Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book 33: The Cherry Orchard/Finished.

Like I said before, I have read a bunch of Chekov's short stories, so I was really excited to read this play, since it was one of his last pieces he wrote before his death. I also love Chekov's writing style, so I was looking forward to seeing how that would translate into solely dialogue.

Now, I liked the play, but it didn't leave me feeling profoundly changed like I feel I should have been. I think it had the essence of greatness, but that was lost on me (Again, I will say that I think from now on I need to listen to the non-Shakespearean plays so I can fully appreciate them. I lose something by just staring at the text). However, this is definitely something I want to read again, or see live. I think I would love it more.

The play begins with a Russian family returning home to their estate in the countryside after having been in Paris for five years. While they were gone, the estate and attached cherry orchard were cared for by the servants they left behind and the matriarch's (Madame Ranevskaya) eldest daughter.

It is made known from the beginning that some portion, or all, of the estate must be sold to pay off debts. There are plans made for ways for the estate to be saved, but Madame Ranevskaya seems reluctant to follow through, especially when a good neighbor suggest destroying the cherry orchard to build homes.

It almost seems as if there is a huge battle between old and new, the young and the old. In particular, I was drawn to the character of Firs, an old, senile servant who rambles about things and who no one seems to take seriously. The last scene with him was truly touching.

In all, I think this was a powerful story that fell flat in my reading of it on the page. It needs character and life and the vision that Chekov probably dreamed of. If I ever get a chance to, this is something I definitely need to see performed.

Book 33: Book Stats.

Title: The Cherry Orchard
Author: Anton Chekov (1860-1904)
First Published/Performed: 1904 (shortly before his death)

My Edition: Dover Thrift Edition-Published 1991 (My library's sole copy)
Pages: 49

The play was first performed on Chekov's last birthday and was one of the last works he completed. He is probably better known for his short stories, but The Cherry Orchard is performed frequently and it critically praised.

I have read some of Chekov's short stories, which I loved, so reading a play by him will be quite different.

This will be the only piece by Chekov I will be reading for this challenge, but I have a few short story collections in my personal library that I want to get to eventually.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book 32: The Misanthrope/Finished.

I am not big on drama. I mean, I haven't had a whole lot of exposure to the world of theater, which is probably why I am missing some of the impact of this play.

That is not to say I didn't like it. I certainly did, but it is quite different to read a play than a novel. Everything is based off the dialogue when you read a play. Your mind has to create the setting, etc based off what the characters are saying.

Luckily for me, this play was excellent. The banter between the characters made it come alive and I managed to read all 52 pages in one short reading.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Moliere's play (I'm assuming that is almost all of you), it focuses on a small part of the aristocracy. The main male character, Alceste, believes that a person must be completely honest and never try to hide the truth. This obviously creates some problems as he bluntly says whatever he feels at a certain point in time. It also creates a lot of humor, which I much appreciated.

The play begins with Alceste commenting on his view of social interaction, as well as his disapproval of a fellow's love poem. After criticizing the poem, Alceste ends up being taken to court (hilarious). It also touches on a love mess between Alceste and Celimene, a young flirtatious woman with many suitors.

The situations and language make this play hilarious, as you wonder what the characters will say or do next. It also offers a lot to think abut socially. I know that I have had conversations about whether telling a little white lie is beneficial or not. The Misanthrope almost serves as an example as to what happens when you don't tell anything but the blunt honest truth at all times.

It gives you a lot to think about.

I want to leave you with some of my favorite passages.

This first one is spoken by Alceste to Celimene. He is arguing with her about another of her suitors. I just love how belittling he is when he is speaking;

"Are you, like all the rest of the fashionable world, fascinated by the dazzling merit of his fair wig? Do his many ribbons charm you?Is it by the attraction of hid great German breeches that he has conquered your heart, whilst at the same time he pretended to be your slave? Or have his manner of smiling, and his falsetto voice, found out the secret of moving your feelings?" (14).

This next passage is from when Alceste is in court defending his right to hate Oronte's love poem. Again, I just love his mocking tone;

"At what is Oronte offended? and with what does he reproach me? Does it reflect upon his honor that he cannot write well? What is my opinion to him, which he has altogether wrongly construed? One may be a perfect gentleman, and write bad verses; those things have nothing to do with honor. I take him to be a gallant man in every way; a man of standing, of merit, and courage, anything you like, but he is a wretched author," (33).

This last passage showcases the beautiful banter Moliere creates between characters. I read this passage out loud to truly get a sense of the amazing connection between the two. The first speaker is the wronged Oronte and the second is our good friend Alceste;

"I have no wish, sir, in any way to disturb, by an untimely affection, your good fortune.

And I have no wish, sir, jealous or not jealous, to share aught in her heart with you.

If she prefers your affection to mine...

If she has the slightest inclination towards you...

I swear henceforth not to pretend to it again.

I peremptorily swear never to see her again.

Madam, it remains with you to speak openly.

Madam, you can explain yourself fearlessly," (46).

I think this is a play I am definitely going to have to see if I get the chance.

I feel I should also point out that the most recent adaptation just opened in December 2009 in London and stars Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley.

Book 32: Book Stats.

Title: The Misanthrope
Author: Moliere (1622-1673); Real Name: Jean-Baptiste Poquelin
First Published (Performed): 1666

My Edition: Dover Thrift Edition-published 1992 (my library's sole copy)
Pages: 52

I have never read or seen anything by Moliere before. To be quite honest, my background in theater is pretty pathetic. I took one "theater" class in college, which solely focused on Shakespeare, so any other early playwrights are essentially unknown to me.

This will be the only work I am reading by Moliere for my challenge.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Giveaway Reminder.

I just wanted to post a quick reminder that I am giving away a hardcover copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan. Both books are SIGNED and also come with some cool swag. For details about entering, please go here to comment. Any comments here about signing up to win these books will NOT COUNT.

The contest ends on Thursday at midnight, so good luck!

Book 31: Finished.

It was really hard to read a play to myself. Trying to keep characters separate in your head while reading a play is completely different than doing it during a novel. Where you have lots of text in-between certain section of dialogue to help build the characters and add to their depth, you have to infer all of that from dialogue while reading a play. It is incredibly different.

I think it might be a good idea to get the audio CD's for some of these plays. It might make keeping characters apart easier.

With all of that being said, I really liked this play. It was deep, and dark and moving. It was also a great explanation of how the American Dream can not only help us, but hurt us. It is not always attainable, or it never IS what you think it is. I guess you could say that this play can serve as a reality check for those of us who dream so hard that we forget to work.

I really loved how Miller set it up. The play takes place on a simple set (described in the beginning), and the character morph in and out of different sections. It also has flashbacks where the characters simply move to another portion of the stage to simulate the change of time.

Willy Loman is a traveling salesman who believes that by being a likable person, he will be successful in his job. While that works for a small amount of time, it gradually unravels. His life and his way of seeing the world slowly grows outdated as his children grow up and live their lives. His life becomes a reflection of the choices he made in the past, and some of those choices resulted in missed opportunities that could have changed his life forever. The result is a tragedy-the fall of Loman-and the fall of the American Dream. Success and happiness are more than just dreaming and hoping. Success requires work and dedication.

This is definitely something that I would love to see performed and will if I get the chance. Reading is was haunting and eye-opening. I would most certainly recommend this (but listen to it or see it live!).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Salon: March 28, 2010.

This was definitely a more calm week than last week. I would say that it was needed!

The weather changes have really been bothering me. I am susceptible to migraines, and I have had quite a few this week. With fronts coming in, the temperature changing, my head has been pounding almost all week.

I am glad to say that starting tomorrow I got back to full time hours working at the park and my supervisor pay! Matt and I are really looking forward to me working more and I can't wait to have more time to be out of the house and doing something. I love working at the park!

Unfortunately, no sub jobs for this week. I rarely saw anything posted and when I did, it was something I am not qualified to sub in (special education resource rooms).

There are rumors circulating in Michigan that there is a bill in question forcing many teachers of retiring age to retire, or they will be forced to start paying their own benefits. As an unemployed educator, I'm not sure what to think about this. There are a LARGE number of retired-age teachers still working, so having those jobs open would mean great things for the thousands of people in my situation! But, I don't know if this bill is the right way to do that. Who knows!

In reading news this week, I had another great week. I managed to get through a Holmes novel and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Woolf always takes a little more concentration than I think it will, but it is always worth it. I even went to the library to check some things out and get small paperback copies of each of the Holmes novels. I have rheumatoid arthritis and my big, hardcover edition of the complete Holmes stories and novels is too heavy to hold up. Unfortunately, my library is lacking in the individual novels. All they have are the big compilations which doesn't help my situation. I did find a large print edition of A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. I read A Study in Scarlet out of it and the huge letters actually made my eyes go a little batty. All of the other novels and story collections I am trying to get through inter-library loan. We'll see how that goes.

I also made some big changes here on the blog. After an e-mail from blogger letting me know they were revising some templates and editing options, I decided to take advantage of their new 3-column look with a total blog makeover that is completely different from what I had (hopefully you noticed). It makes things easier for me since I don't have to scroll way down to see some vital pieces of information. I also think the template is little more custom to my blog-the whole "odyssey" theme. I am loving it, but expect to see a few small tweaks and changes as I get used to it.

I also added another page at the top. I have been getting a lot of e-mails recently with questions about my blog, so I figured I should answer them. Rather than have one big post, I thought it would be easier to have an easily seen page with the answers. Feel free to check it out!

This coming week I am hoping to get through another Sherlock Holmes novel, as well as The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I am also hoping to start one of the 2 Dumas novels I am reading for my stop on the Classics Circuit. My giveaway for two signed, hardcover copies of Carrie Ryan's books ends Thursday at midnight.

I am hoping for another good reading week, so keep your fingers crossed!

Happy reading everyone!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book 31: Book Stats.

Title: Death of a Salesman
Author: Arthur Miller (1915-2005)
First Published/Performed: 1949

Awards Won: 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

My Edition: Penguin Plays
Pages: 139

In high school I had to read The Crucible by Miller. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was glad that my teacher made us read it out loud in parts to make it easier to understand. I will be reading The Crucible at a later date.

This is the first non-Shakespearean play that I am taking on so far, so I am hoping it goes well. I find Shakespeare to be easy to read in my head, but I am not so sure about reading more modern plays in the same way. I think I may have to read out loud, especially since this play shifts time periods often.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blog Makeover.

I wanted to make a quick post to acknowledge that yes, my blog looks a little different. Don't worry, you are in the right place!

I am not at all computer literate and have no idea how to do anything with HTML, let alone customize my blog to make it a little more me. But when I got an e-mail from Blogger announcing they had new templates and better options for creating columns, I figured it would be worth a shot to take a look.

Lo and behold I found this wonderful template, which is very much in keeping with my "odyssey." I am still tweaking some of the fonts, colors, and placement of items, but I think this will be a permanent change. I hope you all like it!

Book 30: Finished.

If I told you that I had to make myself finish this book would you hate me?

I just didn't like it.

I really tried to read it with an open mind...and not get angry or upset by the horrid writing, and the confusing narrative, but I still just don't like it.

I can "Get" why it is taught so often, and why it is an important piece of literature. And by all means, I should have liked it since I usually like novels like this. But I found it to be boring. And when the tragedies and violence finally struck, I wasn't even moved by it.

It was more of a "that sucks" kind of reaction.

But I tried, I really did. I attempted to like the characters, but the only ones I enjoyed were Piggy and Simon. They were the only two with any sense and the only two I didn't cringe at when they spoke.

So yeah. You could say I am not a fan of Golding's masterpiece. It happens and there is no harm done.

I will say that I liked the idea of the book. A group of schoolboys alone on an island and forced to survive. Kids will obviously handle such a tragedy different than adults will, so it was interesting to see how they tried to set up leadership and what their priorities were for survival.

As I pointed out before I began the book, I read this in part for the LOST Books Challenge and yes, there were a ton of similarities:
  • The struggle between two leaders (Jack and Locke) that threatens to tear apart a group of survivors)
  • Being lost on and island and forced to survive
  • The savagery of certain individuals vs. those who want to survive and be rescued
  • The plans for eventual rescue by different individuals vs. the needs of the group to survive
  • The hunting of the wild boar
  • Violence between individuals in the groups
There is more, but those are the biggies.

Anyway, I'm glad to be done with this and not have it hanging over my head any longer. On to something more interesting....

*I'm sorry about the "downer" way this post seems. I just really didn't enjoy the book and I really just don't enjoy writing about it. It happens and I hope to have better things to say about my next book.*

Book 30: Lord of the Flies.

I think most young adults in the United States were forced to read Lord of the Flies sometime in their school career. I feel for them, because I never had to. For some unknown reason, I never "had" to read this book and I never felt any real desire to pick it up on my own in high school either.

With that being said, I know the jist of the story fairly well. After all, since most American teens are forced to read this (Yes, I am using the word "force"), I was the minority all throughout college when the book was referenced, just like I was when Of Mice and Men was talked about (nope, never read that either). Thus, I felt like I had to at least acquaint myself with the book so I at least knew the story. I even went out and bought a copy.

Then I started reading. I got 30 pages in, determined it was stupid, threw it at the wall, and moved on with my life.

I still have my copy. One corner is bent pretty badly from hitting the wall.

While I do believe that we should be reading more of the classics in general, I hate that certain titles are thrown down the throats of American high schoolers. As an educator, I am a big proponent of choices in the classroom. When it came time for me to assign projects during my student teaching and when I taught history last year, I always offered options. I personally don't think it is right to assume that every student will like everything I do, so I try and vary assignments accordingly. I have always said that when I do have my own classroom and I am teaching English, I will most certainly offer choices. Taking into account that there is a specific canon I need to teach, I will do while offering my students choices about the books they are expected to read.

I am sure that most of us can remember a time when we were told to read a book that we absolutely hated. I can also go on a rant here about finding suitable books for age groups. For example, I read Great Expectations when I was 13 for school. Even though I was in the advanced English class, I had no idea what the book was about and hated that it was forced down my throat. I was too young to understand it.

Lord of the Flies is commonly taught at that same age, or a year older. Do you think it is really possible for every 13 and 14 year old to understand the significance of this book? Sure, I bet a handful will "Get it," but most won't. Especially since in most districts you don't learn about the fear of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear holocaust until a year or two after that. It doesn't make sense.

Anyway, I suppose I am trying to say that even though I haven't read this book from cover to cover yet, we already have a lot of history together. It should be interesting, and hopefully eye-opening to finally read it. Perhaps my opinions will change...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book 30: Book Stats.

Title: Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding (1911-1993)
First Published: 1954

My Edition: Perigee
Pages: 208

Other Works Include: The Inheritors (1955), Free Fall (1959), The Pyramid (1967), Rites of Passage (1980)

While most children growing up in America have to read Lord of the Flies in middle or high school, I never had to. It was not on any of our school's reading lists when I was in school, so I was never forced to read it. By the time I got to college, it was simply assumed we all knew the story and I can recall countless professors referencing it in class to make points.

However, I have never read Lord of the Flies. I attempted to read it in college when I was sick of not understanding the references, but I made it only a few pages in before I determined I hated it. So, needless to say, this will be my first reading of it.

I am also counting this towards the Lost Books Challenge as one of the five books I am reading.

Thursday Treat #12: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

If Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is the reason I became hooked on science fiction, Anne McCaffrey is the sole reason I began to read fantasy. I owe everything to her and the series that begins with Dragonflight.

While first published in 1968, Dragonflight did not make it into my hands until I was in eighth grade (maybe 1998 or so). For my English class, my teacher required us all to read a book from a different genre than what we liked. At the time, I was a huge fan of Mary Higgins Clark and that was all I was reading. So, my teacher suggested I try a fantasy novel. My best friend Jenny was also in the class, so we both searched the fantasy shelves trying to find an interesting book. We decided then and there that we needed to find a book that our school library had two copies of, so we could read it together.

We ended up finding our book. The book of choice was The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey. We didn't realize at the time we checked them out that The White Dragon was the third in a series. But that didn't matter. We both read it and fell in love. Arguably, I loved it more than she did.

My love of fantasy was born.

I ended up convincing my mom to take me to the book store so I could buy the first two books. Then I bought more, and more, and more. My collection of the "Pern" novels grew. I was obsessed.

To this day, I still find it funny that I was hooked on fantasy by a series that began in the 60s and is still going today. It was an odd choice for a young teenage girl, but I don't regret it. And as I have read more and more fantasy as I have grown older, I have learned that the Dragonriders of Pern is one of the best fantasy series ever written. It was inventive, new, and inspiring. It is truly epic fantasy.

McCaffrey is the mastermind behind much of dragon based fantasy today. Her series was one of the first big series that centered on dragons. Books like Eragon have McCaffrey to think for blazing the trail. It also helped jump start my own love for dragons (no, really, I love me some dragons).

If you want to see where dragon based fantasy began, you have to read this series.

The entire series goes as follows:

Original Trilogy:
  1. Dragonflight (1968)
  2. Dragonquest (1970)
  3. The White Dragon (1978)
Harper Hall Trilogy:
  1. Dragonsong (1976)
  2. Dragonsinger (1977)
  3. Dragondrums (1979)
Other Novels and Anthologies:
  1. Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (1983)
  2. Nerika's Story (1986)
  3. Dragonsdawn (1988)
  4. The Renegades of Pern (1989)
  5. All the Weyrs of Pern (1991)
  6. The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall (1993)-Short Story Collection
  7. The Dolphins of Pern (1994)-One of my favorites in the series
  8. Dragonseye (1997)
  9. The Masterharper of Pern (1998)
  10. The Skies of Pern (2001)
  11. A Gift of Dragons (2002)-Short Story Collection
There are a few other titles that have come out since, but all are with collaboration with Todd McCaffrey, her son. I have not read any of those, but only those she has written.

If you want to read this series, read them as they are listed to make it easier. McCaffrey also has a suggested reading order on her website if you are interested:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book 29: Finished.

I loved Alias Grace. I mean, I loved the writing, the characters, the story, the situations that Atwood created. It was beautiful. I especially loved that she developed all of this from a murder that occurred in the 1840s.

The material surrounding the actual murders is included in pieces throughout the novel. Atwood adds snippets of trial transcripts, as well as Grace's confession to add depth to the story she weaves. Every time I finished a section and came to one of those pages with real material, I had to remind myself that this actually happened. Atwood made me forget with the beauty of the tale.

But where she wins is the character of Grace. Rather than focus solely on the murder and devote most of the writing on the actual event, she alludes to it. Grace is recounting her story to Dr. Jordan throughout all of the novel. She takes it so slowly, and develops every detail that the murder seems secondary. When it finally does happen, it is over and done with and hard to accept. It is hard to connect the sweet Grace telling her story to a hardened murderer who has spent 20 years in prison.

That is the skill of Atwood's writing. She made me forget that I am not supposed to like Grace. Grace is not a person I should be feeling sympathy for if she did, in fact, murder her master and the housekeeper. But I did feel for her, and I felt for her so deeply that I desperately wanted a different ending. It was hard to know that even while I felt I knew her, as Dr. Jordan thought he did, she was still a convicted murderer.

That is great skill.

I also want to touch on the side story of Dr. Jordan. The perspective switches from Grace to Dr. Jordan and to letters written between characters. While I saw some critiques online about the side-story of Dr. Jordan and his landlord, I loved it. Essentially, Atwood sets up a similar scenario for Dr. Jordan as to what happened to Grace before the murders. I loved that she did that, to make Jordan and the reader question what they would do in that situation.

So yes, Atwood is a greatly skilled writer.

I loved this novel. It was truly excellent and beautiful. It makes me want to dive into the rest of Atwood's work so I can soak up her genius, but that will have to wait for another time.

Book 29: Details and Grace,

I forgot how good Margaret Atwood is at developing her characters and plotline. She manages to not only deliver a moving and touching story, but does so with every intention of creating characters that are memorable.

I suppose you aren't supposed to genuinely like Grace Marks. As a historical figure, she was a convicted murderess. At the time, she was written about as a conniving woman who was well-aware of what she was doing when she partnered up with McDermott to murder her master and the housekeeper.

However, Atwood slowly draws the reader in to Grace's story. Through the guise of a doctor studying Grace's history, Atwood allows us to get to know Grace from the moment she can first remember, all the way to the day of the murder and beyond. In Grace's words, we learn about her life.

Atwood does it slowly. We learn about her childhood in Ireland and the plight of her family. We learn that her father was an alcoholic and her mother sickly. We join them on the boat as they come over to Canada, and the tragedy that seems to follow them everywhere. We watch as Grace is attacked by those around her who are pretending to help her. She tells us how she earns a place in a good home as a servant and befriends a girl named Mary Whitney. We then learn about Whitney's demise and how Grace ended up at Kinnear's farm, where 2 weeks later she committed murder with McDermott at the age of 16.

Atwood takes us slowly so that we can understand Grace, and love her and she loves herself. The doctor who is studying her in the novel, Dr. Simon Jordan, also falls in love with her and forgets that he is supposed to remain apart from Grace's narrative. It reminds us, the readers, that we too need to step away.

While I know that much of this is fictionalized, I cannot help but feel for Grace as a person. Whether or not she actually committed the murders is still a question that will remain without an answer. And while Atwood is trying to give us the details of the story, you cannot help but wonder-did she really do it?

I think Grace seems to say it best in the novel, so I will leave it to Atwood:

"When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or someone else," (298).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book List Meme: March 23, 2010.

I just went back and looked to see I hadn't done this meme in a month and I really like this one! I also really liked this week's topic so here you are. :)

Okay, it is time for a weekly book Meme hosted by Rebecca at Lost in Books. Each week a topic is posted that must be answered by the titles and pictures of 3 books.

This week's topic?

3 Books That you Loved as a Child

1. The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This series pretty much defined my childhood. My grandma had the series that my aunts read when they were little girls in her basement. One weekend when I was over, I found them and asked if I could read them. I was hooked. I read the entire series in a week, then I reread them, and reread them. I loved them, and I still do. It has been quite a few years since I last read them, but I am definitely going to in the near future!

2. The Babysitter's Club: Little Sister Series

A couple of my cousins who were older then me were hooked on The Babysitter's Club growing up. At the time, I was maybe 6 or 7, so the main series didn't appeal to me yet. Imagine how excited I was when the Little Sister series came out. I loved it. I owned quite a few of these and like many of the other books of my youth, I read them over and over again.
3. It Zwibble, the Star-Touched Dinosaur by Werenko Ross

After I first learned how to read, this book was the one that came with me everywhere. It is about a dinosaur fairy who is sent to Earth to save the baby dinosaur eggs from destruction. Once there, he has to find others to help him save the babies. I loved the illustrations, message, and character. Unfortunately it is out of print, but I still have my childhood copy.

Book 29: Alias Grace.

I enjoy well-done historical fiction. I can appreciate it when an author stays true to the time period and facts of a certain era while creating a new story, or elaborating on facts to make a story come to life.

However, when it is done badly, it makes me want to throw the book against the wall-something I have done a few times in the past.

For those authors who do create beautiful fiction set in historical settings, I commend them. Writing good historical fiction is extremely difficult. There is that threat of a history buff finding something at fault in the novel and ripping it to shreds (I have been known to do that). That is why I can appreciate work like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. While she certainly takes some liberties in what she is writing, she does it well and for the most part, only tweaks history when she needs to. It is also clear from reading her work that she did her homework.

So I am looking forward to Atwood's novel, which could also be classified as historical fiction. Alias Grace is centered on the true story of the deaths of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery in 1843. The two other servants in the house, James McDermott and Grace Marks, were convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. Somehow, Grace was saved from her death sentence and spent many years in prison before being released (not a plot spoiler, merely what happened).

In Alias Grace, Atwood attempts to fill in the questions that so many people had at the time. Taking place years after the murders, Atwood creates a fictional doctor who is trying to learn the truth from Marks through interview. Atwood also throws in excerpts from newspapers published during teh time of the murders, observations from the wardens and guards where Grace was kept, court transcripts, as well as poems, etc that all highlight the characters.

Now, while I am only about 50 pages in, I can tell you this. Atwood is creating GREAT historical fiction. She is remaining true to the facts that are known, while creating a story to fill in the gaps. It is riveting. And while I already know what happens to Grave Marks based on historical fact, I am still anxiously turning each page to see if I am right. That is the mark of a great writer. She is turning a story I already know into something much more powerful and emotional.

My only hope is that she continues to stay true to the story and history, or this book will be fated to hit the wall as well. But I have a feeling it won't go there.

Book 29: Book Stats.

Title: Alias Grace
Author: Margaret Atwood (1939- )
First Published: 1996

Awards Won: 1996 Giller Prize, 1996 finalist for Booker Prize, and 1996 finalist for Governor General's Award

My Edition: Anchor Books
Pages: 468

About two years ago, I read The Handmaid's Tale at the urging of a good friend and absolutely loved it. Even though I went out and bought The Blind Assassin shortly after, I never got around to reading any more of Atwood's work, even though I meant to. This will be the second book I read by Atwood.

I will also be re-reading The Handmaid's Tale as part of my challenge. Because of the length, I am also counting this book towards the Chunkster Challenge as one of my 12 picks (I'm an overachiever).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

Last night I selected the winners from my 10% Read Giveaway and just finished e-mailing the lucky 3 who won!

Each winner will get to pick a book from this list (the first 25 books I completed), which I will send their way.

  1. The Odyssey by Homer
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  3. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  9. McTeague by Frank Norris
  10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  11. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  12. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  13. Germinal by Emile Zola
  14. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  15. Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
  16. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  17. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  18. The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
  19. The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
  20. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  21. Washington Square by Henry James
  22. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  23. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  24. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  25. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

And the winners are.....




Juju at Tales of Whismy

Congratulations to my winners. There should be an e-mail in your inbox (except for Amanda-I didn't have an e-mail for you). Each winner has 48 hours to contact me before I choose a new winner.

Thank you to everyone for entering! Be sure to watch for the next one!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Salon: March 21, 2010.

I had a really great week this week! One of the biggest accomplishments was getting caught up on the piles and piles of laundry that were taking over our bedroom. It is so nice to have clean clothes to wear! But I am amazed at how much laundry two people can have.

Tuesday night was the return of our community band after a 2 week break. Matt and I both play (trumpet), so we were glad to get back into the swing of things. We have some great music this half of the semester and I am pretty excited. We're playing a piece inspired by Whitman's poems! I have mad love for Whitman, so I am really into the piece we're playing. I even have a solo!

Wednesday was St. Patty's Day, so we had grand plans (this is where it is nice to not be working). Unfortunately I woke up with a nasty migraine, so after nursing me for a bit Matt met some friends for breakfast and early beverage consumption. Thankfully by the time they returned here I was feeling better. We all hung out for awhile until I went to work from 4 to 8, then partied some more after. It was great to see friends and family and just relax. Also, it was gorgeous outside so the windows were wide open and we all enjoyed some fresh air.

Thursday was also a great day. We slept in before cleaning up from the night before. Thursday night I got to meet Carrie Ryan! I also picked up some extra copies of her books for her to sign and for me to give away! It was a great experience and I really need to make it a point to go to more book signings. I love hearing writers discuss their writing process and the stories behind their novels. It is simply fascinating. Carrie was especially wonderful and offered great insights to up and coming writers.

Last night we were originally going to travel into the "thumb" of Michigan to my in-laws' cabin for a maple syrup making party, but I woke up with a sore throat and came home from work with those dreaded white spots in my throat. Matt decided to stay home and nurse me, which was a wise decision since our power ended up going out!

In book news...

Earlier this week I got a newsletter from Penguin Classics announcing the release of more titles to their Hardcover Classics line. I mentioned in an earlier post how I am desperately want all of these editions. In general, I really like Penguin Classics. They are well done and beautiful editions. And these gorgeous hardcovers are no exception. I own the editions of Wuthering Heights, Cranford, and Tess of D'Urbervilles, but I really want all of them (Note: If anyone wants to butter me up, please buy me these. Thanks.). Here are the five new editions:

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Emma by Jane Austen

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson

The Odyssey by Homer

I would like one of each, thanks! I personally love the new edition of The Odyssey, I just love the color and the image of the waves, but each one is beautiful. I would love to have all of them on my shelves. If you want to see the whole line, here is the place to look. I should probably add here that Penguin has no idea who I am, so I am not specifically endorsing their products for them. I just love them!

I also had a pretty good reading week. I finished Lord of the Flies, which was an odd little book. I also read Death of a Salesman and Misanthrope. I am also working on number 55 on the original list, which is the "Complete" Sherlock Holmes novels and stories. It is a huge task, but I am working on the first novel, A Study in Scarlet. To get through all four novels and 56 short stories will be a long process-bear with me! I have The Cherry Orchard by Chekov on my desk, as well as The Picture of Dorian Gray. To be fair, I'm not sure what is up next. I think I might have a long visit with my bookshelves to see what pops out.

I am probably going to work on finishing up the Lost Challenge in the next couple of weeks. I only have two more books to read for it, but I am not sure which. I have these four titles to choose from: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Any suggestions?

I also need to work on completing two Dumas novels for the Classics Circuit. I am going to read two novels for the circuit, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, so I should get going on those.

It seems like I have a lot of reading to take care of in the next few weeks!

Happy Reading everyone!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book 28: Finished.

I really, really loved Wuthering Heights. It was not at all what I expected it to be, but that's okay-I loved it anyway.

I know that a lot of people cannot stand it, and I am sure it is for the very reasons I listed in my last post. All of the characters are horrible people. They all make decisions that leave the reader wondering, "Are they crazy? Stupid? or just extremely passionate?" I am thinking they are all of these things. Each character made me go crazy with anger. I kept yelling at them in my head to wake up and learn a little. They never did.

But I loved the book. It is a different portrait of love. Catherine and Heathcliff's love affair is certainly passionate and full of emotion. It is also nothing like what you would expect. It is violent at times, and scary-like watching two trains barreling towards one another on a track with no brakes. You want to look away, but you just can't.

The second half of the novel, which focuses on Catherine's daughter, is even more mind-boggling. If there ever was a spoiled little daddy's girl, little Catherine would be it. She is everything her mother was and more. Like her mother, she is also spoiled and passionate. She does what she thinks is best for herself, with hardly a care for the implication of her actions on those around her.

Overall, this is definitely an extremely powerful novel about just that. It is a good look at how our actions can harm those around us without our realizing it. It is about how we should be careful how we treat others around us because in the future, we could be at their mercy.

This is definitely a powerful novel and one that I will be sure to read over and over again.

Book 28: Characters.

I just feel like I should say this outright.

I really hate every character in Wuthering Heights.

There, I said it.

They are all whiny, selfish, self-absorbed, idiotic, uneducated, power-hungry, over-dramatic morons.


It feels good to get that out.

Now, with all of that being said, I love the novel.

Perhaps that is a contradiction, but it's true. While the characters make me cringe, I am sucked into the drama and passion that is Wuthering Heights.

I don't mean to harp on the Twilight references (after all, I got out some anger in yesterday's post), but I can't help but comparing the two. Perhaps Meyer really did base her characters on these selfish people. Heathcliff is so like Edward. He is controlling, violent, and overbearing. Catherine is the essence of all of Bella Swann's horrible characteristics. She is selfish and asks for pain and heartache.

It is almost as if Meyer loved these characters and just modernized them for the benefit of today's readership. Because, like the characters in Wuthering Heights, all of the characters in Twilight are cringeworthy.

Okay, no more Twilight from now on.

Anyway, I cannot stand any of the characters. The narrator is a whiny little man who seems a little too obsessed with the history of the place called Wuthering Heights. In all honesty, he has no business inquiring after any of the inhabitants or commenting on them. When he is fully in a scene, I find him annoying and whiny. He complains too much.

I also cannot stand the housekeeper-Nelly. Since most of the novel is from her point of view (she is relating the history of Wuthering Heights to the MC), we get to hear a lot from her. What irks me is that she knows better, but she still constantly plays into Heathcliff's traps and does what is worse in every situation. It is mind-boggling and aggravating.

The two main love interests in the first volume are also incredibly irritating. Heathcliff is overbearing and power-hungry. He is a violent character, moody, and downright mean. I can find nothing good in him.

And Catherine is a selfish woman who only cares about her own happiness.

Even with all of this being said, I still LIKE the book. I don't know why, but I am drawn to these horrible people and their poor messed up lives. I don't see the love in this story, but I am waiting to be surprised. I am waiting to see if Bronte can make these people into something meaningful and less disgusting. But even while I wait, I still like the book. I like how even though there is nothing to love, I want to know more.

I suppose that is the draw of this novel, and why when it first came out, critics were skeptic of the writing style. Books this dark didn't draw audiences back then like they might now.

So yes, I am curious to see where it goes.

Has there ever been a book where you hated the characters but still loved the story?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book 28: Wuthering Heights.

I feel like this is one of those books I should have read a long time ago. I mean, I love Austen and often the Bronte sisters and Austen seem to go hand in hand. However, I never read any Austen until I was in my third year of college, and up until this point, I have never read anything by any of the Bronte sisters.

I am starting to think that my English degree is a joke.

But, I am trying to remedy all of these problems by reading these books now, right?

Back to Wuthering Heights. I'll be honest and say that I have a lot of reservations about this novel. Perhaps it might be that whenever I think about Wuthering Heights recently, I see a few images that have scarred my mind.

I am referring to this:

And this....

That very small part of that is a book snob cringes whenever I see these covers. It is not because the covers are modernized, it is because of how they are being marketed. You see those small little "stickers" on each edition? They both say, "Bella & Edward's Favorite Book." THAT makes me cringe.

I understand the Twilight phenomenon. I mean, I read all 4 books and while I enjoyed them, I would never, never refer to them as great literature. I see many big problems in them, the largest being Edward's insane level of stalkerish tendencies. So I have a really hard time with this Twilight themed brand of marketing. It makes me angry.

In my opinion, you should want to read Wuthering Heights because of its storyline and history. Not because it is Bella and Edward's favorite book. Why do two fictional characters have such an influence on what you read?

I also worry about how so many Twilight fans will interpret Wuthering Heights. In regards to writing style and ability, Bronte and Meyer are worlds apart. They come from different eras and backgrounds. I worry that fans of Twilight will read a few pages of Wuthering Heights and hate it outright, thinking, "This is NOT Twilight!!! I was LIED to!!"

*I feel I should note why I say this. When I first saw these editions in a book store, there were two young girls looking at them. One of them picked up a copy and started reading the first few lines, then set it down saying, "This is so boring. Who would want to read this?" The other girl looked at the book and said, "I think that is one of those old books. You know? One that Mrs. ****** would make us read.*

So yes, I go into reading Wuthering Heights with a lot of hesitation. Again, perhaps this is snobbish of me to be so worked up about new editions. After all, not every person who picks it up is doing it because of a book craze, but because they want to read good literature, like I do.

But I have to wonder, will marketing it this way give it more fans or fewer? Is this a clever way of getting teenagers to read more classics and give them a shot? Or is it simply going to make more readers turn away from classic literature from being mismarketed to? I am curious to find out.

What do you think?

Giveaway Ends Tonight!

This is the last reminder that my first giveaway ends tonight! If you haven't already entered and wish to do so, please go here to comment (any comments on this post WILL NOT COUNT). If you want to know what is up for grabs, here is a reminder!

I will be awarding three winners with their choice of book from the following list:
  1. The Odyssey by Homer
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  3. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  9. McTeague by Frank Norris
  10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  11. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  12. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  13. Germinal by Emile Zola
  14. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  15. Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
  16. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  17. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  18. The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
  19. The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
  20. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  21. Washington Square by Henry James
  22. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  23. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  24. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  25. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
These 25 books represent me being 10% done with my challenge!

Remember, if you are interested, go to the original post and enter by midnight tonight!

OH! I should also point out that if I hit 100 followers by the closing of the contest, I will add on a 4th winner.

Good luck!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Autographed Carrie Ryan Giveaway!

Earlier tonight I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting author Carrie Ryan at my hometown Barnes and Noble. She is out traveling on a book tour for the recently released: The Dead-Tossed Waves. As soon as I saw she was coming HERE, I knew I had to go and meet her. I loved her debut novel-The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I was told to read it by a bookstore employee I have come to know and trust, and while I was wary, I ended up falling in love.

Carrie Ryan writes beautifully about topics that are deep, dark, and tragic, but still manages to maintain a sense of hope in a world gone evil.

Tonight she explained more about her writing process and the inspiration behind the novels. In addition to reading a portion from her new release, she also fielded questions from the audience and was extremely funny. She was a great speaker and as an aspiring author, I gained a lot of insight from her. After speaking with us, she took pictures with the people who showed up dressed like zombies before settling in to sign books.

While signing my books, she was incredibly friendly. I was just shy (I get that way around new people). The last time I met an author (Markus Zusak) my mother had to get me talking because I didn't know what to say. But Carrie was very friendly and warm!

In addition to getting my own copies signed and personalized to treasure forever and ever, I also picked up an ADDITIONAL hardcover copy of each novel for her to sign. She also gave me some extra swag!

So yes, I am doing a Carrie Ryan Giveaway!

What is up for grabs?

The first place winner will receive the following items: Hardcover copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (signed), Hardcover copy of The Dead-Tossed Waves (signed), The Forest of Hands and Teeth bookmark, and an "Eat. Prey. Love." sticker.

The second place winner will receive the following items: The Forest of Hands and Teeth bookmark, The Dead-Tossed Waves bookmark, "Eat. Prey. Love." sticker, and CD full of videos and information about The Dead-Tossed Waves and other YA novels and sequels.


  • You must comment on this entry and tell me you are interested!
  • You must be a "Follower" of my blog!
  • If you were an old "Follower" I will give you 1 extra entry!
  • If you write about this contest on your blog and link to this post, I will give you 3 extra entries (please provide a link to your post in your comment here or it will not count!)
  • You must be a United States resident (sorry, but I cannot ship out of country at this time).

The contest will run until April 1, 2010 (Carrie is getting married that day-no, I'm not a stalker, she told us this tonight!) at midnight.

Good luck!

Thursday Treat #11: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

Last February I was housesitting/dogsitting for my aunt and uncle while they were in Russia. They were in the process of adopting two little boys (now my cousins) and needed someone to hold down the home front.

Since I didn't have access to the internet, I made sure to go stock up on some new reads for the 10 days I was at their house. In between working at school (I was long term subbing back then) and stopping at home for meals, I spent a lot of time on their comfy couch catching up on some great books.

Like always, I made a trip to my local Barnes and Noble to buy a few new things. Karen, a woman who I have come to know over the last few years, found me searching the YA shelves for new titles. She pushed me towards Ryan's debut novel and told me I would love it.

I was skeptical. The cover did not grab me right away and the title made me cringe. Then I read the "blurb" and right away I thought to myself, "zombies? really?" I wasn't sure, but she told me the writing was amazing and if I didn't like it, I could return it to her, no problem. So I bought it.

And I went back to their house, sat on their couch, and didn't get up until I closed the back cover. The book sucked me in from beginning to end and I absolutely fell in LOVE with Ryan's words.

While there are "zombies" of sorts, this is not a horror filled book where the zombies move around slowly and threaten to suck your brains (I'm assuming that is what zombies do). Had it been that, I would have stormed back and yelled at Karen. I am not a horror fan. I am one of those girls who leaves the movie crying if it is at all scary (Example: I almost walked out of Peter Jackson's King Kong because I was scared, freaked out during I am Legend, and slept with water by my bed for weeks after seeing Signs). I am a wuss. And I am proud to be a wuss.

But Ryan's book is not horror. While the premise of the novel is scary, it didn't frighten me.

Mary and her village are fenced in, and have been for as long as they can remember. Around the fence is the forest of Hands and Teeth, a place where the Unconsecrated (zombies) roam and try to break through. As Mary tries to make sense of the violent and heartless world she lives in, the world collapses around her. She is left trying to make sense of it all, and survive.

I have to say, it wasn't the story that sucked me in, but the writing. Ryan tells her story so beautifully that you really begin to care for Mary and pull for her to survive in this world full of death and despair. It pulls at all of your heartstrings.

Just recently (March 9), the companion novel was released. While I have not had a chance to read The Dead-Tossed Waves, I have already bought my copy and it is waiting for me on my desk.

If it is anything like the debut novel, I am sure I will be just as deeply moved.

Now, to tease you...there is a reason why I selected this book for today, BUT you'll have to wait till later to find out!

Book 28: Book Stats.

Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte (1818-1848)
First Published: 1847

My Edition: Penguin Classics Hardcover (one of the new fabric bound editions)
Pages: 353

Emily was the second of the three Bronte sisters. Her big sister was Charlotte (author of Villete and Jane Eyre). Her younger sister, Anne, was also an author and wrote Agnes Grey. Emily also wrote poetry as well, but Wuthering Heights was her only known novel. When it was first published in 1847, it was published under the name of Ellis Bell. In 1850, Charlotte decided to republish the novel using her sister's actual name.

I have never read any of the work of the Bronte sisters. Surprising, isn't it? I suppose it has been fear that has kept me away. I am mostly afraid of not liking novels that I "should."

Eventually I will be reading Charlotte Bronte's Villete and Jane Eyre.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book 27: Finished.

I am not sure if I have anything meaningful left to say about The Great Gatsby. I think I got it all out in my last post.

I will say that I still have a very special place in my heart for this book. No matter how many times I read it, the end still hurts deep. If you haven't read it before, please skip the next paragraph so it won't be ruined for you.

Like I said in my earlier post about the green light, you have to feel for Gatsby, as he continually chases his own happiness. I think the ending of the novel is very telling. For a man who seems to have so much, no one around him really cares. It says a lot about the people of the time, as well as the power of money and success over true friendships. As a reader, you really feel for Gatsby. What a poor man-he never got what he strove for. And Nick...he is trying to make sense of the tragedy and he knows that even he didn't know the man behind the name and fortune as well as he thought he did.

So yes, I still love the novel. It is one filled with hope and love and desire. Books like this really are time capsules of the era in which they were written. Gatsby's home and lifestyle really showcase the lives of the rich in the "Roaring 20's." Even so, the message behind the glitz is something extremely valuable in today's world.

My only wish is that when high school teachers choose this book as a part of their curriculum, they really dive deep. I think much is lost when discussing a book of this magnitude. I know my own eleventh grade teacher told us outright she didn't like the book but had to teach it. Find something to love in it because it is so meaningful and beautiful.

Okay, okay, enough preaching.

Happy reading.

Book 27: The Green Light.

I absolutely adore The Great Gatsby. It is one of those books that I simply love because it is so truly itself. For me, there is nothing else that can compare to the world of Gatsby, Daisy, and Nick.

It is a world where everything should be wonderful. Gatsby is rich and successful, with a home filled with the latest and greatest. He has grand parties that are the talk of the area, while still maintaining an aura of mystery. Nick is the up and coming new man in town, who is trying to make a name for himself. Daisy is the beautiful and seemingly unattainable girl from America's heartland who also seems to have everything she could desire.

But their world is just a charade. Even with money, grand houses, and beautiful cars, these people really have nothing. They don't have happiness and their lives are unfulfilled.

This certainly is a novel that truly explores the meaning of the American Dream.

Probably the most well-known part of the novel is the "green light" and its symbolism. Here is the passage I am talking about:

"The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone-fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.

I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would so for an introduction. But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that was content to be alone-he stretched his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I would have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward-and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness," (25-26).

That passage is probably one of the most discussed passages in high school English classes. I remember discussing it in my own class. We were all frustrated because we just didn't get it. What WAS the green light? As our teacher tried over and over again to explain the meaning and symbolism of the green light, we just grew more and more frustrated.

It has taken quite a few rereads and an enlightening conversation in a teaching methods class for me to really understand.

I think that when we are younger, we believe that every dream we have has the possibility to come true. We are nurtured from a young age to believe that any dream we have is possible and attainable if we work hard enough and try. But as we get older, that doesn't end up being the case. I recall a time where I slaved over a short story to enter in a contest my first semester of college. I worked hard and tried and felt my story was simply amazing and full of beauty. Imagine my surprise when I didn't even place. Didn't those judges see my hard work and effort?

Or we could go as recently as this last summer. As I went from school to school interviewing for teaching jobs, I felt I had a solid base beneath me. I had spent 8 months the previous school year long-term subbing, which I felt was a valuable experience. I had a huge portfolio full of my accomplishments as well as my students', which I was sure would wow my interviewers. Imagine my surprise when every school called to say, "We're sorry, but we don't think that you are a good fit for us."

It has been a lesson to myself that even with hard work, effort, and tears, I don't always get what I want. But I can keep trying and something better will hopefully come along. And it has only been with these kinds of life experiences that I can come to understand that symbolism of the green light.

It doesn't represent Gatsby's desire for Daisy. Instead, it his intense need for every wish of his to come true that calls him to spread his arms wide in hopes that he will someday be worthy of receiving his every wish. For Gatsby has worked hard to up his status and prove himself to be a man worthy of love, adoration, and respect, and even after he seemingly "Gets" Daisy, he still doesn't have everything. At the heart of it all, Gatsby is still alone and unfulfilled.

Gatsby is chasing his happiness without realizing that by chasing it, he will never get it. Just as I chased schools down looking for the perfect teaching position, Gatsby fails to see that when it is the right moment, it will all land in his lap.

We cannot try and attain everything because then we will never learn to love and appreciate what we have. That image of Gatsby reaching for something that he might never get is something that has become ingrained in my own mind. He has been searching and trying for so long you hope that the light will fly into his arms and everything will be okay. But life doesn't work that way.

I truly believe that when I was in that high school class I simply didn't have enough life experience to truly appreciate and love what Fitzgerald was trying to tell me. It is an important life lesson, and one that I understand now. To me, this just shows that there is a time and a moment for everything I read. Some lessons I cannot learn at certain points in my life, or I cannot understand the depth of what these authors are trying to teach me.

And I am glad that Fitzgerald has told me that while I do have a green light out in the distance, it is best not to yearn for it, or chase it, but to live my life now in the moment, and hope that one day that light will come to me instead.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book 27: Book Stats.

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
First Published: 1925

My Edition: Scribner Paperback Fiction-75th Anniversary Edition
Pages: 216

Other works include: This Side of Paradise (1920), The Beautiful and Damned (1922), and Tender is the Night (1934).

I have read The Great Gatsby numerous times. The first time was in eleventh grade for a class novel. The second time was in A.P. English as a reread in preparation for the test. I also read it twice in college-once for an American literature class and once for a history class. I loved it each time I read it, but have never ventured into any of his other work.

In addition to The Great Gatsby, I am also reading Tender is the Night and The Beautiful and Damned as a part of my list.

Giveaway Reminder!

I just wanted to remind you that my first give away in honor of my completion of 25 books ends on FRIDAY at midnight.

Please don't forget to enter if you wanted to. I also wanted to let you know that I have re-evaluated my stance on all entrants being "followers." Not everyone belongs to Blogger and that should not be a penalty for entering.

With that being said, the contest is open to anyone. However, a follower will simply get an extra entry.

Spread the word!

Book 26: Finished.

I have to be honest. While I love the March sisters and the story of Little Women, I am glad to be moving on. It was a nice visit, and I loved being with them, but you can only handle everything working out for so long.

(Besides the death of the beloved, which I won't talk about).

I mean, sugary books like this are meant to be treasured. Their problems seem small because they do end up resolving themselves in a pleasing way. Jo does find love in an unlikely place. Meg finds happiness when she didn't think she would. Beth eventually gets over her fear of Mr. Lawrence and enjoys free rein of his piano. Amy becomes the polished young lady she always aspired to be. Their problems get resolved and while they struggle so that the reader sympathizes, it all ends out okay, as it should.

I think that had Alcott changed it so that things didn't end up so perfectly, Little Women would not be Little Women. It is meant to be the kind of book that girls read so they would learn; "If you do these good things and remain loving and loyal, everything you could need will eventually come your way. But only if you are a graceful little woman and stay true to your heart and home."

And there is nothing really wrong with that message. I look at girls I had in my classes last year-with their tiny little skirts and their chests hanging out. I would wonder at how they threw themselves at boys and how they wondered why boys only wanted one thing from them. A little more propriety wouldn't hurt anyone, and neither would respect for oneself. I think of the things these kids do-both boys and girls-and wonder how my great-grandparents would react. The shame of it!

So no, I don't think there is anything wrong with hoping for good moral sense and the need for an individual to try to be selfless as the March girls try to be. It is a grand thing, and some thing I hope to teach my own girls one day (a long time down the road).

I also love how this novel explores social standards and the differences between men and women. One of my favorite scenes in the book and the movie is when Jo is talking to Laurie about him leaving for college. She distinctly says, "I wish I could go." For that statement alone, I am glad that women get to go now and learn as much, if not more, than boys. Women getting into college was certainly a HUGE step forward and I love that Jo expresses that desire. I think back then people really appreciated their education as something grand and wonderful, where many kids today take it for granted. Personally, I LOVED college and taking classes I was interested in. While my brothers think my degrees (English and History) are a joke, I know I earned them.

And it was always nice to be one of the few girls in my history classes.

Anyway, I suppose what I am trying to say about this novel is that I still loved it. When I was younger, I never really saw any of that hidden depth, or questioned why Jo couldn't go to college but Laurie could, but I did believe that if I was good and did as I should, I would eventually get what I needed. And I can be honest and say that has come true. I have a husband who loves me, books to read, and kittens to love. Those things make me entirely happy and confirm that I, too have become a proud "little woman."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book 26: Favorite Passages.

I kept seeing little Amy as Kirsten Dunst, so I was very glad to get to old Amy in the latter half of the novel. I am not a Kirsten Dunst fan, so of course I am seeing her face in mind whenever I am reading about Amy.

Anyway, besides that I am still loving Little Women. While it is certainly preachy, and almost a guide for learning to be a respectable little woman, I love it. It is truly a feel good kind of book that warms your heart.

I wanted to share a few favorite lines from the March sisters before I go and finish the last 100 pages. Enjoy!

"'I'll try and be what he loves to call me, 'a little woman,' and not be rough and wild, but do my duty here instead of wanting to be somewhere else," (18).

"Boys are trying enough to human patience, goodness knows, but girls are infinitely more so," (71).

I am sure that my mother would agree. And I am sure most mothers would agree with that statement.

"'Little girls shouldn't ask questions,'" (76).

I feel I should point out that I laughed hard at this one.

"'Housekeeping ain't no joke,'" (114).

I agree. Especially when you live with MY husband.

"'People don't have fortunes left them in that style nowadays, men have to work and women to marry for money. It's a dreadfully unjust world,'" (158).

Unjust that we actually work and EARN our money?? Hmmm. 21st century Allie finds fault with this statement.

"It takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius, especially ambitious young men and women," (250).

Amen to that. This is why you have horrible singers who are more successful than those with truly amazing voices and why there is just as much garbage published as truly great literature.