy lives. Some of the other stories, such as "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" do not end so happily, but in a way it was refreshing to haves tales that don't always wrap up neatly.

I picked this little book up because I loved the Harry Potter series and I was excited to dive into more magical stories. I have to be honest that I was a little disappointed in this book, mostly because of its length. It is a quick read--will only take an hour or so--and in the end I wanted more. I would have been thrilled if the book contained a few more stories, but maybe/hopefully there will be more in the future. I enjoyed the stories, but everything people have said about Dumbledore's commentary is true--it really does add a lot of depth to the stories and really made this collection fun. Dumbledore's commentary is also humorous and I found myself chuckling aloud at statements such as, "A simple and heartwarming fable, one might think - in which case, one would reveal oneself to be an innocent nincompoop" (11).

I think this book would be great to read to younger audiences and I will hold on to it for when I have kiddos of my own. The stories, while not always ending in "happily ever after," do have a magical and fairy tale feel to them but they stay true to the feel of the Harry Potter books in keeping with the wizarding themes. The tales teach us lessons about being kind to others, lessons about not succumbing to foolishness, and lessons of finding happiness from within. In the end, though, I felt like Rowling teased her readers with hopes of more Harry Potter. I'd recommend this book with a little bit of reservation. Probably not for those who haven't fallen in love with the Harry Potter series, and for those who have,just keep in mind that this is a short little book that will probably leave you wanting more.

On personal note, my grandfather passed away on Sunday night. I went to Salt Lake two weekends ago to visit my grandparents and I feel lucky and blessed to have had that time with them, especially my grandpa, before he passed away. My grandpa was an amazing man and a true fighter. He had a stroke 12 years ago that left him greatly weakened and partially paralyzed. As heartbroken as I am, especially for my mom and grandma, I know that he'll finally find peace. I'll be flying back to Salt Lake at the end of the week for the funeral, so I'll be a little absent from the blogging world yet again this week.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Salon 6 - Influence

Happy Mother's Day--hope everyone is having a lovely day.

I know I've been kind of a bad blogger lately, but just bare with me and I'll get back to normal sooner or later (ie actually write some reviews!).


One of my favorite things about blogging is how much it has expanded my reading. The books that I've read have always been pretty varied, probably thanks to studying English for seven years in college (both undergrad and grad school), but I'll admit that sometimes I get stuck in a reading rut and run towards the comfort reads. Through blogging, though, I've encountered books and genres I never thought about or didn't even know existed.

In so many ways, bloggers have influenced my reading over the past two years. As I was reading through the comments on that ARC post and how people commented on learning about new books through blogs, I started reflecting on my own lists and bookshelves. I wish that I could give credit where credit is due, but sometimes I don't even remember where I first heard about a book or I heard about it so many different times that it is tough to pinpoint when I finally said, OK, I have to read this book. Just check out one of my shelves below--this is my "read" shelf--and it is running over (well, the cardboard shelf has books that I haven't read yet but don't have room for elsewhere).

Books I have learned about or picked up just because of blogger recommendations (these are all reviewed here, but I'm not linking for time's sake and I'm not sure if people actually even click on links? Except for the top two and the ones that I've read this year, you can find the reviews easily by clicking on my "2008 reads" link on the left sidebar)

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
The World According to Garp - John Irving
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Book Thief - Mark Zusak
A Long Way Gone - Ishmael Beah
The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
The Translater - Daoud Hari
Stardust - Neil Gaiman
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
The Complete Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
Matrimony - Joshua Henkin
Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Heretic's Daughter - Kathleen Kent
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
Watchmen - Alan Moore
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
The Septembers of Shiraz - Dalia Sofer
Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

Isn't that a great list? And this ONLY includes books that I have read since blogging. Just looking on my desk it doesn't include The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which I recently picked up. Or on my floor The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami and The Light Fantastic by Pratchett. Or on the shelf closest to me Possession, The Inheritance of Loss, The Horseman's Graves, The Tender Bar, The Book of Lost Things, Potato Peel Pie Society, Rebecca--I could go on and on.

I've been reading more fantasy and graphic novels (yes, we can probably all blame the same person--she knows who she is! Oh ok, Nymeth). I've been reading more non-fiction than ever (thanks Joy and the Non-Fiction Five challenge). I've been reading more world literature and prize winners, and have continued to read classics. Really, I wonder what my current reading habits would be if not for blogging. Of course I'd still be reading, but oh the discoveries I would have missed out on! So here's my big thank you for enriching my reading (and my reading for years to come).

This Sunday's Question (as if you couldn't guess!): How has blogging or bloggers influenced your reading? Have you made any new discoveries or picked up any books based on what other bloggers are reading? What's the book floating around right now that you're dying to get your hands on (for me it's Hunger Games)?

And just because I can, a picture of my beautiful little niece Emma. She's becoming quite a chub, but that's just more for me to love. I seriously cannot get enough of this girl.

Friday, May 8, 2009

So Lame! Oh, and a question (but not a bad one)

Spider cat, Spider Cat  Does whatever a Spider cat does

I cannot believe how lame I've been these past couple of weeks!! I have now THREE books to write about since I finished Oscar Wao today. And what am I doing with my entirely free evening? Not writing about those books, or even re-reading the ones that need to be re-read since I have now forgotten them? Nope. I'm catching up on my blog reading. Sheesh--you people do this to me.

And then these posts? I NEVER used to blabber on about stuff, at least not in a post of its own. Ok, maybe I blabber a lot, but it usually at least has to do with books.

Whatever. :)

My questions:

1. I've noticed in my Google Reader that some blogs now have the person's email address below the post title: "By emailaddresshere (name)" Why? and how do you do this?

2. Also, not sure if there is an answer to this or not, but you know how when you receive email notification of comments left on your blog and sometimes it shows the person's email address and sometimes it says How do you get it to show your email address? How do you know if your email address is showing or if the noreply email is showing?

These things don't really matter to me (although I've been finding myself emailing response comments if I can't comment back on the post quick enough), I'm just curious how you do it and why I'm all of a sudden seeing the email address of the post author. I feel like such a clueless little girl! :)

Ya, you probably won't get a real bookish post out of me for a few more days unless I miraculously decide to re-read Beedle the Bard tonight or something. But I'm going to get that Sunday Salon post done. What happened? I went from being review heavy to being ramble-heavy! :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just one more quick opinion

Just one more and then I'll zip my lips. Well, I say that, but you know how that works.

I'm back from my trip and trying to weed out my Google Reader from over 300 posts to something more manageable (my blogging time will be short this week and I have another trip planned this weekend).

What's the deal with all these bloggers going to partial feeds? Is there a pro to this? As a reader who does all of her blog reading IN Google Reader before popping over to comment, can I say without getting tomatoes thrown at me that I'm not a fan of partial feeds? Yes yes, I know--let everyone do his/her own thing and worry about yourself, but as a commenter this does affect me! :P

Ok, opinion over.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Salon 5 - Back to Basics

My original thought for today's post was what works well for your blog. Then after this past weekend's discussion I drafted up an entire post about my current discontent with blogging. The act of writing the post was very cathartic, but I felt that if I published my thoughts I would be perpetuating not only my discontent, but the discontent of others as well. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what my opinions are. Well, they matter to me, of course, but I am not going to use my blog and other people's blogs to voice those opinions anymore. I apologize if anything I have said has offended anyone. Truly, it was not my intention. There has been so much contention lately and frankly, I don't want to be apart of it. It makes me anxious and sad and fretful and worrisome and I don't need that negativity to be part of my life.

A small and short note on last Sunday's post. My conversation on Sunday was not meant to stir the pot and tick people off. I don't twitter or subscribe to every book blog, so I was not privy to all of the current discussions on ARCs other than the discussion on Bethany and Trish's blogs about negative reviews. If I had known there were so many, I would have read through those comments instead of starting my own discussion (regular readers will know that I don't try to start controversial topics here). I am not anti-ARC or against bloggers who accept ARCs/review copies. How silly would that be? I was personally just curious how people felt--to be honest because my own review of a book I received for a blog tour wasn't as successful as my other posts. I think for the most part the commenters did a good job of expressing how they felt rather than attacking other people, although we all do have our own opinions. End note. :)

Over the past few months I thought about giving up blogging for oooh about .5 seconds. Then I thought much more seriously about taking a blogging break. I've decided that neither are fair to me. I do blog for myself. Even before blogging I kept a journal of the books I've read. Even if I stopped blogging, I would still write my thoughts down. The added bonus is that I sometimes get to enter into discussions about what you thought as well. And then there is the double bonus of learning about new books and genres. And then the triple bonus of meeting all of you. I have been blessed Blessed to have met such wonderful people who share my passion. Without you I'd be rather lonely in my little book world. You've enriched my reading life and I can't thank you enough.

So, I'm taking a really really deep cleansing breath and I'm getting back to what I love: books. And the people. Keeping it simple and not worrying so much about things that in the grand scheme of things just don't matter. I have always loved that bloggers have been so respectful and accepting and I am going to do my part to uphold that. There has been too much hurt being passed around lately, and I think we could all do better to remember that bloggers are real people with real feelings. I don't mean to lecture, but I think it is easy to forget that everyone is his/her own person.

The books. What am I reading now? A few weeks ago I posted about books that intimidate me. Because I got a little ahead during the read-a-thon, I am taking the time to face my intimidation and fears and slowly read Middlemarch. My copy is 840 pages long and I'm not going to lie and tell you that I understand everything that is going on! Sometimes I feel like Ms. Eliot is too smart for me, but I'm not giving up. But I'm over a fourth of the way through and mostly enjoying my slow journey.

Next up is Oscar Wao for my face-to-face book club (I'll have to take a break from Middlemarch to read it). I chose the book and am really excited about it, but also a little nervous because just recently I found out that there is a lot of language and sexual content? For just me that would be fine as long as it isn't gratuitous, but it makes me apprehensive to have picked a book that others might find offensive (this is a work book club). I know many of you have read it and really liked it--any words of reassurance?

I still have a few reviews that I need to get out--Fun Home and Beedle the Bard--from the read-a-thon. The first I want to re-read again because I loved it so much and feel it deserves a closer reading. The second needs a re-read because at 5:00 in the morning, my eyes were really just glazing over the words. Yup, no retention there! Having those reviews in my back pocket makes me feel a little bit better about taking several weeks on Middlemarch. But I will conquer! Maybe East of Eden after that since so many of you chastised me for being intimdated of it! :)

Next week's Sunday Salon? If I can get my act together, my topic will be influence. I'm really excited but it will take some time to get everything together.

I hope everyone has a really wonderful week. I'm actually in Salt Lake right now (well, I will be...I'm writing this post on Thursday!!) spending time with my grandparents. I'll be behind in bloghopping for at least a few days, but I'll be around.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Non-Fiction Five May Reviews

It's here!! Are you guys excited? I know I am! I am not going to make this a sticky post, so click on the challenge button on the right side bar to take you to this post when you're ready.

If you haven't signed up, it isn't too late. Click HERE to officially sign up.

*5/28/09 - Mr. Linky is down. Please copy and paste your url into the comments section. I apologize for the trouble. I'll try to add the links once Mr. Linky is back up again. (You can leave a direct link as well, but please also leave the url as exampled below).

Post your May reads in the Mister Linky below using the following format:

Your name: Trish (Catch Me If You Can)
Your URL:

If you don't have a blog, simply fill out the name portion with the title of the book you read leaving the URL field blank.

Happy reading!

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