Monday, September 29, 2008

Gone for a while

Because my internet connection will be down for a while, I will be taking a mini blogging break. See you guys in October.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Salon: What a beautiful day!

Right now the sun is behind clouds and it is gloomy and cold. I love these kind of days, perfect for reading a book at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee next to me.

Dewey has just made my day by posting the sign-up sheet for October's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. The Read-a-thon is a 24 hour challenge where readers read as much as they can while cheerleaders cheer them on, and there are prize giveaways and mini-challenges almost every hour. You also end up meeting great bloggers who share your passion for books. I'm already eyeing what books I'm going to give away. It's one of my favorite challenges.
This week's theme for Weekly Geeks is to "catch up." So I've decided to catch up on reducing my TBR pile and challenges list and to also catch up on my homework. I've missed a lot in my classes because I'm sick with the flu. I also want to catch up on my magazine reading and journal writing.
I reduced my challenges from 31 to only 4. The challenges I'm keeping are: The 24 Hour Read-a-thon and Kate's Short Story Challenge that has been going on since January and ends in December. I'm also keeping the Classics Challenge and R.I.P. since I only have one book left for both to read. I'm also going to have a personal challenge to read at least ten of the books on my TBR bookcase in the next five months.
This week has been pretty slow for reading. I've read Gloom Cookie by Serena Valentino and The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, based on the movie by the same title. Both could have been better and both were read for R.I.P. I also read Just who will you be by Maria Shriver. It's a short book based on a commencement speech she gave about knowing who you are. I was expecting more, but . . .
Currently I'm reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Both are great reads so far and I will post reviews on both later this week.
Have a happy Sunday.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Weekly Geeks #18

I really should be studying but I have just too much energy. So I've been doing everything else: taking care of the kids, cleaning the house, daydreaming . . . I'll get to studying soon. I think the kids feel the same way because I asked them to take a nap hours ago and they're still up. I give up.
This week's Weekly Geeks is about catching up. Catch up on whatever it is you need to catch up on: book reviews, TBR pile, library books . . .
So this week I will be catching up on a number of things.
At last count I was signed up for about thirty challenges. Now with school and everything else in my life, I think I will cut my challenges down to about five total for the rest of the year. I have a challenges notebook that I use so I can remember what challenge deadlines are coming up and what books to read but it still feels like a chore. So I am going to go through my notebook and my five favorite ones I will keep.
I also need to update my TBR pile. I am so tired of looking at my TBR bookcase. I need to start reading the books now and give them away. I will definitely be giving some away for Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-thon in October. If you haven't heard of this great challenge already, go on over to The Hidden Side of the Leaf and read all about it.
I also need to catch up on my homework. I have a ton of classes and for the last two weeks on and off I have been sick. It's crazy having the flu and it's about 80 degrees today in California. If I haven't been the sick one then it's been one of the kids. So "catch up" will be my new name for the next week.
Wish me luck.

Saturday's Quote

"When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue-you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night-there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book."
-Christopher Morley

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday's Quote

"What is reading but silent conversation?"
-Walter Savage Landor, "Aristoleles and Callisthenes," Imaginary Conversations (1876)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday's Quote

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."
-Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday's Quote

"Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one."
-Augustine Birrell, "Book-Buying," Obiter Dicta (1887)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday's Quote

"Wear the old coat and buy the new book."
-Austin Phelps

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Happiness Project

If you were to look at my bookmarks on my Windows Explorer, you would see many sites in the blog folder. I have saved the web addresses of blogs about books, poetry, reading challenges, science, and much more. One of those sites is Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. Gretchen spent a year trying every happiness "principle, tip, theory, and study" she could find. Though the year is over Gretchen uses what she's learned to share with the rest of us.
One of Gretchen's own resolutions is "ask for help." She's asking all her readers to spread the word about The Happiness Project. So check it out and spread the word about this great site.

Monday's Quote

"When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes."
-Desiderius Erasmys

This is so true. I only buy clothes and food because of my kids.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekly Geeks #17

Dewey came up with the great idea for this week's Weekly Geeks assignment to be a quote a day. I am two days behind because of studying so I will be posting quotes until next Sunday.
"There are some people. . . who constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. they wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing."
-H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Weekly Geeks 16: Interview with Dewey

This week's Weekly Geeks assignment was to interview fellow geekers about books they've read but haven't blogged about. I interviewed Dewey from The Hidden Side of the Leaf about Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl and she interviewed me about my longtime favorite, John Steinbeck's East of Eden. Because of this interview, I started reading Dewey's favorite The Grapes of Wrath. Here is Dewey's interview with me.

Have you read any other Steinbeck? The Grapes of Wrath is one of my favoirte books ever, and I wonder if you've read that, for example. But mostly I wonder if you think this is Steinbeck's best novel, as many seem to have felt, including, allegedly, Steinbeck himself.

I've read Of Mice and Men, which is another one of my favorite books, The Pearl, Travels with Charley in Seach of America, and Journey of a Novel. The Grapes of Wrath along with The Winter of Our Discontent are on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I love Steinbeck so much that I'm thinking about re-reading East of Eden and reading only one book of his every year. That way I have something new of Steinbeck's to read for the next 24 years.

I think not only is East of Eden the best book of Steinbeck's, but also the best book I have ever read. It gives the reader so many huge themes that affects every one's life: evil, goodness, having faith vs having none, love, friendship, the development of our own identities: whether they are given to use or we create them, and whether we have a choice in our lives or is it all up to chance or destiny?
What's the connection between this book and the story of Cain and Abel?

The connection between this book and the story of Cain and Abel is that the story is about Adam Trask who falls in love with a woman named Cathy. They move to Salinas Valley, California a place, depending on where you live, that can be paradise or barren land. Cathy gives birth to twins named Aron and Caleb. Crowing up, Caleb is fascinated with plants while Aron loves animals. The boys are fraternal twins and Caleb (Cal) is described as being "darker" looking. Throughout the book, biblical connections are frequently brought up: Adam loves Aron more than he loves Cal, Cal is jealous of Aron, and much more.

Who was your favorite character in this novel?

I can't name just one character as my favorite. Samuel Hamilton, a close friend of the Trasks and also Steinbeck's real-life grandfather, is such a powerful character. Samuel lives with his wife and nine children in a barren part of Salinas. Just like in the Bible, he's a person to listen to, a prophet who tells you honestly what his thinks about G-d and life.
My other favorite character is the Trask's "butler" Lee. Lee is Chinese and because the book takes place after WWI, not many people besides the Trasks and Samuel bother to see Lee's humanity. Lee loves life and learning, and has dreams of one day moving to San Fransisco to own his own bookstore. There would be no book without these two characters.

Did you have a least favorite character?

I honestly don't have a character that I hate, even Cathy who later changes her name to Kate. She's a monster because she cannot see the humanity in herself and others. She can imagine and live in and with Hell, but not Love.

How does the setting contribute to the story?
The setting contributes a great deal to the story for me but it's the characters I see most clearly. Even as I type this, I can see in my head Samuel as he rides home on his horse Doxology after staying up most of the night talking to Lee and Adam about the meaning of life and timshel.

Can you explain timshel?
Every time I read the passage about timshel, I get goosebumps. It's one of the reasons why I re-read this book every year.Timschel is the Hebrew word for "Thou Mayest". In the Hebrew version of the Bible, when G-d is talking to Cain, he says "Thou mayest rule over sin." In Christian versions of the Bible such as the King James edition, it says "thou shalt" or "thou will". The difference between the two is choice. Timshel is so important to every theme presented in the book because it gives you a choice: either you choose to rule over your own life or you choose not to. Either way your life is basically given to you. It is yours to do what you want with.

Here's my interview with Deweyabout Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl.

Can you give me a summary of the book for readers like me who have never heard of it and don't know what the book is about?

The main character and narrator is a fifteen year old girl. She's been living with a pedophile who kidnapped her when she was nine. The reader sees in her a lot of the coping skills of someone who's been living with great trauma. Her kidnapper barely lets her eat, because she's growing too tall and exhibiting some secondary sex characteristics. He decides that she should find him a new, young girl. She finds a girl about seven years old at the park, and concocts her own private plan for escape (or death, depending on her mood) which is a bold move on her part, considering how much it differs from his plan.

What made you pick up this very disturbing book?

I read some reviews that praised it highly

Without giving much away, how did you feel about the ending?

One reviewer stated that "it's the best you can hope for from such a disturbing book." I felt that the end was more realistic than the endings of tragic YA books usually are.

The book is marketed for young adults. Do you think it should or should it be aimed at adults instead?

I think that the reasons that someone might want this book aimed at adults is that they don't want teens reading about something so disturbing. But the book is definitely intended for a teen audience. It's obvious the author is writing for teens, and as an adult reader, I did not at all feel like the target audience.

Would you recommend this book?

In spite of the fact that it's a compelling story and that it's written skillfully, I don't recommend it. My reason is something that I hope will be discussed in the comments, because I really wonder what others think of it. I feel that we too often accept scare tactics that don't accurately reflect reality. We're made afraid by maps of where sexual offenders live near schools, without any knowledge of the sexual offender's crime. Often, maybe usually, their crimes, however horrible, had nothing to do with children. We paint them with one big "pervert" brush. And in doing this, we perpetuate this myth that children should be especially wary of strange men lurking in parks or near schools, when children who are molested are most often the victims of a relative or a known adult in a position of authority with children, such as a scout leader or a youth pastor. Check out>this information, which states that 93 percent of victims know their abusers: 34 percent are abused by family members; 59 percent are abused by someone trusted by the family.

I'm not sure why we create such fear in children of strangers when they're more likely to fall prey to someone much closer to home. Why aren't we warning them of the more realistic dangers or teaching them more realistic safety rules? I'd rather see kids taught that their bodies are their own and no adult should ever touch them in certain places than not to take candy from strangers. And I feel that this book, in making the perpetrator a stranger who kidnapped the main character from a school field trip to the aquarium and later wants to kidnap a child from a park, causes damage in two ways. First, it warns teen readers to be wary of strangers instead of more likely perpetrators. Second, if a teen who is being sexually abused by a family member or other known adult reads this book, she may not even make the connection. She may continue to tell herself what many teen victims tell themselves, which is that what is happening is at least partially their own fault and not really a crime. She may feel that since her perpetrator isn't starving her or keeping her away from her family, she's not really a victim. I would like to see a book for young adults by an author as skilled as Scott that addresses the sort of abuse that a teen reader would be more likely to be experiencing.

Have you ever read anything else by Elizabeth Scott?

Not yet, but the writing in this book makes me want to see how she handles other subjects.