Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oliver Twist Readalong Post 3: Volume 3.

Welcome to the third and final post for the readalong of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist hosted here at A Literary Odyssey. I, for one, had a great time reading through everyone's posts the last two times we posts. You can go here to see our thoughts over part 1, and here for our thoughts on part 2.

I would like to say from the beginning that when I finished, I didn't want to jump for joy because I conquered Dickens. I also didn't call him names, or throw the book at the wall, or even start a rant aimed in my poor husband's general direction about how I hate Dickens. Nope, my husband and cats didn't hear any grumbling.

Instead, Matt had to listen to me ramble about how perhaps I had misjudged Dickens in the past and how he wasn't all bad. Matt was playing Call of Duty at the time, so I doubt he actually listened to me.

The point is, I finished this one and liked it. I liked the story, I understood what Dickens was trying to accomplish, and I didn't leave it wanting to kill him. This is a big deal you guys. Like major.

What this tells me is that I should never hold grudges against authors I "don't like." Because they can surprise you. It only takes one book. This is the one book that has me willing to give Dickens another try, and another. And since I still have 4 novels by him on my list, this is probably a good thing. Perhaps by going into them, remembering that I liked this one, I might be willing to set my irritation over his wordiness aside.

Okay, enough about that and on to the novel!

This third portion picks up where the second left off. We meet up with the skeazy character of Monks, who is meeting them Bumbles for a private conversation. We learn a few more details about the death of Oliver's mother, and we get some hazy information regarding who Oliver is. A mysterious bundle is dropped into a roaring pit, destroying any and all evidence of who Oliver is.

The story moves back towards Fagin (the character who is constantly referred to as "the Jew") and we soon learn that Monks also knows Fagin. Together, the are scheming evil men who had a plot for destroying Oliver. We also go back to learn more about Nancy and Sikes. Some very nasty things occur which take up the bulk of this ending section. I don't want to go into detail to ruin it for anyone who hasn't read the novel, but I loved the action and power of this last section. There was a lot of drama, and as a reader, I could tell that Dickens was trying to shock his readers a bit.

Eventually we learn a little more about Oliver and his rescuers (the lovely people who have taken him in) begin to investigate his past. Things begin to unfold and we soon learn who Monks is, as well as who Oliver is and the truth about his parentage. It all wrapped up neatly, with the bad guys getting their due and young Oliver learning the truth about his identity.

And even though the novel wrapped up nicely, it was certainly dark beneath the layer of sarcasm and humor. It paints a very seedy picture of society at the time and of the poor's plight. You have to feel for the workers in the workhouses, and you feel for the young boys under Fagin's influence. With no real parents to instruct them or care for them, what other choice do they have but to go bad?

I also felt this last section moved along much quicker than the first 2/3 of the book. Perhaps it was the action and drama, but I found myself a little more invested in what was happening with the nasty characters, whereas before I just wanted to focus on Oliver. I love how Dickens wound all the small little bits and pieces together to form a coherent ending. I suppose that is a strength of his-that all these side plots do wind up meaning something. But it was less obnoxious this time and well done.

My only big problem with the entire novel is the labeling of Fagin as "the Jew" and the antisemitism towards his character. Normally I can tolerate racism in a novel-it captures the essence of the novel and adds to the overall meaning-but I was irritated that Fagin was mainly called "the Jew." Why even bother to give him a name then? It annoyed me and I grew slightly exasperated at the repetition.

But for that being my only critique, you can see why I walked away from this one with a renewed faith in Mr. Dickens. I was happy to see that I can enjoy a Dickens novel and get something. Bravo Charles, BRAVO.

If you have completed your post for this readalong, please comment and leave a link to your post so I can link it here.

In addition, please leave an e-mail address for me so I can contact you. I have "something" for all the participants of my readalong, and I can't talk about it with you until I have a way to contact you! (January participants-you'll be getting an e-mail as well. I figured sending them out every two months as opposed to every month would make my life easier).

Katy F.

Review: Mariana by Monica Dickens.

I am glad that I found that "used" copy of Mariana by Monica Dickens sitting on the shelf. And I am even more glad that I brought it home with me.

My very first Persephone experience has shown me that I must get my hands on more of these lovely books. Mariana has been a wonderful first read for me, and perhaps it is the novel that has finally pulled me from my reading slump.

In Mariana, we are introduced to Mary, a young woman who is alone and awaiting news of her husband who is away in war. While she waits, Mary begins remembering moments of her childhood. We are first taken back to when she is eight, and traveling with her mother to her grandparents' house in the country. We learn that her father died in the Great War, which has affected her deeper than she lets on.

Gradually we are introduced to the other members of her family-given small glimpses of who they are and what they strive to be. Some instances made me chuckle (like the play the kids perform) and others took my breath away.

Her memories continue forward to the other experiences that have shaped her life-different jobs and relationships. Some of these are positive, but there are bad experiences as well. All of them shape her and turn her into the person she is when we first met her.

I loved this novel. So much that I really want to dive back in and explore more in the person that Mary becomes. Monica Dickens is a marvelous writer, weaving in humor and delicacy to Mary's story. One of my favorite pieces is the following:

"She had a feeling of calmness, almost of dignity, that she had never had when she was not alone. With other people one was only an unconsidered fragment of the company; alone, one was a complete entity by oneself," (72).

I love the depth of passion that weaves beneath all the small stories of Mary's life, that leads ultimately to the climax. Monica Dickens achieved this supremely and has left me feeling that she is the Dickens I should have been reading all along. I will most definitely be reading more of her work, when I can find it, in the future.

As to the whole Persephone experience? As this was my first novel published by them, and I had such a high opinion of it when I finished it, I have to say that I cannot wait to get my hands on more of their titles. If all of their books are as beautifully written and as elegant as this one, then I will have many more happy reading experiences.

Weekly Wrap-up for February 27, 2011: More New Books, Persephone Weekend, and New Things!

After having Monday and Tuesday off of school, I felt like the rest of the week dragged forward. But it is already another Sunday and I have lots of bookish bits to discuss with you! Aren't you excited?

One of the first exciting bits is that I acquired more books this week. Let me assure you that I "bought" them before my book buying ban (I should clarify that my husband demanded this ban after my recent splurges). If you remember back a month and a half ago, I mentioned I was doing a "Game On! Diet" challenge with a few other bloggers. Well, my team won so we each got $30 to spend at I agonized over what to get, but when I saw there was a great deal on some Shakespeare titles, I caved. Here is what I ended up with:

From top to bottom-
  • All's Well that Ends Well by Shakespeare: I read this one back in my college Shakespeare class, but it has been awhile, so I barely remember the plot!
  • Coriolanus by Shakespeare: This is a little known play that I know nothing about. I will probably read this one a little later-I'm sure it will be more challenging.
  • Love's Labor's Lost by Shakespeare: This is another title I read in my college Shakespeare class, and I remember really loving it when we read it.
  • Measure for Measure by Shakespeare: I know the basics of this one, but haven't given it a chance yet!
  • Troilus and Cressida by Shakespeare: I know absolutely nothing about this title, but like the others, I know I will eventually get to it!
  • The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy: This was the only Hardy title on my project list that I hadn't found a copy of in my searches. So glad I found this lovely Oxford edition.
Good haul? I think so. I am going to be making it a future project to read all of Shakespeare's works, so this is a great start to getting some of the lesser-known titles on my shelf.

In addition, the lovely Rebecca at Rebecca Reads was taking part in that big literary giveaway last weekend, and I won a copy of My Antonia by Willa Cather! I can't wait for that beauty to be sitting on my shelves as well. :)

This weekend I am participating in Persephone Reading Weekend. Unfortunately I was hit with a super nasty migraine yesterday that sent me to bed for a few hours, so I still need to finish my book today and post my review. I'm reading Mariana by Monica Dickens. It is a wonderful read!

However, the most exciting thing to happen all week was what I am currently typing on. My husband bought me a new laptop! Yay! My old laptop was nearing seven years of hard use and was certainly showing it. It would freeze randomly, refuse to open files, and be all-around obnoxious. So the hubby bought me a lovely HP and I am so excited to be typing on something that isn't on the verge of having a meltdown any second.

I'm still getting used to the feel of the new keyboard, but I am loving my new buddy. :)

One of the best parts of this new computer is that I now have a webcam and the ability to do vlogs! I'm not sure how or when, but I've always wanted to!

The only other bit of news is that I finally went and got my hair done yesterday. The last time my hair was cut was LAST Memorial Day, so it was in some serious need. It was also super long (almost to my butt), so it needed to be chopped. I still wanted to have it on the longer side because I look better with long hair, but I also wanted to donate it. I ended up chopping 10 inches (that was scary when she showed me how much she chopped), but my hair is still below my shoulders. I also dyed it pretty dark with a touch of red. It is taking some getting used to. My ponytail is so short and I am used to it hanging all the way down my back! I am sure that in a few days I'll get used to the drastic change!

Anyway, this week lots of exciting things are happening. Tomorrow you'll see the ending posts for War and Peace and Oliver Twist! I'm glad to be knocking two more titles off my list. I'm also in the middle of Candide, which I hope to finish either tonight or tomorrow. I'm still kind of stuck on what to read next. As always, suggestions are welcome. I do know that I'll be starting the readalong books sometime this week, and posting the polls for the next three months (hard to imagine it is March already!).

I hope you all had a great reading week and have another!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Persephone Reading Weekend and Mariana by Monica Dickens.

In case you haven't heard the buzz, this weekend is the Persephone Reading Weekend. Persephone books is a small UK based publisher that focuses on publishing out-of-print titles, little known women authors, and all kinds of delights from the 20th century.

You can find more information about the books they publish and all that good stuff at their website.

This is the very first time I read a Persephone title and I am extremely excited about. Reading through the books they have published, there are a great deal that I would absolutely love to get my hands on. The best part is that many of these titles are considered classics, so while I am again straying from my project list, I don't feel quite so guilty about it like I did last weekend.

I found my very first Persephone title a few months ago when I was scanning the shelves in the used section of my local bookstore. As soon as I saw the title, I knew it was a Persephone and I snatched it up. Sure enough, it was one of the paperback editions of one of their titles. It had a used price sticker on it, but it looked like whoever owned it before had never even opened it. It was a great steal, so I snatched it up and brought it home with me.

I am so glad that I did. The title I own is Mariana by Monica Dickens. She is the great-granddaughter of my arch-nemesis, Mr. Charles. And while I am not finished read this great little book, I am in love with it. I love her writing and the ease of the words across the page.

The plan for today is to finish the title, so I can gush here with all of you who have already read this one.

And, for those of you unfamiliar with this whole project, you need to and see all the goods things happening. Here is where you can find more information about what is going on this weekend: Paperback Reader and CardiganGirlVerity.

I'm going to go read. :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

I am probably one of the last people to read this series. :) Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it certainly feels that way! The first three books in this series have been on my bookshelf since 2008. I picked them up at a Scholastic warehouse sale, hearing that they were good from some of my students (I was student teaching at the time). However, the sat, unloved, on my shelf.

I picked up the fourth title when it was released in paperback, but after hearing that a fifth book would complete the series, I decided to wait for that one too. When it finally came out in paperback, I finally bought it to complete the set.

A couple weeks ago when I had two snow days in a row, and was stressed to the max, I wanted something to relieve all that pressure. After asking on Twitter, I settled on this series and dove into the first title, The Lightning Thief.

I was immediately hooked. The storyline was fun, original, and surprisingly accurate to the original myths. My knowledge of Greek mythology is limited, but after researching some things I didn't remember, it turns out Riordan knows his stuff! After a while, I began to trust him and quit looking things up on Wikipedia.

The first book introduces us to Percy Jackson, a young boy who always has strange things happening to him. He eventually winds up at Camp Half-Blood where he learns the truth about his parentage. His father, turns out, is an Olympic God. Apparently the gods get a little frisky for human mates, creating half-blood children with powers. Percy is thrust in "hero-dom" and must save the day. Of course, there is a prophecy about his future, which adds to all the mystery and suspense.

Part of me wanted to not like this. After all, it was fun literature and not overly deep. I was gaining a great appreciation for literature like I do when I am reading War and Peace, but I love it anyway. Every moment of it was wonderful and exciting and captured my imagination.

The second book, The Sea of Monsters, picks up a year later. This was my second favorite of the series, since the storyline was so familiar. We see a lot of the myths and legends rampant in Odysseus' tale from The Odyssey, and since we all know that I love Homer, I loved every moment of this. It was excited and captured the essence of the monsters and villains perfectly. When Percy encounters Circe? I was in love with that chapter.

The third book, The Titan's Curse, was my favorite of the series. It picks up the story later on, and we begin to see a new maturity and strength in Percy. I am always bothered by series where the main character shows little growth, especially over a period of time. But Riordan made sure to have his characters grow, and that is clear in this novel. There are scenes where Percy is challenged to do things he never thought he could-that shows growth.

We also get to meet Atlas (just in time for my Atlas Shrugged readalong? Is there a big connection there?). That was a myth I was unfamiliar with beforehand, so I am glad Riordan threw it in. :)

The fourth book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, was my least favorite of the series. While the writing was certainly good and captured my attention, I had a hard time getting into the story. Perhaps it was the way they story developed, but in certain areas, I felt the story was rushed. In other places, I wanted more action. I also was not a fan of the character Rachel. I think she took away from the action and pace of the story. I was also unhappy with the fact that I didn't get the answers I thought I deserved. I wanted more.

The last book, The Last Olympian, was the perfect ending to a superb series. It made up for the last book with powerful passages and gripping action. I was flipping pages as fast as I could read them. I couldn't wait to see what would come of the prophecy, who would win in the last major battle, and what would happen to Percy. I was sucked in.

The battle scenes and action were non-stop. It comes close to the Battle of Hogwarts for my favorite fictional battle of all-time. I loved the scenes in New York City. But more than anything else, I LOVE how Riordan brought his series to a close. The answer to the prophecy was perfect and fitting to the growth and change Percy underwent throughout the series. I couldn't have asked for a more satisfying ending.

So if you have been avoiding this series thinking they won't be any good, or that they're silly, or that they're trying too hard, you need to set those thoughts aside and give them a try. I found them to be fun, action-packed reads that did something original. And did it WELL.

And if that recommendation isn't enough for you, I read all five books in four days. THAT is how hooked I was.

If you've read this series, what did you think? What was your favorite book?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

When I first heard about this title, I was so excited to get my hands on it. Perhaps it was the idea of a dystopian society where love is outlawed, or the hype, but I felt this was a contemporary book that I would sink my teeth into and love.

I ended up getting a copy from my husband and I read the novel this weekend during my "Outta the Rut Readathon." And to give you a first impression of what I thought, let me tell you the following: I read the first half and set the book down for a lunch break. And then I didn't want to pick the book back up again. I just didn't want to finish it.

But I did finish it. I wanted to be able to say that I had so I can explain why I didn't like it.

I feel I should first say that there was no problem with the actual writing. Oliver is good at her craft and writes in a way that immediately draws in her reader. I was sucked in for the first few chapters. And, it was only the writing ability that kept me engaged. Otherwise I never would have finished the book.

So why didn't I like it?

I think it all comes down to two points. First, the story was incredibly predictable. I knew where Oliver was headed and guessed the ending halfway through. There was only one direction that Oliver could have taken it...and that's where she went. In addition, we could guess what Lena (the MC) was going to do. Oh, her friend who she hasn't talked to in a month is in trouble? OF COURSE she's going to go after her. Like I said, predictable.

The "twists" were also predictable. The fact is, so many authors use "twists" to "shock" their readers that they are worn out and ill-used. There must be some school of thought where authors say, "I know that my readers won't expect this!" so they do it. The problem is, every author, particularly in dystopians, uses these twists. They don't surprise us anymore.

When I finished, I felt like I had read a novel that I had read before. There were the same basic plot conventions, the same quirks, and the same outcome. I was not impressed.

My other big problem with the novel was the pacing. It felt off to me. At times there was too much description, and other times, not enough. Sometimes the action was heavy and intense, and other portions seemed to crawl forward. It annoyed me. A more specific example is the end of the book. The last few scenes exploded and only lasted a few pages. When I finished I couldn't help thinking, "Ummm, what happened? Did I miss something?" Oliver sped too quickly through the action.

I want you all to know that I have nothing against Oliver, YA, or dystopians. I don't review YA here regularly, and I haven't read a great deal of it recently because of my own classics project. But I have read a LOT of YA and dystopian novels in the past, and before this current stream of them has come out. But I find they are getting tired. There are too many and they seem to be recycling the same plot points and conventions-just like paranormal YA titles. It is what happens-there is a cycle.

Why do you think stream-of-consciousness writing done by Faulkner and Woolf died out? Partly because it is a difficult technique to master, but also because as a genre, the market was saturated in their lifetime. Think of cheesy horror films-they have had a heyday but gradually they are dying out. The point is, after a number of years and MANY versions of the same basic plot, audiences get tired of it and move on to the next thing.

I think the whole dystopian genre is on its way out. But, that's my opinion and I can be completely wrong.

Going back to Delirium, I think I might read the sequel, even with all this being said. I am curious to see where Oliver takes it (and to see if I'm right), but I'm not sure. I think I may just be jaded in regards to contemporary literature and YA (similar to Jillian's recent experience). Don't let my biased and grumptastic opinion deter you from reading this. After all, I read this shortly after reading Oliver Twist and Siddhartha. Perhaps not a good mix?

What did you think of this one if you read it? For those of you who read "heavy" fiction a lot, how has is "spoiled" escapist reading for you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

When this book was announced, I squealed inside. From the description, I knew that it was something I would love. Part of me wished that something like this would have come out when I was younger.

When I was actually a teen, there was very little in the way of science-fiction or fantasy in the YA section. The YA genres have boomed in recent years. I never remembered having this much selection and hype as a teen searching for titles to read.

I owe my love of science-fiction to reading Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game as a ninth grader. It hooked me on the genre and since, I have acquired quite a liking for science-fiction. Back then, I was forced to roam the scary adult shelves and find things to read that way. It was no always a success. While the sci-fi elements captivated me, some of the storylines were just not what I wanted (as a fourteen and fifteen year old girl).

This novel, however, would have made my beginning sci-fi loving heart burst with happiness. So I knew I had to get it, read it, and share my love with all of you. I managed to read this in the course of two long reads (sunday night and monday morning). It was lovely and I was hooked on the idea of the story.

One of the first things that I love about this book is that the publisher made a reversible cover. I think that was an AWESOME idea and I am hoping more publishers pick up on that idea. In addition to the beautiful cover seen above, the inside was a diagram of the ship-seen below:

I actually switched my cover around to the diagram I loved it so much. Cool idea!

I also loved the manner of telling the story. Through a dual narration, Revis takes on a story of mystery, murder, and deception. I love having multiple narrators in a novel. The trick to having multiple people tell a story is that they each need to have a distinct voice to make it believable. if the characters sound too much alike, I don't buy. Revis succeeds and the voices of Amy and Elder come through strongly. I particularly love the portions when Amy is frozen and "dreaming."

Another thing I loved about this novel is the setting. As a sci-fi nut, I love using ships and other planets as the backdrops for stories. More and more fantasy/sci-fi literature is breaking away from that, so I am glad that Revis chose the ship, Godspeed, as her setting. It makes the story much more powerful-the fact that the characters can't hide or run away.

The other strength of the novel is Revis' writing. It is powerful. There were some sentences and passages that literally took my breath away;

"This is the secret of the stars, I tell myself. In the end, we are alone. No matter how close you seem, no one else can touch you."

I also loved this passage;

"I am as silent as death.
Do this: Go to your bedroom. Your nice, safe, warm bedroom that is not a glass coffin behind a morgue door. Lie down on your bed not made of ice. Stick your fingers in your ears. Do you hear that? The pulse of life from your heart, the slow in-and-out from your lungs? Even when you are silent, even when you block out all noise, your body is still a cacophony of life. Mine is not. It is the silence that drives me mad. The silence that drives the nightmares to me.
Because what if I am dead?"

She truly has a gift.

However, there were some things that didn't work for me. And I don't know if my reading of classics has tainted other forms of literature, but I found myself criticizing a few things in the novel.

The first is a scene that takes place during the "Season" in the book. Those of you who have read the book will know what I am talking about. I felt the scene was out of place and unnecessary to Amy's story. I don't know if it was there for shock value, or if Revis felt it was needed to get her point across, but I felt it was unnecessary and took away from the beauty of her writing to that point.

The second problem I had was calling this a pure sci-fi novel. While there was certainly sci-fi elements to the story, I wouldn't really call this sci-fi. Earlier I mentioned one of the other big youth sci-fi novels of all time is Ender's Game. Both of these novels share some of the same elements: set on a space ship, murders, mystery, and young characters. What sets them apart is the scientific elements. Card really develops the science behind what goes on in space. Revis does not (I should point out that she stated in an interview that this was intentional).

Personally, if I am going to read something sci-fi, I want the scientific element. I want the in-depth explanations and theory. That is what makes the genre. So for me, I would call this "soft sci-fi" or just a dystopian type novel. And there is nothing wrong with that classification. I just want to point out that it was not what I had expected based on what I read.

In all, Revis tells a compelling tale, and one that certainly hooked me. Perhaps you will feel the same.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book 75: Finished.

I am a little torn in writing about this title. And it's not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I was expecting something different than I got.

It certainly wasn't the writing style. If I had started this novel without knowing the name of the author, I would have guessed. After reading all of his Holmes stories and novels, I think I have Doyle pegged. He has a distinctive voice that carries in all of his writing. And it was certainly clear here.

No, I was more disappointed in the story. I mean, look at that cover. Don't you expect to see lots of dinosaurs and monsters? So did I. That is not to say that the book didn't have them, but I felt, for what I understood the book to be, that there would be more. This is probably because I am completely desensitized to this kind of action and gore. I've seen those Jurassic Park movies. I am sure that my 21st century mind and experience ruined this for me.

I can guess that back when this was published, it was shocking and scary. A group of men are in a mysterious place deep in the Amazon searching for monsters. A couple of times they do get chased (and by cannibals-it honestly reminded me of the scene from Pirates of the Caribbean when they are hanging in the bone cages). But that action didn't start until halfway through.

We spend the first half of the book getting to know our main character, Ed Malone, a lowly news reporter who is in love with some girl. He wants to prove to her that he can be brave and daring, so when the opportunity arises to go and seek out the "lost world" that a crazed professor has reportedly found, he goes. And then we spend the rest of that half of the book traveling and getting to the plateau. All the action with the dinosaurs and monsters is therefore condensed into too short chapters (I really just wanted someone to get eaten. Is that so much to ask for?).

The other thing that irritated me was the racism. The men on the expedition are learned men and perhaps I held them to too high a standard, but small comments and bits of dialogue irritated me, especially when referring to the "loyal and faithful Negro" waiting for them at all times.

All that being said, I did walk away from it liking it. I could see giving this to a teenage boy and having him read it. I think teenage boys would love it! In fact, while not a teenage boy, but certainly A boy, my husband has been eying my copy of the book and asking about it. I think he would love this book, as it is very much up his alley-adventure, guns, some violence, and not very long.

I think I just prefer my classics a little heavier. But this was certainly a fun read and a great way to see the beginnings of science-fiction and adventure novels. I would definitely recommend it if those kinds of titles are up your alley, otherwise this may not be your preferred cup of tea. I would most definitely refer you to the Holmes stories-there is probably a reason why we cherish those more than this one. :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Outta the Rut Readathon: The END and some Revelations.

I'm officially calling the end to my participation in the unofficial "Outta the Rut Readathon." I haven't heard much from the others partaking in the "fun" since yesterday, but based on what I read then, it seems as if we were full of FAIL this weekend.

I, somehow, managed to turn it around last night and today. I have read quite a bit (close to 800 pages today alone) and I am calling this one a success.

Here is what I read over the past three days:
  • the last 140 pages of Oliver Twist
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (around 100 pages)
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis (about 360ish pages)
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver (about 450ish pages)
  • the first half of Candide by Voltaire (about 50ish pages)
  • 100 more pages in War and Peace
I am going to call that a success, even though the two big books I finished this weekend were both YA and NOT from my project list (and both were not what I was expecting). Even so, I am glad that I managed to break my rut. When I started to dig into Candide, I realized that not only was I really and truly enjoying it, but I also started thinking about the other classics I want to read in the very near future. THAT is a good thing.

I also did some thinking this afternoon about my overwhelming obligations. To make things easier on myself, I have decided to bow out of the Ulysses readalong. I am sure that I can finish it in time, but to do so will cause too much stress and anxiety. I'm not feeling the book just yet and I want to set it aside. I WILL read it at a later date (probably not this year) and conquer it. Hopefully you all can understand that between teaching full-time, feeding my husband and cats, running my blog, and taking care of myself, something had to give. I'm sorry to the other participants. I will continue to cheer you on!

I am feeling much better about where I stand with my reading. I think the reason I got into my rut was feeling overwhelmed with everything on my plate (and everything I PUT there-it was my fault to begin with). My obligations need to shift a little and I needed to realize that I am not Superwoman, as much as I try to be.

But this weekend really reminded me why I started blogging about books in the first place, and my original intent for this blog-this journal of my reading. Perhaps it was the books this weekend, or just sanity coming back, but I am recharged and ready to plow through some classics. I'm excited.

Anyway, I'll be back to regular posts tomorrow. I have one more post on Doyle's The Lost World before I'll launch into the "fun" reads I have waiting to be reviewed (Percy Jackson, Across the Universe, and Delirium). It'll be a week filled with a little, so be prepared. It'll be all classics, all the time soon! :)

Happy Reading everyone!

Outta the Rut Readathon Post 5:

Our internet has been down all morning or I would have posted sooner. Didn't mean to wait so long for a post!

Last night I ended up beginning Across the Universe by Beth Revis and got to around page 160 before calling it a night. But hey, it was progress and I got me jump-started.

Since I don't have school today or tomorrow, I decided this morning that I would simply keep going and see how much reading I could get in. I work up by 8am and flew through the end of Across the Universe, about 200 pages. I have mixed thoughts about it, but I'll leave my explanations until I post my review. I also grabbed Candide off the shelf, but decided to read through Lauren Oliver's Delirium first. Matt had picked it up for me and I figured I may as well, especially considering it is a new release. I am about 180 pages in at this point and already have strong feelings about it (again, you'll have to wait for a review).

I think these YA titles are what I needed to jump-start my reading. I am looking forward to finishing Oliver's book and moving on to finishing Candide today. I have a couple other things in mind that I might read after, so I think I am FINALLY in a reading mood and accomplishing a lot. Of course, I wish I would have read more classics than these two YA titles, but well...I needed it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Outta the Rut Readathon Post 4:

I am glad to see I am not the only one failing miserably at this readathon. And I fear, that in the time since I last wrote, things haven't gotten much better on this end.

Here is what I have accomplished:
  • Painted my toes
  • cleaned out the refrigerator
  • cleaned our bedroom and actually made the bed
  • scrubbed down the stove
  • made pumpkin bread
  • did all the dishes
  • cleaned our entire bathroom
  • vacuumed the apartment
  • organized our dirty laundry for laundry day
  • finished Season 10 of Friends
  • ate dinner
  • Oh, and I managed to finish Siddhartha (it was only 40 pages)
What I didn't do? Read. Beyond that Siddhartha chunk.

Matt is home now, so we are going to watch a little TV. And I think that I am going to hide in the bedroom for awhile with a YA novel. I need something light and fun to read. I think I am going to grab Across the Universe. :)

See you all tomorrow!

Outta the Rut Readathong Post 3:

Just checking in....

I was reading Siddhartha this morning. I am still fighting off remnants of that migraine from Friday night/yesterday morning. I have been curled on the chair reading.

I must have fallen asleep. So, today's reading is not off to as good a start as I hoped, but now I have a icy glass of water nearby and 40 pages left in Hesse's work. And I am still feeling like I am in a rut. I think that when I do finish it, I am going to switch to a YA novel. I think I need the boost of something easy before I tackle anything else.

Who is else is failing at reading today? Please tell me I'm not alone!

Weekly Wrap-up for February 20, 2011: Outta the Rut Readathon, New Books (yes, again), and Reading Plans.

What a week!

I have felt like this past week was a super long week. The kids felt it too. I am glad that we have Monday and Tuesday off for mid-winter break. I think we all need to recharge so we can push through till their spring break in April.

We finished reading Of Mice and Men and The Glass Castle in the classes I am teaching and had some great discussions about both books. The kids really seemed to like them and as we move on into their paper assignments, I hope that feeling continues. My sophomores were especially into the ending in Of Mice and Men, since they didn't expect it. But we had a great conversation about the end of the book and what it meant. It was great to talk books with them. :)

Earlier this week, I was feeling kind of grumptastic about my lack of reading recently. It seems that beyond my read-along titles, I have made little progress on my project list. I can also attribute that to the fact I am teaching full-time, but it is frustrating to not see progress. I was thinking about having a mini-readathon this weekend when I saw Christina's post that she was also in a rut. We decided to have a readathon and invited whoever wanted to join in fr a day or two this weekend to do so. And I feel that I should point out that she is responsible for the fun name and button.

Yesterday was not a good kick-off to my unofficial readathon. I failed...miserably at making a lot of progress. I did manage to finish the last 150 pages of Oliver Twist and start Siddhartha last night, but I was so run down from having a migraine Friday night/Saturday morning, that I didn't get any further than that.

I am feeling much better today. After posting this, I am going to spend a half hour reading some other Sunday morning posts, finishing breakfast with the hubby, then snuggling down on the couch with my tea and my pile of books. Matt is working this afternoon and all night, so I should be able to get a lot done. Besides, he is taking the Jeep and its 4-wheel drive, so I will be stranded here anyway (We're supposed to get snow and ice today-his car is a little Neon and doesn't handle well in the snow, whereas my Jeep likes to play in snow and ice). I figure that since I am stuck here anyway, I really have no excuse. Right? I'll be posting periodically during the day to let you know how I am doing.

In bigger news, my mom and I went to a local Borders that is closing to see about their sales yesterday. Everything was only 20% off. I showed some restraint seeing as I went into the store with a GIGANTIC list, but I still walked away with a lot of classic titles. I only picked up books in mass market size, since that seemed the only way to get good value out of it (let's be honest, we can get books for 20% off on Amazon or Book Depository, or any other online book site). My mom is going to be watching for when they reduce even further. I have a long list of YA titles (for future reading-I promise!) and larger editions that were simply too expensive to buy yesterday. Mom is going to hook me up! :)

Anyway, here is what I walked away with, plus three books Matt picked up for me earlier in the week:

I know they are kind of hard to see. Let's start with that back row on the left hand side:
  • Anthem by Ayn Rand: Amanda at The Zen Leaf was saying that this would probably be the only Rand title she would read (or start with). And after reading what it is about, I definitely agree. Rand is scary, but this one seems accessible.
  • We the Living by Ayn Rand: I figured why not? :)
  • The Red Pony by John Steinbeck: I am loving all of the Steinbeck I have been reading and I needed to add more to my collection. I know nothing about this little title, but I am intrigued!
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck: See above!
  • Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck: I have seen lots of reviews about this one on quite a few blogs, so I am excited to get to it.
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver: This is one Matt picked up for me. I had been talking about how this new title sounded so interesting and right up my alley, so he bought it for me. He's a sweetie, huh? I might try and read it tomorrow.
  • Pygmalion and My Fair Lady by George Bernard Shaw: This was another great steal and again, two more plays that I have heard a lot about.
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee: I have had the hardest time finding a copy of this, so as soon as I saw it, I grabbed it. I think I will get to this one sooner rather than later.
  • The Pathfinder by James Fenimore Cooper: Another one of the "Leatherstocking Tales," I have had a hard time finding a copy of this one as well.
  • The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson: This is another one that looked really intriguing and that I simply couldn't pass up.
  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya: I have been searching for this title every time I go into a book store, but like a few other titles on here, I was having a really hard time finding a copy. So glad I grabbed it.
  • The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle: I have always been fascinated by King Arthur and Arthurian legends, so I am excited to dive into this at a future time.
  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle: See above. :)
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare: This is one of the three Matt got me. I am slowly collecting all of Shakespeare's works so I can read all of them. This is something I have always wanted to do, so I am slowly going to!
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare: See above. :)
  • Henry VIII by William Shakespeare: I grabbed this one at Borders. There were more....but I've kind of forgotten which ones I still need to get and I didn't want to buy a repeat. But I knew I didn't have this one.
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair: I have heard so many things about this one...and I can't wait to read it. The woman in front of me in line told me I'll never want to eat meat again, but we'll see.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams: I have the hardest time finding this one as well, so it needed to come home with me.
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams: See above. :)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson: I thought I had a copy of this one, but when I went looking for it, I couldn't find it. Apparently not? So this little edition also found a home with me.
I did up confessing to Matt when he got home yesterday about my new editions....and yes, he was a little grumpy with me. I am on a book buying ban for the next month to make up for this...unless my mom finds some of my titles at the closing Borders. But, I think I have acquired quite a few books in the last month and I do need to stop my acquisitions and read a bit, yes? My classics shelf is completely full, so I need to get some reading done before I buy anymore...

(I will point out that I have a box on its way from Amazon with another 6 books I got a week or so ago. whoops).

Anyway, I am off to go read some blogs before diving back into my book pile for the weekend. My goals for today are to finish Siddhartha and read one of the two YA titles on my shelf (Across the Universe and Delirium). I also want to start another class-any ideas what I should go for?

Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Outta the Rut Readathon Post 2:

Well, I am back to check in once more.

Let's just say that I am not being very productive. Shortly after writing my other post (at about 1:30 this afternoon), I got distracted. The first thing I needed to do was upload all 17 of my new books into my Excel file (they're all cataloged there). Once that was done, I needed to find room for them on my shelves.

That was a task. Since I have all my classics alphabetized, I had to move a lot of books around to get them in the right spots. Then I had a slight panic attack when I thought they might not all fit. But rest assured, they all found a home eventually.

And of course, I needed to find a million other little things to do around the apartment before settling down with my book (Oliver Twist). I was interrupted a little later by the husband coming home from work. I had to go shower (he made me get out of my comfy clothes) since he was taking me out to dinner. We just got home a little while ago. It is almost 8:30 and I have only read 100 pages today.

So, today=fail. But now that we're home and he is glued to his Xbox, I am going to spend some time with Oliver Twist. I only have 40 more pages until I am finished. That should only take me 30 minutes or so. That is completely doable.

I'm not sure what to read after that. I want something that'll grab me, something short so I can finish it and feel accomplished, and something that I'll love. Any ideas? I am determined to turn this crappy reading day into a success. And if I can finish Oliver Twist and another short title, I can call it that.

Outta the Rut Readathon Post 1:

Well, it is currently 1:11pm and I have not read a single page. I am off to a great start! ;)

I have excuses though! Yesterday when I got home from school I was absolutely exhausted and my brain was throbbing. A couple hours later, a full on migraine was happening. I ended up crawling into bed a little before 8pm and made the husband rub my neck and shoulders (I get CRAZY big knots in my neck and shoulders when I get migraines). Thankfully, I drifted off to sleep.

I was up this morning at 7 and helped Matt get out the door to go to work. The head was still throbbing angrily, so I took a lot more drugs and nestled into bed for a few hours watching Friends until my mom texted me.

A Borders store near us is closing and their sale was starting this morning. So, I got dressed and off we went. We got there 10 minutes before the store opened and there were a LOT of people there waiting to get in. Once in the store, I headed straight towards the YA section to see if some of the new books were marked down. Unfortunately, all the books in the store were only 20% off and since I can get some of those hardcovers and such cheaper online, I let them be. I spent the rest of the time combing the fiction shelves and looking for some classics that I have had a hard time finding. I ended up deciding on 17 books (yeah, a lot) that were mass market size. Again, since everything was already 20% off, some of the bigger books were still a little pricey. Since they will eventually be marked down more, I am going to wait it out to see what I can get them for later (Oh, you'll see what I ended up buying in tomorrow's post).

I did end up with some great things that I have been searching for and having a hard time finding, plus some classics titles that will be fun reads in addition to my project. I have recently been debating making a secondary list because there is SO MUCH MORE I want to read and a lot of these books would be my choices.

In any case, it was a successful couple of hours spent in a crazy bookstore. It did make me sad to see all those books waiting for a good home. I also felt bad for the workers-knowing some will be out of a job. And of course, who likes to see a bookstore closing its doors?

I can argue that my craziness is buying books is because I want to support my bookstores. And while that is certainly true, we all know its because I have that disease (you know, the "I want it so I can read it" disease). But I am glad I could continue to make purchases. And I will continue to support my local bookstores, much to my husband's dismay.

Anyway, now that I am home and my headache is nearly gone (I can still feel some pressure in the back of my neck), I can focus on doing some reading, rather than just adding MORE books to my TBR pile. Although, I do need to put all of these away before hubby comes home and kills me.

First up in terms of reading is Oliver Twist. I'll be back when I finish it. :)

For those of you participating or reading this wonderful Saturday afternoon, how is it going so far? Are you procrastinating like I am? If so, GET TO READING PEOPLE! ;)

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Outta the Rut Readathon and Plans.

On Tuesday night, I wrote a post about the unofficial read-a-thon I'm doing this weekend. Like I said on Tuesday, I am doing it mainly to get myself back on track with my reading. I am also going to be hounding Christina over at Reading Thru the Night, since she is also in a rut. :) We kind of talked this idea out the other night on Twitter, and she gets all the credit for the fun name. I am not that creative.

Anyway, I got a lot of great response and it looks like there are a few of you who will also be joining in. Remember, this is just for fun and it is to force me into some reading! I'll be posting a couple times each day with updates. Make sure that if you joining in you keep me updated on your progress! And if you need a good kick in the pants, I'll try and help. You can also find me on Twitter (@alliedanielson) if you want to chit-chat that day.

I decided I need to make some set plans and goals to keep myself motivated. Here is what I am thinking:
  • Reading at least 6-8 hours/day on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I think this is a good minimum to hit and means that at a minimum, I will be reading for at least 18 hours this weekend. That is way more than normal.
  • Post two updates/day.
  • Check in with the other participants once/day (see? You need to make sure you're updating so I can bug ya.)
I think those are good guidelines that while slightly challenging, are easily attainable.

As for reading goals, there is a lot I want to read, but I know that I can't set myself up for failure. I need to be realistic. So again, here is what I am thinking I want to read:
  • the third volume of Oliver Twist (140 pages)
  • 100 pages of War and Peace
  • Ulysses (I have a few more chapters to read for this week's post)
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis (I just really want to read this. Like whoa. Since it is YA, I should fly through this in no time).
  • I also want to start either Siddhartha or Portrait of a Lady for the TBR Challenge I am participating in
If I am as productive as I hope to be, I should be able to conquer more than this. I have my eye on another Shakespeare play for my Shakespeare challenge. I guess we'll see how inspired I get.

So, how about you? If you're going to join in, what are your plans?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oliver Twist Readalong Post 2: Volume 2.

Welcome to the second post (of three) for Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. Participants made their first post earlier this month. We only have one more post to go to have conquered this early piece of Dickens' writing.

On to the second volume! I should warn you there may be slight spoilers, but nothing major.

I need to be quite honest: I am really enjoying this novel. I have been captured by the story. I want to solve the mystery of Oliver's birth, see Fagin go down, and get the satisfaction of a somewhat happy ending.

In this volume, we pick up where we left off. Oliver, a pawn of the evil Fagin, was left behind after being shot during the failed robbery. Left in a ditch, Oliver finds his way to the nearest house in hopes of finding help. Just so happens that he arrives at the same house he was sent to rob.

The people, Mrs. Maylie and Rose, who live there, take pity on the wounded Oliver and begin to nurse him back to health. You can tell that they sincerely feel for Oliver as he confides his story to them in detail. He finally begins to feel safe here, and happy.

We also get introduced to Mrs. Maylie's son, Harry, who just so happens to love Rose. He wants to marry her, but because of mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth, she is not as socially "high" as dear Harry. I foresee some connection to Oliver's own mysterious beginnings.

There are also a few scenes with Mr. Bumble-one of those men who ran the workhouse where Oliver was born. He is approached at the very end of this volume by a mysterious man who wants information about the nurse who was there when Oliver was born. All we really know is that his name is Monks.


I am completely suckered in and I am so glad I don't know where this story is headed. Dickens is surprising me. I was convinced I was going to hate this as much as his other work before I began, and while he does drag on a bit, I don't find this to be even in the same league as the other novels I've read. Because while he is certainly touching on some deep and serious topics, he does make some light of them. You don't HAVE to feel the seriousness unless you want to. But it is there, and worthy of discussing once you finish. :)

Anyway, I am looking forward to getting some answers and seeing how everything turns out in the end.

If you finished this section, please leave me a link to your post so I can link it up here! Then share and participate and discuss this to your heart's content! ;)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book 75: Book Stats and The Lost World.

Title: The Lost World
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

First Published: 1912
My Edition: Penguin (seen at right-this cover was designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, the same designer responsible for those cloth bound editions that I LOVE)
Pages: 264

Other Works Include: All of the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories

I spent quite a few months last year slowly working my way through Doyle's collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. It was a lot of fun and I loved Doyle's writing style. You can find links to all my reviews on my "Finished Books" page if you are interested.

When I was making my list, I knew that I wanted to read the Holmes stories, but I also wanted to sample another piece of Doyle's writing. After looking at some titles, I decided that this one, The Lost World, would probably be something I would really enjoy reading. I love science-fiction, so this would be a welcome break from some of those bulky, heavy classics.

So I am really looking forward to some dinosaurs and rollicking good action...that is not Michael Crichton inspired. Of course, this will be fun to look at the differences between this and modern thrillers that focus on long-lost animals. :) But yes, based on the writing I saw in Holmes, I am definitely looking forward to this.

Have any of you read this? What did you think?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Unofficial Read-a-thon.

I am in a bit of a reading rut. Since finishing the third volume of War and Peace some time ago, I haven't been reading. At all.

It has gotten so bad that when I finish posting my thoughts on The Lost World by Doyle this weekend, I will be completely CAUGHT UP on the classics I have read for my project. This will be the first time I am caught up on them since LAST DECEMBER.

(I should point out that I will still have the Percy Jackson series to post reviews on, but that is one big review.)

I think I am having a reading crisis.

Nothing is grabbing my attention and I am struggling with my lazy side.

Instead of coming home and reading at night like I should, I have been vegging out in front of the TV. This is not good.

So, as a way to kick myself in the pants and take advantage of the 4-day weekend I have this weekend, I am going to be having an unofficial read-a-thon for myself. I just want to get some reading done.

Since I have Saturday through Tuesday off, I am planning spending Saturday and Sunday reading as much as possible (heck, if I am feeling super ambitious, I might spend Monday reading as well). If any of you want to join in for a couple hours, a day, or the whole weekend, let me know. I will be posting my progress a couple times each day, so you can all check up on me and make sure I am not slacking.

Anyway, I thought I would pass this along to see if I can find some company for myself!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Love Stories In Books.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. It is a fun, weekly meme where participants count down their favorite "top tens" in the given category for each week.

I don't participate every week, but only when the topic is really inspirational. And since I am home alone tonight (Monday night when I am writing this), and it is Valentine's Day, I'm getting all sappy (the husband is working late tonight).

This week's topic is "Top Ten Favorite Love Stories in Books" and I am really excited to see what you all picked as well! So if you feel inspired by all the love going around, participate!

Without further adieu, here is my top ten, in no particular order. :)

10. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice: I don't think any list is complete without these two. Their story, their struggle to come to terms with their own feelings, and that tension that bubbles just below the surface really hits on that early stage of love. When you're still all awkward and uncomfortable with one another. You know what I mean. ;)

9. Penelope and Odysseus from The Odyssey: Now, while Odysseus may have wandered in his 20 years away from home, Penelope didn't. She stayed true to her man and kept those pesky suitors at bay, all while waiting for her man to come home. She never knew for sure if he would, but she stayed faithful and true until the end. You have to respect her for that. She must have really loved him.

8. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter: If I have to pick one couple from the Harry Potter series to love, it has to be Ron and Hermione. I love the growth of their relationship as the books go on. They show how sometimes the people you least expect turn out to be perfect for you. And we all cheered when they finally realized it, didn't we?

7. Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind: I am so glad I finally read this book last year and now I understand the love connection! While never truly romantic, this love story captures some of the nasty and unforgivable aspects of love. Full of drama and pain, their love affair really is a story for the ages (and you need to go read this. Don't wait like I did).

6. Daisy and Gatsby from The Great Gatsby: Again, probably not the most romantic love story, on her part. But he loves her, even years after he knew her. Everything he does is for her, to show her how he feels. It gets me every time he stands at the end of the dock and looks toward that green light.

5. George and Lucy from A Room with a View: This was one of the most surprising and wonderful reads of my current project, and I absolutely loved this story of going against convention. And I love that they did it without permission from everyone.

4. Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing: Hand's down my favorite Shakespearean comedy, these two and their banter just make me grin every time. They poke fun and tease, but under it all, you can sense the real emotion. And of course, the movie version is fantastic...even with Keanu Reeves. ;)

3. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth from Persuasion: Oh, how I LOVE this grown-up love story. I was surprised by the more mature tone and the passion in that love letter (omg, the LOVE LETTER). Yes, this is a love story for the ages people!

2. Andromeda and Perseus from...Greek mythology: I have always loved the story of Andromeda. Because of her mother, she is chained and sacrificed to a sea monster. Perseus sees her, saves her, and eventually marries her. I love the heroics...and the monster. :)

1. Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden from The House of Mirth: Long known as one of my favorite novels, I love the heartache in this love story. It pulls at my emotions every time I read it. It makes me want to be a better wife and love Matt more for all he does for me. Tragic? Yes, but beautiful.

What are some of your favorite love stories? Any big ones I missed?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book 73: Finished.

Well, another reread of this one down. And I liked it much more this time than the last few times I've read it. Maybe it is because I pulled more out of it, and that I focused on some of the smaller details than that whole...tragic love story aspect. Because while that love and tragedy is obviously the focal point, there is a lot of other stuff going on.

I want to talk about my favorite character for a minute, Mercutio. I paid much closer attention to his lines this time around, and I just love his snarky comments. he is obviously a dark and cynical type of person...and I love it. Of course, there is is famous "Queen Mab" speech where he pokes fun at Romeo's obsession with love (this is only the first part since the speech is rather long);

"O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you. . . .
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomi
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep," (I.iv).

There is also the scene where poor Mercutio meets his end and is angry with the world for what happens;

"A plague o' both your houses!" (III.i).

I just love the passion and anger...and the spite. Mercutio is by far my favorite. I love him. :)

There are tons of other wonderful lines that are infinitely better than the ones most people remember (about the light in the east, and the rose by any other know what I mean). Another favorite is this little gem;

"Then I defy you, stars!" (V. i).

But my favorite part of the entire play is the end. Why? Because it truly captures the nature of the play and the passion that drove the tragedy;

"A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo," (V.iii).

I love that at the end, even with the tragedy of the death of these two young people (plus a few bystanders), that there is a glimmer of hope. Something has been learned from what has happened. And it is a story that truly has stood the test of time (I mean yeah, there's a movie out with lawn gnomes that follows the story. Really). So while not my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, it does have a certain quality that makes me respect it for what it does. So if you haven't read it in a while because its not your favorite, give it another try. And pay attention to the smaller details-you might be surprised!

And how funny is this that it happens to be posted on Valentine's Day? Hahaha, TOTALLY didn't plan that!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

War and Peace Readalong Post 3: Volume 3.

Welcome to the third post for the readalong of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. We first posted nearly a month ago on the first volume, and just about two weeks ago on the second volume.

Today's post covers the third volume of Tolstoy's masterpiece and is also the longest section we were reading.

I kind of struggled through this volume. I don't think it was anything Tolstoy did, but merely my own inability to keep up with all of this reading. For the first few days I was trying to read this volume, I could only read a chapter or two before setting the book down. It eventually got better as I forced myself to keep going, but I think I had some kind of mental block going on. I say all that to let you know that some details are a little hazy on this section.

One of the things I did love in this section was how Tolstoy continued to add dimension to his characters. We were also shown glimpses of characters we hadn't seen in a little bit. Now I felt like I was beginning to understand some of these characters-their struggles and triumphs. I can see why they change their minds about things, or decide to marry someone else instead of who they said they were (not that I agree with that kind of flightiness). But I could understand the difficulties of loving in a time of war...and peace.

In addition to the depth he gave the characters, Tolstoy also adds depth to the Russian people as a whole. I know I have probably already said this in one of my earlier posts, but I know little about Russia in this time period. I mainly know Russia from the Bolshevik Revolution forward. So I am enjoying seeing Russian life and passion. It grabs me and I love the little details.

Napoleon really comes into the story as a main character. Tolstoy really develops the little details about him and I felt that like the other characters, I began to understand him. Again, my knowledge of history is a little rough here, so having these details really helped. I think that in the future I need to read a little more on this Napoleon fellow.

Lastly, there is a large battle in this third volume-the Battle of Borodino. Pierre goes to watch and we see his reactions to the death and destruction. War is not pretty. And I am glad that Tolstoy really seems to hammer home that point through Pierre's reactions.

By the end of the third volume, a few characters are supposedly dead (for some reason, i don't think they really are? Maybe they come back? Please?), and everyone else seems to be in chaos. Napoleon is marching on Moscow, and I am left wondering how Tolstoy is going to pull everyone else back together.

If you participated, please leave a link below so that I can link your post here. See you on the 28th for the last volume and epilogues!

Avid Reader

Weekly Wrap-up for February 13, 2011: Long Week, New Books, Readalongs, and More.

You know you're a teacher when you consider 6am sleeping in. That's when I got up this morning and of course, the husband is sleeping away. :) He was out with some friends last night, so I suppose I can let him sleep in a little longer. Besides, if he's sleeping it means I can get in some blogging and reading this morning!

Anyway, this week has been a long one. Last week the kids were coming off having Monday off for teacher professional development. We had school Tuesday, two snow days, and school Friday. Needless to say, they were all glassy eyed by Wednesday. I ended up changing some of my lesson plans to help the poor things out, but I'm still happy with where we are.

My classes reading Of Mice and Men are only through the second chapter, and so far the general consensus is that the book is weird. I actually wasn't a huge fan of it when I read it for the first time last year, but it is growing on me with this reread. Surprising!

My seniors are reading The Glass Castle and are supposed to be through page 139 by class tomorrow. That book is a huge hit and they are really getting into it. That makes me happy.

The only bummer is that the entire school seems to be coming down with some sort of plague. Everyone is coughing all over the place. I hope I don't get it, but I have been feeling super run down the last few days and I'm all congested. Yesterday I kind of lounged around the apartment after my cleaning regime in the morning and felt like death. I actually laid down at 7:30 last night and watched some TV with Matt before he went out. I woke up at 11, groaned, and went back to sleep. I must have needed it and I feel a little better this morning (but still congested).

In bookish news...

Even though I spent my book allowance for the month...and maybe a little more...Matt and went shopping yesterday evening for some things we needed. And we stepped into the bookstore because I had coupons and such burning holes in my wallet. I walked away with the two books you see at left. The top one is The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling and the bottom one is Across the Universe by Beth Revis. I know that the bottom one isn't a classic, but I have been anxious for this title since I saw it was being published. I am a huge sci-fi fan and this book seems right up my alley. I also LOVE the fact that the publisher gave it a reversible cover. I have it switched to the one inside (I kind of prefer this one over the faces). I think that's a great idea and I hope that more publishers go with this idea!

Reading wise, this week was not so hot for me. I made very little progress in Oliver Twist. I think feeling under the weather had a huge impact on the fact that I simply didn't read very much this week. I am still chugging through War and Peace and have a post that will go up later today over the third section. My plans were to read Across the Universe last night, but yeah, I fell asleep so early! Hopefully I get to it one night this week.

This week I am going to finish Oliver Twist no matter what. I also have a few other books on my shelf that are calling to me. I have a 4-day weekend coming up, so I may just have a mini-readathon and plow through some things. Anyone want to join me?

I hope you all have a great week!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Readalong Sign-ups:


Oh sorry. I am happy to announce the sign-ups for the March and April 2011 readalong of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. And I will be completely upfront: I am absolutely petrified of reading this, so someone has to join me. I can't do this alone. Do it for me!

I think Rand is high on everyone's list of scary authors we say we are eventually going to read and never do. Additionally, I think we all never DO read her work. It has been described to me as lofty, insane, rambling, and completely "out-there." That makes me nervous. And excited.

Will this live up to the hype?

For your, and my, benefit, here is a description taken from;

"Set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life-from the productive genius who becomes a worthless the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own the philosopher who becomes a the woman who runs a transcontinental the lowest track worker in her train tunnels.

Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller."

See? That doesn't sound all that bad!

I have developed a posting schedule that I will be following. Based on the posts from War and Peace and my own progress with that chunker, I was going to reduce the amount of posts. With the combination of these two-month readalongs with my monthly ones, I just need to break them apart more! Lucky for me, Rand decided to chunk her novel into three parts, so there will be three posts to correlate.

I am basing all of the pages based on my edition, which is 50th Anniversary Edition put out by Signet (it is mass market size...and boy is this print tiny...). Posts will go as follows:
  • Post 1 will be posted on March 19th: Post 1 will cover Part 1 (about 312 pages)
  • Post 2 will be posted on April 8th: Post 2 will cover Part 2 (about 328 pages)
  • Post 3 will be posted on April 30th: Post 3 will cover Part 3 (about 426 pages-there are a few extra days built in for this one-and the readalong on April 9th!)
I do so hope that at least one person will decide to undertake this madness with me. A good friend of mine, who is not crazy, considers this one of her favorite books. And I trust her opinion so I am hoping good things?

If you want in, please comment, state your insanity, and leave me a link to your blog so I can link you here (that way we can all cheer you on!). Keep in mind that all participants of my readalongs who complete the readalong are getting something special (more on that when you finish one!), so sign up if you're interested!

I only require my participants to make their post and link it here. You don't have to comment on other participants' posts, but of course, that is always encouraged.

Please spread the word around so that someone (hopefully YOU) might decide to join me. :)

The Book Nook