Friday, July 31, 2009

Road Trip!

And we're off! Scott and I have officially hit the road out west. Our first stop is South Dakota where we'll visit the Sturgis Rally (a huge motorcycle rally). While we're there, we'll also hit some of the national parks including Mount Rushmore. AND I'll be meeting Lisa from Books.Lists.Life. Could I be more excited? I don't think so.

After South Dakota it's west for Yellowstone where Scott and I will be roughing it in a tent. If you can't tell from the pink jacket and helmet below, I'm kind of a girly girl, but I think I'll survive. Don't I kind of look like a pink Power Ranger? By the way, we are taking the bike but not driving it--we'll be in the truck. (And in the background you can see my car--Lola Sunshine).

Our trip (we actually won't be going through Montana and will be staying in Pueblo on the way home, but this is as close as I could get):

Scott and I are very blessed to have a love for travel in common. Sometimes I take it for granted that people want to travel, especially road trip style, but that's not always the case. We've taken some amazing trips in the past four years, but some of my favorite times have been in the car. I always joke that I fell in love with Scott on the road. Since Texas is so giant, we would take hours long road trips from destination to destination. One of my favorite trips was last fall when we flew into Boston and drove through Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts (link will take you to pictures on my "personal" blog).

Honestly? I'm not sure there's anything else like an open road.

Do you like road trips? What is favorite that you've been on? Any you'd recommend?

p.s. I do have a few scheduled posts for the week, but in reality I'll be completely Internet-less (woohoo). Hope everyone has a great week and I'll catch up when I get back.

Non-Fiction Five August Reviews

Non-Fiction Five Challenge
Look what's back--Mister Linky! Post your August reads in the Mister Linky below using the following format:

Your name: Trish (The Complete Maus)
Your URL:

**Thanks for your patience with Mister Linky being gone. I know I'm a day early posting this, but go ahead and put your links here. Wanted to make sure it was all set up before I left town.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt

Title: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Author: John Berendt
Published: 1994 Pages: 388
Genre: Non-Fiction/True Crime
Rating: 4/5

The first time I read this book, I’m not entirely sure I realized it was non-fiction until after I finished. Half of me wants to believe that the characters in this book can’t possibly be real, but part of me hopes that they are as colorful as Berendt explains them to be. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is an exposé of Savannah, Georgia during the early 1980s. Reporter/writer John Berendt happened upon Savannah during a weekend trip and decided to split his time between New York City and Savannah. Over a period of eight years, Berendt got to know many of the Savannahian citizens as well as their habits, quirks, and deep dark secrets.

The book is divided into two parts—the first half focuses mostly on different people Berendt befriends during his stay in Savannah and the second half of the book turns into a true crime murder mystery as one of the lead characters, Jim Williams, is accused of murder and has a series of trials. Because this was a re-read for me and I've seen the movie several times (it is super boring by the way), I wasn't as interested in William's case this time around. Sure it is fascinating and I think you'll be pulled into the details, but what I got out of my second reading was just how dynamic the citizens of Savannah truly are.

Some of my favorites are Luther Driggers whose hobbies include carrying flies around on string and threatening to poison all of Savannah if he has a bad day; Joe Odem who everyone loves despite the fact that he probably owes everyone a little money here and there; Jim Williams who throws the most luxurious parties in his restored house filled with expensive antiques. And of course, Williams is the central character of the book who causes a stir in Savannah when it becomes known during his murder trial that he is a homosexual--something the refined upper class wasn't quite sure how to handle in the early 80s. My favorite character, is hands down The Lady Chablis. Chablis is a transsexual drag queen who meets Berendt after receiving her monthly shot of horomones. You never know what's going to come out of Chablis's mouth and she loves ruffling feathers everywhere she goes.

One thing I noticed in my reading this time was how much race and sexuality were at the forefront of the story. Everything is very black and white for the Savannahians and I'll admit that reading some of the passages made me a little squeamish because of the backwardness of their beliefs. From what Berendt notes, desegregation was actually a very smooth process for Savannahians during the 1960s. There were no major protests and the whites and blacks had gotten along fine for decades before desegregation. Berendt implies that even though there was no big protest or rebellion or outcry, it is understood that both will have their own societies and there is no need for real mixture between the two races. Now, this book was written 15 years ago and set almost 25 years ago, so I can only hope that things are a little more progressive now.

Do I recommend the book? Without very many reservations. I haven't met anyone who read this book and didn't like it. Simply put the characters are incredibly vibrant and memorable, and that alone makes this a worthwhile read. It's the perfect armchair traveler book and has me itching to make road trip plans out to Savannah. I loved the atmosphere--the southern gentility and charm, a little old world mixed with the new world, and the dark brooding tone of the second half of the novel. Berendt and Williams dabble in a little hoodoo with a woman named Minerva when Williams' murder trials don't seem to be going as planned. All of these things combined with Berendt's rich storytelling capabilities create an exciting and entertaining read. I didn't record my original thoughts on the book, but I think my initial rating probably would have been 4.5 out of 5.

Have you ever read a non-fiction book that felt like reading fiction? Was there a book you read that made you want to visit that locale immediately?

**For a balance of opinions:
CJ from My Year of Reading Seriously
Robin from A Fondness of Reading
Stacy’s Bookblog
Tim from Blogging the Bookshelf

And in case you're curious, yes, I've read The City of Fallen Angels as well.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Salon 14 - Book Cataloging

Sunday SalonHappy Sunday! Well, I'm back to talking books this week. As I was entering some of my new purchases into my Excel spreadsheet, I thought I'd share with you how I catalog by books.

I started cataloging my books about 5 or 6 years ago after I started hitting numerous book sales and my personal library started growing exponentially. I felt I needed to keep track of what I had on the shelf and which I've read (and when). I started off using Microsoft Access, but this past year when I got a new computer and an upgrade to the new Windows, I imported everything in Excel. I LOVE Excel and what it an do in terms of tables.

Below is a screenshot of my Excel document. Click to picture to enlarge, otherwise it's hard to see the categories. I have all my books numbered and have a column for Title, Author, Binding, Date Published, Date of my edition, Category, and Date Read. I love how I can sort and search using the pull-down menus. I also have a separate spreadsheet for the books I've read each year (starting with last year) that includes my rating and the url to the review. It's boring, so I didn't include it. :) The only pitfall to this catalog is it only shows what is IN my library. So if I've read a book and given it away or borrowed a book to read, it doesn't go in the spreadsheet.

Book Catalog
Do you catalog your books? What different categories do you use? Do you use online websites to help you catalog? I used to use GoodReads but it was too difficult to go through and input 650 books, so I stopped using it. What benefit do you find in cataloging your books?

In other Trish News:

I had another cake decorating class this week. Actually the cake making process was kind of a disaster--I had to toss one cake after it spilled over in the oven causing my house to smell like burnt cake all week. Then the frosting did not want to cooperate with me and my cake kept tearing. I finally piled on the frosting and took some paper towel to pat it down and to make it smooth. You can see in the second picture below where my frosting has cracked a little. My frosting turned a little spotty on top, and when I asked the instructor about this she shrugged and said "Dunno!" Thanks lady. All in all the class has been a lot of fun, but let's face it, I don't think I'll be quitting my day job anytime soon. :P

Trish's Cake
Trish's Cake
I think this week will unfortunately be my last decorating class because next week Scott and I are taking a roadtrip!! In all fashions of spontaneity, we'll be heading out on the road to the 2009 Sturgis Rally in South Dakota. While there we're going to go down to Mount Rushmore and hopefully The Badlands. After that we'll head west to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. See the picture below for our roadmap. Yup, that's a lot of driving for one week, but Scott and I are King and Queen of the roadtrip. In case you're wondering, we're doing this all with one week's worth of planning. Pretty crazy, but it'll definitely be fun.

How's everyone's Sunday going? Lots of reading and relaxing?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

Catch-22Title: Catch-22
Author: Joseph Heller
Published: 1961 Pages: 463
Genre: Literature
Rating: 4.5/5

When I finished City of Thieves, I thought it would be fun for Scott to pick out my next book for me. YES this made me incredibly nervous, especially since I was afraid he'd pick a long book just to spite me. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised that he picked Catch-22, and despite every excuse I could think up to read it, I buckled down and had my go. It wasn't an easy go, and I really don't know how to write about this book, so I'm going to use the same type of format as I did for my Middlemarch review. It'll be a long post, but the headers will hopefully help you skim. :)

Can we just skip this part? Please?? Fine. Catch-22 is about a group of pilots stationed in Italy during World War II. At the beginning of the novel, the men are close to flying all of their assigned missions, but the colonels keep raising the number of missions they must fly until it seems they will never be able to come back home alive. Much of the book is about the main character, Yossarian, and his struggle to cope with the constantly rising number of missions he must fly.

There is a wide cast of colorful characters (more on that later), and while the book is very much about the war, there isn't actually a whole lot about the war in the story. Instead Catch-22 is about the soldiers' experiences and thoughts, their day to day routines, the games they play (mental games), and when words begin to fail me--just plain shenanigans. The book is almost more a collection of anecdotes than a straightforward story with a simple plot. I suppose the best way to describe Catch-22 is to provide Heller's own definition:
"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. 'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed" (47).
What I liked
This book is a perfect example of why I love reading so much--it challenged me, made me think, made me cry, made me laugh, made me grab my pencil to underline passages, makes me want to start re-reading it again right now. I'll be very honest--I didn't get everything in this book and it would take at least another reading for me to fully appreciate it. But while the book was a bit of work, it didn't feel like work. The writing is surprisingly easy to digest, even though the logic is often circular as seen in the quote above, and sometimes felt like listening to a child who keeps asking "why" to every retort (or in other words, a little obnoxious).

But just when I would get the hang of the sarcasm and senselessness of the story, Heller would throw in a beautiful passage that would just make my heart want to break. A perfect example of this is in the last quarter of the book when Yossarian is roaming the streets of Rome after a pilot had been killed in flight--Chapter 39, The Eternal City. The writing in this chapter is incredibly absorbing and emotional and just plain superb. But then at the end of the chapter, one of the soldiers kills a woman and just when Yossarian thinks the police are coming to arrest the other man, they arrest him for being in Rome without a pass and you want to scream, "You've got to be kidding me!" Really, though, I can't adequately explain why I love this book. I feel like I use the word "rich" a lot in my reviews, but when the shoe fits...

What I struggled with
For the entire first quarter of the book I had no idea what was going on. The story obviously wasn't linear but I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. Each chapter focuses on a certain character, but I couldn't keep them straight, couldn't figure out the timeline of events, didn't know if the book was supposed to be funny or just absurd. Going into the book I knew it was a war book, but I kind of thought it was set during Vietnam (impossible given the publication date), but I don't remember any explanation of where the characters were or what they were doing. While by the end of the book I still didn't have a strong grasp on the timeline or just exactly what had happened when and to who, I decided it wasn't the point of the book for me to know and understand all of this. Afterall, war doesn't make sense. The logic isn't always perfect and more times than not it's faulty or subjective. And to me, the way this book is written shows that very well.

The Characters
Oh my gosh. Too many characters. Like I said, each chapter focuses on a different character, and while I got to know some of them, the rest kind of blurred together for me. Milo is one of my favorites--he is the mess officer and sets up different trade routes all throughout Europe and at times has a direct affect on the market as well as certain battles during the war. The Chaplain was another of my favorites, and I think Heller used his character well to show the internal struggles of the war and also how one deals with the insensitivity all around him. Major Major Major just makes me laugh. And then Colonel Korn and Colonel Scheisskopf. And then of course the heart and soul of the story, Yossarian. I want to tell you more, I want to tell you all of the stories, but the delight in this book is experiencing it all for yourself.

I guess I don't have much to add here. This review is long enough. But let me throw out a question. Were you assigned to read this? For what class and why do you think this was assigned reading? This is the type of book that I would have loved to read for class and be able to dissect all the little parts. It's the type of book that we could come up with several different answers to the question of what this book is about.

In the end?
So glad I didn't let myself talk myself out of reading this one. It's been sitting on the shelf for years and probably would have stayed there for years longer if Scott hadn't picked it out. I was just saying a few months ago how I didn't have a strong desire to read this book. I know several people who have given up on it halfway through, and I can understand why. But in the end, I was incredibly satisfied. No, I didn't get it all, which is why the demoted rating, but sometimes we don't need to get it all. Please don't let my "I didn't get it" statements intimidate you and discourage you from reading this book. It is highly readable, but I think it takes a little bit of patience not to shoo away that pestering child when there isn't always an answer for the question "why."

Officially my longest review. Does that alone tell you how I felt? :)

**For a balance of opinions (let me know if I missed yours):
Bibliofreak (JT Oldfield)
Books 'N Border Collies (Lezlie)
The Hidden Side of the Leaf (Dewey)
It's All About Me (Joanna)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Holly's Inbox - Holly Denham

Holly's InboxTitle: Holly's Inbox
Author: Holly Denham (Bill Surie)
Published: 2007 Pages: 665
Genre: Fiction/Chick-Lit
Rating: 3.5/5

If you’ve been hanging around here long enough, you’ve probably noticed the absence of chick-lit from my reading lists. No, I’m not a book snob and I don’t have anything against chick-lit, it just doesn’t happen to fall into my hands while browsing for books at the store. I maintain that makes me selective, not snobby. Why am I defending myself?? Anyway, I first saw this book over at Bookfool’s and thought the idea of it was cute. A book entirely of emails? Sometimes that exactly what the doctor ordered. I was delighted when the author contacted me to read this book. I gave my standard “fair and honest review” response, which is what I’m fully prepared to give.

Holly’s Inbox is a rather chunky novel of emails. Think Bridget Jones minus the diary and with a lot more dialogue. And you know how much I love Bridget. The story? Holly has just started a new job as a receptionist at a busy London bank. Her fellow receptionist, Trisha, kindly takes her under her wing and teaches her the dos and don'ts of the company while also giving her the daily gossip about the other employees. Other emails include those from her family, including her crazy wine-loving Granny and nightclub owner brother Charlie, and her friends Jason and Aisha who work together at Holly's previous job.

All in all, Holly's Inbox was a lot of fun to read. I wasn't planning on reading this one until August, but Catch-22 proved to be a little too arduous in the evenings, so I picked this one up to read in bed. And let me tell you, it kept me reading for hours at a time--way past my bedtime! I kept thinking, just one more day, just one more week, just one more month! The story spans over five months and what to expect? Romance/lust, betrayal, secrets and lies, refound love, family bonding, heartache, and definitely above all a lot of laughs. Holly is much more competent than Bridget, but she still finds herself in a few uncomfortable snafus--especially when she sends her emails to the wrong recipient! And of course there is also the misunderstanding that can come from the written word rather than the spoken word. Tone is often misconstrued and it causes a lot of trouble for the characters.

I would recommend Holly's Inbox--especially as a light weekend read or a vacation read. Definitely perfect for the summer. It is highly entertaining and I was surprised at how much depth and characterization could come from simple conversations between the characters. I felt like I really got to know the characters of Holly's Inbox and cheered them on or cringed at their mistakes. A small complaint--I felt like some of the storylines were a little underdeveloped, even for an almost 700 page book. And then there were some stories that seemed to come out of left field and never really went anywhere after the shock wore off. But really? Not a book to dissect--just a book to have a lot of fun with. Note of warning--a bit of foul language and sex talk. Since the book is all email, though, it's just talk.

Do you email while you're at work? Have you ever gotten in trouble for an email that was sent or know someone who had a horror story?

Other thoughts on Holly's Inbox (let me know if I missed yours):
Bookfoolery and Babble
Melissa's Bookshelf
Diary of an Eccentric (Anna)
A Novel Menagerie (Sheri)
Peeking Between the Pages (Dar)

Visit Holly's Inbox for a taste of the emails

A Sunday Outside of Books

Happy Sunday! Since this post isn't bookish, I didn't feel right using Sunday Salon in the title.

Yesterday I headed down to the lake for a quiet weekend of R&R. I haven't been reading a ton lately, but I have been reading more than I did in June. Unfortunately, I still haven't been bloghopping a whole lot in the past two weeks. Although my days have gone back to normal at work, and I have my reading time back (in the mornings and at lunch), my evenings have been full of non-bookish things.

Remember that quilt I talked about a few months ago? The top is now finished--just need to add one more strip for length and then it's on to the scary task of quilting, which I've never done by machine before. This is only my third quilt and the past two I've hand-tied. Other than being petrified of machine quilting, I am in love with the colors and design. Is it bad to say I'm pretty darn proud of myself? :P

Trish's Quilt

Even Maggie likes the quilt

Trish's Quilt
The [mostly] finished top:

Trish's Quilt
In addition to quilting, I've been taking a cake decorating class at the local community college. It's kind of a pain because I have to bake and ice the cake ahead of time, which is part of the reason why my evenings have been full--very time consuming until I get the hang of it.

My first decorated cake:

Trish's CakeIsn't he cute?

Trish's Cake

And just because, a Maggie picture--she loves lying in the sun. Usually she crawls behind the blinds and sits on the sill.

Maggie the Cat
What do your summer days look like outside of books? I hope everyone is having a wonderful and relaxing Sunday!

One simple bookish question: Would you consider Catch-22 a classic? I'm torn about it since it was published in 1961, but I want to count it for the Classics Challenge since it doesn't fit on any of my other lists. What do you think? Is there a cut-off year for classics?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I've been busy domesticating myself

Remember that quilt I talked about a few months ago? The top is now finished--just need to add one more strip for length and then it's on to the scary task of quilting, which I've never done by machine before. This is only my third quilt and the past two I've hand-tied. Other than being petrified of machine quilting this, I am in love with the colors and design. Is it bad to say I'm pretty darn proud of myself? :P

Trish's Quilt
Even Maggie likes the quilt
Trish's Quilt
The [mostly] finished top:
Trish's Quilt
In addition to quilting, I've been taking a cake decorating class at the local community college. It's kind of a pain because I have to bake and ice the cake ahead of time, which is part of the reason why my evenings have been full--very time consuming until I get the hang of it.
My first decorated cake:
Trish's CakeIsn't he cute?

Trish's Cake
And just because, a Maggie picture--she loves laying in the sun. Usually she crawls behind the blinds and sits on the sill.

Maggie the Cat

Thursday, July 16, 2009

City of Thieves - David Benioff

Title: City of Thieves
Author: David Benioff
Published: 2008 Pages: 258
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

City of Thieves was our July book club pick and I was really excited about reading this one because I've heard good things about it. Actually haven't heard much about the book except that it's good--oh, and that it is set in Russia.

City of Thieves is about a young man, Lev, who is trying to make his way on his own in Leningrad during the Nazis' siege during World War II. Most of his family has fled the city or has already been claimed victim to the war, but he remains in the desolate city with a group of other misfits. One night he happens upon a dead German parachuter and while looting the soldier's pockets, he is arrested. In prison, he meets and befriends Koyla who has been imprisoned for deserting the army. Lev and Koyla are given another chance at freedom by an army colonel if they complete a dangerous mission for him--finding a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding.

Lev and Koyla, upon their release, journey around Leningrad and across Russia in search of a dozen eggs. I could give you a laundry list of events that occur in the book during the boys' mission, but Benioff explains it so well in the following passage:
"I don't know." Yes, it was a stupid cowardly response but I could not handle the morning's peaks and valleys. One moment I thought I had a few minutes left to live; the next a sniper from Archangel was flirting with me. Was she flirting with me? The days had become a confusion of catastrophes; what seemed impossible in the afternoon was blunt fact by evening. German corpses fell from the sky; cannibals sold sausage links made from ground human in the Haymarket; apartment blocs collapsed to the ground; dogs became bombs; frozen soldiers became signposts; a partisan with half a face stood swaying in the snow, staring sad-eyed at his killers. I had no food in my belly, no fat on my bones, and no energy to reflect on this parade of atrocities" (212).
There is never a dull moment in the book; the story is intense and will keep you turning the pages to find out whether or not Lev and Koyla complete their mission to find the dozen eggs. But even though this is a mostly plot-driven novel, there is also a lot of tenderness and heart as Benioff fully describes the effect of the Nazi siege. Unfortunately I don't know a ton about Russian history during WWII and Stalin's reign, but this book was able to fill in some of those gaps. I wish that Benioff would have given a little more background to the politics and ideology in Russia at the time, but the other members of the bookclub really appreciated that this one wasn't bogged down in heavy details. The main focus of the story is Lev and Koyla's journey--not the convoluted mess behind the war and Russia's political stance.

I would certainly recommend this book--it is an entertaining read and will have you gripping the book as you furiously turn to the next page. The boys are in their late teens/early twenties, so there is a lot of talk about sex and a little bit of language. This didn't bother me like it might in some other books--seemed to fit seamlessly with their characters and the fact that in spite of everything they encounter and have to endure, they are just boys.

Why the 3.5 rating? While City of Thieves was a good book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, there isn't going to be a whole lot that sticks with me other than some of the more gruesome events--like I said, very plot-driven. This isn't to say that the characters are developed, because I think Benioff does a great job of developing the boys' characters (would have liked to see some of the other minor characters a little more defined). Maybe it's because of the length--only 258 pages? Can't really put my finger on it, but it just didn't have the bang and punch I was expecting. Don't let that deter you, though--check it out for yourself. Benioff has a wonderful writing style and this book will give you a great (albeit small) perspective on Russia during the war.

Despite weeks on the Bestseller List, this is the only other review I found:
Charley from Bending Bookshelf

Book Blogger Appreciation Week II

It's the announcement we've all been waiting to hear! The Fabulous My Friend Amy has announced the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

What is Book Blogger Appreciate Week (BBAW) all about? Well, appreciating and recognizing book blogs, of course! It's a week of fun starting September 14-18 and there will be so much hubbub and excitement that week that you'll definitely not want to miss it.

Go check out the BBAW Blog to register your own blog, nominate other blogs for great awards, and see all the news about events and giveaways.

Did you participate in BBAW last year? What was your favorite part of the week? I loved being able to recognize all of my favorite blogs--and I'll admit the giveaways were pretty sweet as well. And of course, I was honored to be nominated in the Best Commenter category (*blushes*).

In the spirit of BBAW, I thought I'd recognize two blogs that I've recently discovered that definitely deserve a spot in your Google Reader:

Cavaclade of Awesomeness

A Damned Conjuror

Go check them out! And while you're at it, why don't you share with us who your favorite new blogs are--whose blogs do we need to check out right now?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shmonday Salon - Bloghopping

I don't really have a thorn--just thought the picture was cute.

I started to draft a Sunday Salon post on Friday but decided I was too exhausted to post. Too exhausted to bloghop this weekend. So I nixed it. And last I posted, Google Reader was taking hours to show my posts, so Shmonday might turn into Shmuesday. Ah well.

As I find my Google Reader with over 200 unread posts, yet again, I thought I'd pose a few questions to you about your bloghopping habits. I used to be a pretty good commenter, but as there are more and more blogs and more and more posts (do we really need another weekly meme?), I'm finding myself more and more absent from the blogosphere. Mostly because I get so overwhelmed that I don't even know where to start.

Do you bloghop? How many blogs do you read/subscribe to? How much time do you spend each day reading blogs? What do you get out of bloghopping? Do you do it for social connection, because you're interested in what the other person says, because you feel it will drive more traffic to your own blog?

And of course, how can one talk about bloghopping without talking about commenting?

Do you comment on the blogs you read? How often? Do you read the entire post before commenting or just scan to find something you can comment on? How much time do you spend on comments? Is it better to leave a lot of short comments or a few longer comments? Do you get offended or stop reading a person's blog because they don't comment on your blog?

Holy cow that's a lot of questions. I think for each blogger we could all have incredibly different answers.

My answers?
I do bloghop--not as much as I used to due to time. I could literally spend hours a day trying to keep up with each post in my reader (I subscribe to about 80 blogs), but lately spending hours in front of a computer hasn't been a priority for me. I blog for a social connection. I've met some wonderful people who I consider friends, and reading what they've been up to and leaving comments helps me stay connected.

Unfortunately I do think that bloghopping and commenting are directly related to how much traffic you get to your own blog. Comment a lot and you'll get lots of comments. This makes me wonder if people are commenting just to comment or because they're actually interested in what the person is posting. I'll admit to occasionally commenting just to comment, but this is a little exhausting to me. How many different ways can you say, "wow that cover is really pretty" for a Cover Attractions Meme? (I have nothing against memes even though I don't often participate--it's just hard to come up with original comments).

I've always tried to go for quality rather than quantity, but who's to say whether a comment is a good comment or not? For me, anything more than "great review, here's my link" is probably a good comment, but sometimes I wonder if I talk about myself and my own experiences too much in the comments I leave on other people's blogs. My comments can get lengthy, and I often wonder--does the person even care--or should I have just said "wow, this sounds great"? I get in my own head way too much--probably need to stop over analyzing everything so much!

Do I get bothered when I comment on someone's site and they don't bother to return the favor? I'm mostly bothered or concerned if it is someone I have "known" for a while. But I try not to take offense to it. Especially since lately I've been very bad about returning the favor to commenters who might not be as "regular" as others. I do my best, but lately making the rounds seems to be more and more difficult.

How much time do I spend blogging? I'll go days without being able to get on my GReader and then spend a few hours one night "catching up." It's hard to give a rough number since it is fairly inconsistent. I used to spend Saturday and Sunday mornings catching up, but over the past few months I've frequently been out of town on the weekends. I certainly spend more time on other people's blogs than my own. Despite my current apathy towards blogging, I do really enjoy leaving comments and have no plans to stop.

Man, I wish I could be more concise!!

One more thing--How many people subscribe to follow-up comments? I always do when I know the blogger responds, but sometimes I wonder if anyone else does?

So how about you? Why do you bloghop?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Complete Maus - Art Spiegelman

The Complete MausTitle: The Complete Maus
Author: Art Spiegelman
Published: 1986/1991 Pages: 295
Genre: Graphic Novel/Memoir
Rating: 5/5

This is the type of book that I hate writing about—the one that I loved so much that I simply can’t do it justice or organize my thoughts in a coherent manor. So, here we go:

Go read it. The End.

Ok, I guess I’ll go into a little more detail. I’ll be honest, I was pretty resistant towards this book. I had some prejudices that were holding me back a little bit. What prejudices? Well, mostly the talking animals. I know, it’s weird, but talking animals are sometimes a turn-off for me. It almost seemed childish that the author would choose to portray the Holocaust using mice and cats and Jews and Nazis—part of me even though this was a children’s literature book. But I’m glad I finally read enough reviews to convince me to get this book. I waited patiently until my 40% coupon for Borders arrived so I could rush off and buy a shiny new hardcover edition—the complete edition.

The Complete Maus is a combination of biography and memoir—the story Art Spiegelman’s father's survival of the Holocaust, particularly his imprisonment in Auschwitz, and Spiegelman's own experiences with his father as he works on the book. I loved both parts of the book equally, but the dynamics between Arty and his father, Vladek, created such an intimate texture to the story. I can't say I particularly cared for either Arty or Vladek as characters--Spiegelman often shows them with all their faults in plain view--but the creation of Maus gives the two common ground and helps each other understand one another better.

Spiegelman's father's story provides the meat of the book. It begins during Vladek's youth and his increasing success in both his personal and business life. He marries into a wealthy family of Polish Jews and quickly rises in his various occupations. This all quickly halts, however, when the Nazis begin imposing laws and regulations aimed at denigrating the Jews. Vladek and his wife, Anja, are successful in keeping from imprisonment for a long time due to Vladek's industrious nature and the strong ties they have to wealthy Jews, but eventually they are forced to enter Auschwitz along with hundreds of thousands other Jews.

Like any other book about the Holocaust, Maus is incredibly heartwrenching and oftentimes unbelievable. I was constantly angered and sicked by the crimes committed and the atrocities millions had to endure. What makes this book especially poignant is its illustrated form. I can't imagine a more effective way for Spiegelman to share his father's experiences. I'm constantly amazed at what authors can accomplish in the illustrated form--the emotions the drawings can portray, the multi-layered dimensions of the story, the action, the misery, the joy, the love. There is a lot to be said about words, and I am a lover of words, but the drawings in this book continually speak for themselves--conveying things that words simply cannot accomplish.

illustration from The Complete MausAs I mentioned above, I have a weird thing about talking animals, but I love how Spiegelman chose to portray the different races in the book--mice for Jews, cats for Germans, pigs for Poles, so and and so on. I don't know for sure what Spiegelman's intentions were with these depictions, but on the one hand I saw the stereotypical cat chasing mouse theme, but on the other--and more importantly, it showed the ridiculousness of distinguishing between different races. I don't think I'm making sense with that thought, but it's there in my head.

This review is already far longer than I wanted it to be and I still feel like I haven't said anything at all. We've all read Holocaust stories before. We know the history and we know what happens. But this is different than anything I've ever encountered before and I can't recommend it enough. I couldn't be more glad that I put my prejudices aside and read this book. Although I'm haunted by what I read and saw in this book (what was I thinking children's lit??), I am grateful that Spiegelman was persistent enough to get his poor stubborn father's story to share with us all. It is not one that should be overlooked or forgotten. None of them are.

So what do you say? Are you going to read it? If you have read it, what did you think?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Salon 13 - 2009 Mid-Year Thoughts


Kafka on the Shore
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
The Glass Castle
A Huge Accomplishment: Middlemarch - George Eliot

My Favorite Review (Self Interview): Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
Miles from Nowhere

10,729 Pages
31 books
My goals this year were a little different--read 24,00 pages and 40 books from the TBR stack. 16 of the 31 are from the TBR stack (acquired before 12/31/08) and 10,729 pages. Not great on either count. But, I'm not stressing and I'm having fun. So, I'm OK with the goals not quite being met.

My Current Challenges (this will make you feel good):
Orbis Terranum hosted by Bethany (2/9)
Non-fiction Five (hosted here) (1/5)
Classics Challenge hosted by Me (2/7)
Arthurian Challenge hosted by Becky (0/5)

Finished challenge:
Once Upon a Time 3 hosted by Carl

And what the heck, Some New Ones:

The Southern Reading Challenge hosted by Maggie
The GLBT Challenge hosted by Amanda
The Canadian Book Challenge hosted by Book Mine Set (John Mutford)

As you can see, I've gone kind of lax this year with the challenges. I'm absolutely, 110% OK with that--having fun, right? And reading!! I'd love some suggestions for the GLBT and Canadian Book Challenge if you've got them. Of course I'll be reading Atwood for the Canadian and Fingersmith for the GLBT.

WHEW! What is on your top 10 (or 8) list for the midway point? If you had to say: "Trish! Read this book now" what would that book be?

**I'm headed out of town and will be trying to schedule this post. I'm sure the formatting is going to hate me--if it's all muddled, forgive me and I'll fix it on Sunday/Monday. boo!
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