Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goals for February 2012.

Since the month of January has pretty much gone by without any progress towards some of the goals I made in my 2012 Goals and Resolutions Post, I decided I need to intervene.

In case you haven't noticed, I am a very goal-oriented person. I like to make them, talk about them, and work steadily towards them. However, I also lack a great deal of motivation. And, let's be honest, since going back to daily subbing near the end of November, I haven't been working a great deal. I have been lazy, uninspired, and spend WAY TOO MUCH time watching TV instead of taking care of things that need to be taken care of around the apartment.

So, I am making monthly goals. These are things that I want to finish by the end of the month. Some are book-oriented, some are personal. But, no excuses, by the end of the month, I want to have them finished and completed. You'll see some of them say "continue" and such, and that is mainly to keep myself on track with things I am already doing. I also left some areas broad and some goals broad, since too much confinement will make me a bit batty. ;)

I'm not sure how much I am going to love this process, but I am all for self-improvement and sharing that process with you. If I fail miserably this month, I can always reevaluate and try again next month, right?

Here are my goals for February (some are smaller pieces of my larger 2012 goals, and some are just for the month):

Grad School:
  • Revisit requirements for the three programs I am interested in. Create a timeline for due dates, etc.
  • Write to old professors for letters of recommendation, etc.
  • Draft personal statement
  • Continue working on my current piece
  • Write 20,000 new words this month 
  • Continue writing in my journal 3x per week 
Blog Related:
  • Finish the two Dickens titles I have selected for the month (David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby) in celebration of his birthday
  • Make progress in War and Peace (Hoping to get to 120 chapters)
  • Start Les Miserables
  • Read Roots for the readalong
  • Read other books off my project list if time. :)
  • Finish my senior scrapbook (from my senior year of high school. Seriously, I need to finish it)
  • Finish crocheting my mom's scarf (been half done for a year now)
  • Print some wedding pictures to put in our frames...we've been married for over two years. This needs to be done.
  • Continue to try one new recipe a week (I might be combining this into my weekly update posts in my continued effort to make the blog more "me" than just books).
  • Use my crock pot more (inspired a bit by Trish and this post)
  • Clean out our second bedroom and organize (seriously, it is our dumping room)
  • Continue my "ten-minute" clean-ups every night (basically I set the timer and clean up for ten minutes every night and stop when the timer goes off-very helpful in getting rid of daily clutter, etc.)
  • Go to the gym 3x per week
  • Work-out videos and Wii Fit 3x per week
  • Carry water with me everywhere!
  • Continue my diet!
There you have it, some detailed goals for the month of February.

How do you feel about making monthly goals? Anyone want to join in?

Book 131: King Lear by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Reading Month).

“Who is it that can tell me who I am?”

 I think I have become a bigger fan of Shakespeare's tragedies than his comedies...which is saying a lot because I love Shakespearean comedies. But there is something so dark and twisted about some of these tragedies, and I just can't get enough.

King Lear is the story of an aging King, named Lear, who determines to divide his kingdom among his three daughters while he is still living. He must think that they will take care of him in his old age and allow him to continue wandering and such until he eventually passes.

The play opens with King Lear discussing this with his three daughters; Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. One at a time, the daughter "confess" their unconditional love towards their father in exchange for getting their portion of the kingdom. Goneril and Regan proceed to flatter the aging king and pretty much lie to his face. When it comes time for Cordelia to speak, she refuses to flatter and to lie. Instead, she speaks simply and honorably, saying that while she loves her father, she isn't going to be false. This sends Lear into a bit of a grumpy mood. He banishes one of his loyal friends, Kent, for sticking up for Cordelia. He then decides to divide the kingdom in two for Goneril and Regan, leaving poor Cordelia without an inheritance. Luckily, the King of France heard the exchange and still loves Cordelia, so he whisks her away to marry.

Obviously, tragic things begin to happen. Now in charge of the kingdom, Goneril and Regan begin to mistreat their father. He gets into an argument with Goneril about how many men he can have attending to him. When she says no, he stomps off like an angry child to Regan. The two women agree that Lear is crazy and old.

In the midst of all that drama, there is also a side plot with the two sons of the Earl of Gloucester. One is legitimate and one is not, and of course, the illegitimate son starts some shenanigans to hurt his brother. This whole side plot winds up interweaving into the story of the two older daughters, as they begin to fight over men who aren't their husbands, reject their father, and start fighting.

It is a bit of a mess and I haven't even touched on more than two acts worth of information. The characters are all quite despicable, except for Cordelia and Kent (the rejected friend of King Lear). The rest of them are all quite awful-they manipulate each other and hurt poor old Lear. The older daughters, Goneril and Regan are flirtatious and conniving as they try and steal husbands and suitors...while being married.

And since it is a tragedy, it doesn't end well. Of course there is a bit of redemption, but there is also a lot of bloodshed and sadness at the end. And a few suicides in true Shakespeare fashion. The whole thing is depressing, but fascinating. You immediately get drawn into the chaos of this messed up and tragic family.

There are a lot of interesting characters in this one, which might be why I love it so much. First, the female characters are amazing and have some great lines. I kind of like how snotty and obnoxious both Goneril and Regan are and how they compare to Cordelia. I also loved Lear. I mean, he was probably crazy and seemed a bit nuts in parts, but in a way, I felt like he just needed a hug and someone to love him a  bit. Poor old coot.

But hands down, the best characters are Edgar and Kent. Edgar is the legitimate son of that Earl I mentioned above, and he has a scene near the end of the play where he talks with his father. It was a breathtaking scene-probably my favorite of the whole play. Kent, banished by Lear, takes on a disguise for the rest of the play and finds a place back in Lear's confidence. He is one of those loyal friends who continues to protect against the odds. I love that kind of loyalty in a character.

So yes, great play and one that I definitely want to see live!

“The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

Book 130: Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Reading Month).

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

It has been a long time since I've read Hamlet, so when I cracked it open poolside while in Florida, I wasn't sure what to expect. On one hand, I remembered that I really enjoyed it the previous times I've read it, but I couldn't remember why. And I also felt that it could never live up to its reputation. I mean, besides Romeo and Juliet, what other Shakespearean play is so much a part of popular culture?

Take this little speech..

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come..."

(It goes on quite a bit longer...).

That speech is quoted and manipulated SO MUCH that many of us immediately recognize it. And before I reread Hamlet, that speech had lost a bit of meaning for me. But after diving deep into the play, I realized that Hamlet really is a phenomenal work and one that deserves the recognition it has.

For anyone unfamiliar with the play, Hamlet is about the young Prince of Denmark, Hamlet, who discovers early on that his father was murdered by Claudius, his uncle. Hamlet's father appears in ghost form and bids his son to do away with the traitorous king. In the process, Hamlet appears to go a bit crazy (if seeing ghosts wasn't enough to mark him insane). He begins to mutter to himself, and that passage above takes place when he is in the midst of his contemplations.

And obviously, in true Shakespearean tragedy form, all hell breaks loose. Claudius becomes suspicious of Hamlet's motives and conspires to off him. Hamlet kind of loses it and freaks out. His poor mother, who is married to Claudius, gets caught up in the middle. By the end, there is a lot of blood and death.

The whole play is fantastic and while it is one of the longest plays, it doesn't feel that way. There is constantly action and deception to propel it forward. I don't think any one part lagged!

On this reread, I paid closer attention to one character-Ophelia. She must have slipped under my radar on my earlier reads, but this time, I was really drawn to her. Ophelia is Hamlet's love interest. In the midst of his confusion and madness, he turns away from her and pushes her aside (he tells her to go to a nunnery). He also kills her father-maybe on accident, maybe on purpose. This drives Ophelia into complete insanity. She wanders in and out of scenes singing songs. These little pieces really drew me in, and of all the characters, she is the one I sympathized with most.

When she dies, there is confusion about whether it was suicide or accidental, but the description of her death is somewhat beautiful...

"There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call them.
There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death."

After finishing the play, I went and looked at some of the depictions of her death done by artists. I think the innocence of her passing is what resonates in these images...the whole beauty destroyed by ugliness idea.

Sad, tragic, and eerily beautiful, right? She was the only character who I felt sorry for, and I have a feeling I'll be thinking about her for a little while longer.

"Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears."
Anyway-fabulous play and one that I would love to teach in the future. There is a lot of passion simmering under the surface, and I think discussing whether Hamlet was truly mad would be an interesting conversation to have with teenagers. I also think that teens would have a lot to say about poor Ophelia and her death.

What do you think of this one?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up for January 29, 2012: Plans and Some Book Loot.

It has been a bit of a crazy week. It wasn't that I had a lot to do. Since it was exam week in the districts I sub for, I had no sub jobs. But I feel a little drained and lazy. I guess that is what happens when you don't work with a normal schedule!

I have been making some progress on some of my goals for 2012. I started watching what I'm eating this week-making healthier choices and monitoring my calorie intake. I haven't decided if I am going to go on a "diet." I find that once I restrict my food options too much, I cheat. Instead, I want to have a healthier relationship with food, and I think that comes with watching what I am eating and how much. For right now, I am simply looking at calorie intake. I'll let you know what I decide in the future.

I also cooked three times this week-which believe me, is a BIG deal. I'm not the best cook, but I am slowly learning some new recipes and trying to be a little more proactive with my own eating. :) Speaking of-do you guys have any good, easy, and healthy recipes for me? I would love to pick your brains.

Anyway, I am gearing up for a productive February. I'm going to wrap up Shakespeare Reading Month on February 10, so I need to finish the last couple of items and posts I have planned for the event. I'm also participating in a Roots Readalong hosted by the lovely Christina at Reading Thru the Night. If you're interested, you should go sign up! I'm also planning on immersing myself in some Dickens, so we'll see how that goes. :)

Matt surprised me yesterday by taking me out to breakfast and then to the library for their used book sale! I had completely forgotten about it, so I was really excited.

Funny thing was, when I was scouring the classics section, I already owned most of them. :) I suppose that's a good problem to have, right? I did find some things, including some old editions that are pretty cool. Here is a look at what I brought home with me for $6 (It was their 50% off day)!

Lots of good things! I was really excited by the Twain collection, as well as the paper copy of Volpone by Ben Jonson (I am going to read it to round out Shakespeare Reading Month since he was a contemporary of Shakespeare's!). I also did a happy dance when I found that complete collection of Thomas Hardy's poetry! Hardy always believed himself to be a better poet than a novelist, so I snatched that book right up. :)

Well, I have some more reading to do and quite a few posts to write. I hope you all had a lovely reading week!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book 129: Richard III by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Reading Month).

“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

I've always kind of ignored Shakespeare's history plays. Even though I love history and the eras Shakespeare writes about, I shy away from the plays. In a way, I feel like I don't know enough to "get" them.

But when I stop thinking of the history aspect and start focusing on the characters and action...I fall in love.

This play, Richard III, will probably remain a favorite of mine. I wasn't sure what to expect going in, since I had never read it before, but I was intrigued by the darkness. It also opened with the above quote. I was intrigued from the beginning (especially after having read The Winter of Our Discontent by Steinbeck last year-cool to see where the title came from).

Considering I had no idea what was going to happen, I was surprised by the amount of blood, murder, and deception in the play.

Basically, our pal Richard wants the throne, and he will stop at nothing to get it. He is an evil, miserly sort of fellow, and will stop at nothing to get what he thinks he will deserve. The play is full of his conniving and monologues...

“And thus I clothe my naked villany
With odd old ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”
I was truly impressed by the amount of evil one character possessed. He slowly begins "taking out" those who are next in line, as well as marrying whoever he thinks will help him win the throne.

This is a bloody, bloody play. I lost count of how many people dear Richard offed. It seemed that as soon as someone seemed slightly uncomfortable with his thoughts and plans, they were next on the "hit" list if you know what I mean.

I love that Shakespeare played up his villainy throughout the play with well-crafted lines to show the audience how sick and twisted dear Richard was...

“Why, I can smile and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face for all occasions."

 What a sneaky little man.

I also love that this play didn't feel like history to me. Instead, it truly read as one of Shakespeare's tragedies (I think it is often referred to as The Tragedy of Richard III). The one main fault I had with the other history play I've read so far, Antony and Cleopatra, is that the action was very spread out to take in the scope of the historical events. In Richard III, I didn't feel that gap and the play flew by (I read it in one sitting). I was impressed with the way Shakespeare condensed and molded the events into 5 acts. There was plenty of action to keep the play steadily progressing forward, and I find myself not being able to find fault in it.

By the end, since I didn't know what was going to happen, I was pleased to see I was rooting for the right people. :) And I also loved this line, said in the very end by dear Richard as things seems to unravel before him...

"A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

And, as silly as that line sounds, I think it really speaks a lot to who Richard was. He would stop at nothing and would let nothing get in the way of his becoming king. To let a silly thing, like not having a horse, stand in his way must have been irritating and frustrating. It really speaks to his ambition and drive.

And now, having finished this one, I am curious to see if any of Shakespeare's other historical plays can live up to this one. It blew me away-this is definitely one to make a priority!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Winter's Respite Readathon Update.

As I mentioned on Monday, I am participated in a little readathon this week.

I haven't read every day this week, but I busted out some reading last night and earlier today to get through two Shakespeare plays (Henry IV Parts I and II). I still want to finish the remaining three plays I have before Sunday so that posts can go up next week-I still have The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I'm actually not feeling super hot at the moment-I've been feeling a headache coming on all afternoon, so as soon as I pull the last load of laundry out of the dryer and fold it, I am nestling into bed for a few hours with ice on my head (ice is my number one remedy for getting rid of headaches-works every time). Hopefully I'll be up and around in a few more hours so I can finish Merchant before bed. :)

How's your reading going this week?

(and HOW is it almost February?? Where has time gone?)

"Themed" Reading.

I'm trying to avoid that half-finished post on Richard III sitting in my drafts folder (and the posts on Hamlet, King Lear, and Henry IV Part I) by writing this little post. :) Makes sense, right?

Anyway, I was reorganizing my challenges page this morning, as well as looking at some of the other posts and such on the good old blog, and I realized something. I have this tendency to read in "themes." I tend to pick out books that somehow relate to one another in some way.Sometimes it is the time period in which the book was written, the authors, the topic, or something else I don't really notice until after I've done some reading.

Obviously this month and the focus on Shakespeare fits that kind of themed reading. I also have my February reading planned to focus on Charles Dickens, in March I am reading in a "Magical" theme to go with Adam's event, April is going to be spent reading Clarissa...you see what I mean? I am also planning a Victorian event in June and July, so those months will have a very heavy focus on that era.

But in looking at some of the reading I did in the end of 2011, I noticed the same trend. The Portrait of a Lady and The Age of Innocence had quite a bit in common. And I didn't really plan that, did I?

Anyway, I thought it was odd and somewhat cool, and yes, I am trying to procrastinate writing those other posts. Have you ever noticed this kind of a trend in your own reading? Do you ever purposefully read in themes?

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I've been in a bit of a fog the last two days. I wrote yesterday's post in a rush. I didn't reread it before I hit publish, and I wasn't sure how long I was going to let it stay up. I avoided the internet after putting it up, then woke up at 3 this morning to take it down.

Then I saw the outpouring of comments and stayed up a few hours reading and rereading what you all had to say. I decided to keep it up. Why hide a part of myself?

I'm not sure how I feel anymore about that entire situation. It is weird that whenever I feel that down about things, something immediately happens to reassure me. Part of that were all of your lovely comments. But I also got an e-mail from the teacher I subbed for earlier in the year this afternoon. In the e-mail, she told me she graded all the tenth grader's exams and that I did "an awesome job with them" in the first quarter. Two of the kids got 100% on their finals. She also said that "they learned everything they needed to know 1st quarter and then some."


So I do feel better, but I still don't have answers. And I think that's okay.

I wanted to say thank you for writing all the things you did. I am going to work on replying to all of them in the next few days. I never expected that much, so waking up to all of you reassurance and love really touched me this morning. I am very lucky and blessed to a part of such a great community...and it was also nice to see comments from my mom and sister as well (thanks mom. thanks Torrie. Love you both).

Again, thank you. And if I can ever do ANYTHING for any of you, just say my name and I'll be there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I've been hemming and hawing about allowing myself to write this post, but I figured I might as well just do it. I really do try and avoid getting too personal, so as not to alienate anyone, or make anyone feel awkward. But sometimes you just have to cave in and give way to what you really need. And what I really need to is just vent a little. I don't know if it'll actually make me feel better, but I can try, right?

I have been trying not to dwell on what "could be." I try to instead focus on what "will be." That positive focus has helped me get through the last 5 or 6 months without too much heartache or frustration. Matt constantly reminds me to look forward, not back, and without his constant reminders, I think I would be in a bad place.

In August, I was fighting a big bout of depression. It lasted well into October. I was down on myself for yet again not finding a permanent position. The first few weeks of school were rough. I would come home from work and cry almost every day. Matt did his best to comfort me, but there was really nothing he could do to make me feel better. There was only so much he could say, so many hugs to give me, and so much advice. I really struggled and have struggled since then to pull out of it.

One of the only things that has pulled me through to where I can say that I am getting better is this little place. I am perfectly aware how insane and ridiculous that sounds-that a blog where I talk to people I have never "met" has become a saving grace. But it's true. I think that starting this project nearly 2 and a half years ago has saved me many times from going into dark and cranky places.

Sometimes that is hard for Matt to understand. I think he sometimes struggles with how much time I spend reading or writing or looking at blogs. I don't think he fully understands how much this little place has helped me, and I'm not very good at articulating that to him. He sees this as a passing hobby, not as something that I can really hold on to.

The same goes for a lot of people in "real" life. For some reason, I am bothered by the fact that people might see this as my silly little blog. Many people think blogs are stupid and a waste of time. Many don't understand that for bloggers, their little home on the internet means more than their little homes elsewhere. I really struggle with getting people to understand that this is an important place and that I am doing important things here.

Or so I think. I mean, what am I actually trying to accomplish? I spent some time today going back rereading some of the earliest posts here. I can tell that I have grown a bit as a writer, which is fantastic, but have I really grown as a human being? Has this project helped me achieve the goal I had when I began?

This is where I start to question things and teeter on the edge of depression again. Because do I really want to be a teacher in a traditional sense? It seemed to make sense when I entered college, when I was in the program, and when I first started long-term positions. I love literature...obviously. I love to write and talking about writing and the writing process is second only to my love of books. I also love kids. I'm not trying to put on airs when I say that I have an ability to connect with students from all walks of life. One of the best feelings was having one of my seniors write in his final exam essay last year, "Thank you, Mrs. D, for not playing favorites and showing all of us that we are important and that we matter." How could that not matter to me?

But I continually wonder if my inability to impress administrators is a sign that I am supposed to move on to something else. Being rejected after every job interview for almost 4 years kills a piece of me every time. It got so bad in August that I bawled like a baby when I got a rejection letter (because apparently they couldn't call to tell me no). I really am a weak-minded and scared person. I can't handle that kind of constant rejection.

So again, I am stuck. I am not sure where I am supposed to go or what I am supposed to do. My greatest fear is to let the people I love down...and I have felt that way for years. I feel insecure when I am with the people closest to me. I feel like a failure and that they think that too. It is hard to look my brothers in the face when they talk about work. Both have fabulous jobs and are successful. My sister-in-law is back in school to be a physician's assistant. She is accomplished and working hard towards something that she wants. My younger sister took the initiative to apply for an internship down at Disney, where she's having the time of her life. Matt is working hard by being in school full-time and managing the restaurant where he works.

And I'm here. The only thing I seem to have going for me is this place-a lonely place on the internet that doesn't seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. I struggle every day to figure out what I want to do and who I want to be, and I seem to be making no progress. I am stuck in an endless cycle of hope, rejection, and fear. I don't know how to pull myself out of it, to find important substance and meaning in the little things. I don't know how to become the person I want to be-how to make those around me proud.

I struggle every day against these kinds of insecurities. And I feel even more insecure that I am going to hit publish soon-what kind of backlash will result because of this level of honesty? I am sure that someone will feel uncomfortable because of this, but the other option is to continue to keep this negativity inside and not give voice to it. And perhaps someone will understand and be able to offer me a bit more guidance, say something new, or at least offer the smallest amount of comfort.

I can hope.

Magical March Announcement Post.

I can't resist a great event, especially when it is hosted by a friend! Adam, from Roof Beam Reader, is hosting Magical March: A Magical Realism and Fantasy Event during the month of March.

It turns out that quite a few books on my project list qualify, and since I was going to read them anyway, this is the perfect excuse and opportunity.

Here are the rules, copied directly from Adam's post:

  1. You must register with the Mister Linky below prior to March 5th in order to be eligible to participate.
  2. You must read only “new” books – meaning, no re-reads are allowed.  Books for other challenges can be cross-used for this one, but you must read the book and review it in the month of March (previously completed books for other challenges do not qualify).
  3. You must link up each book review to a separate Mister Linky, which will be available on March 5th (once registrations close).
  4. Challengers must post on their blog an “Announcement” post, indicating they are participating in this challenge and which level they hope to attain. One completer from each “Class” will be randomly selected to win the corresponding prize for that level. 
    1. You do not need to meet your level in order to win a prize.  If you aim for “Grand Merlin Class” but only achieve “Magician’s Class,” you will still be entered into the Magician’s Prize Pool!
    2. You do not need to list your books in advance, but I plan on doing so (to keep me motivated and to help me stay organized). 
  5. Any Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Magical Realism books will qualify.  This means you can read Young Adult, Dystopian, Steampunk, or Alternative Histories.
Sounds like fun, right?

There are different levels for participation, so I chose my level based on the amount of books on my project list that qualify. :)

I am aiming for the second level, Wizard's Class, which requires me to read and review 3-5 books during the month. Here are the books I am planning on reading:
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White (Fantasy)
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (Science-fiction)
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (Dystopian)
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (Science-fiction)
  • Free choice. :) When I finish those four, I am going to read a random fantasy or science-fiction novel NOT from my list. I just don't know what yet. *EDIT* When I told my husband about this challenge, he told me what to read to fill in this last spot-the first two books in Martin's series (The Game of Thrones). He wants me to read at least the first two so I can enjoy the series with him, and since I have the books, I might as well. :)
There you have it, my reading for March planned out. :) Anyone have any suggestions for that last book?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” 

I wasn't sure if I was going to write about this book because I don't write that much about YA. And, I am sure that some of you are scratching your heads a bit to see me posting about a new release in the midst of Shakespeare Reading Month.

But the simple fact is: I really love Young Adult Fiction. It wasn't always that way. When I was a high schooler, there wasn't a lot to pick from in the YA section. There was a lot of fluff and only a few books of substance. That has gone through a significant change. I rediscovered YA in college, and in particular, when I took a YA literature course. That course taught me a lot about literature (maybe even more than my serious classes), but the one thing that sticks out was my professor telling us,

"Young Adult fiction is slowly becoming the most important literature coming out today. It is the only division of literature that allows for and welcomes significant change. All of the exciting literature is coming from there."

And I have to agree. While I can certainly name popular "adult" books, I can think of far more young adult books to hit the scene with more power and gusto. Twilight. Harry Potter. The Hunger Games. Percy Jackson. And the list goes on.

John Green is one of the YA authors that I have the most respect for because his books uphold a very high standard. All of his novels are realistic, passionate, and well-written. When I open one of his books, I know that I will find a lot to love. Unfortunately, I couldn't buy this when it came out, and I was a bit heartbroken I was going to have to wait to read it.

My mother saw my sad facebook status the day the book came out and went to purchase the book for me (thanks mom!). I brought it down to Florida with me, and I started it at 11pm one night. I ended up going to bed just before 2:30 that morning, after reading the book straight through.

Green has not disappointed me and has confirmed what I have come to strongly believe-that Young Adult fiction is important and should be valued higher than it is. When a writer can create something this powerful and wonderful, the naysayers of YA fiction need to check themselves.

For those who don't know, The Fault in Our Stars is about Hazel, a 16-year-old teenager battling terminal cancer. She is currently okay, thanks to a miracle drug that is giving her more time. She isn't in school, but instead finished high school at home and takes community college courses. She has to lug an oxygen tank around with her wherever she goes, and wheezes without it. There is a scene where a young girl asks about the tubes in her nose, and Hazel has to explain it. I cannot imagine that kind of existence.  Life has dealt her a crappy hand, but she seems to be surviving, pushing through, and accepting the way things are.

She meets Augustus Waters at a group session for teens with cancer. The two immediately become fast friends and where Hazel has clear evidence of her disease, it seems as if Augustus is fine.

But remember, this is a book about kids with cancer, and Green points out clearly in the beginning that both teens are really living on borrowed time.

Now, I read a lot of Lurlene McDaniel books as a young pre-teen. Those books were full of kids battling cancer, falling in love, and struggling with parents. And while I drank them all up with longing and the idea that love could conquer everything, like cancer, they did not have the impact that Green's novel had. Perhaps I was so deeply moved by Green's novel because of the family members in my life who have fought cancer since my bout with the tragic love stories in McDaniel's books. I lost my paternal grandfather immediately after my high school graduation because of a battle with cancer. I lost my paternal grandmother a few years ago the Monday before Thanksgiving to a battle with cancer. I was holding her hand when she passed away. Matt's mother battled breast cancer last year and is in remission, and his step-dad is currently undergoing chemo treatments for lymphoma.

Let me tell you, cancer is not beautiful or lovely. It is rough and frustrating and nothing like those Lurlene McDaniel books I read when I was younger. Cancer isn't fair. It attacks not only the person with the disease, but those around them. I remember driving my grandmother to treatments and listening to her talk in the car about how she hated it. How much she hated that she knew she had limited time left. She could do nothing about it and neither could I.

But Green tackles that head on. He doesn't gloss over cancer-no, that is part of his main focus. Hazel mentions at one point in the book that she is a grenade-ready to explode at any point to hurt those around her. She cannot control when or where. It is that kind of statement that makes Green's novel so powerful. He doesn't dumb down the pain or the impact of what the disease does. I commend him for that.

The biggest thing I found to love in the novel was Augustus' obsession with leaving a legacy. I think we all feel this a bit, and maybe more so when you know you are living on borrowed time. I found that I could relate to Augustus. He felt that as a teen, he had so much left to live and would be leaving nothing behind. I could understand that feeling, and I think it is a feeling that rings true for so many of us. We want to be remembered not just by those we intimately knew, but by everyone. I know that when I lost my grandparents I felt a bit of anger that so many people didn't know how wonderful they were. I wanted to scream it out, but couldn't.

Augustus only wants to be known for something other than being a kid with cancer. That is what drives him, what frustrates him, and what he discusses with Hazel-that the cancer cannot define who they are. They must strive to battle the cancer and live a life for themselves-one not ruled by treatments, drugs, and scary results. The must live for an infinite amount of time and build something for themselves and their families.

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

When I finished reading the novel, I was alone in the very dark hours of early morning. I read the last portion of the novel with a lump in my throat and tears burning in my eyes because it is that type of book. It was real and powerful and everything I expected from Green and more. The teenagers felt like teenagers. Of course they were far cleverer than I ever was at that age, but I knew people like them. I could relate to their very real struggles, and of course, the love they felt for one another.

It was a beautiful, beautiful book. It made me think long and hard about the purpose of life, my own legacy, and how much I love reading beautiful books with meaning.

This is one you shouldn't miss.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Top Ten New-to-Me Books from my Project List!

Every week the folks at The Broke and the Bookish host Top Ten Tuesday-where bloggers create their top ten in the week's given category!

This week, however, they have left it up to individual bloggers to create their own lists, revisit a topic they missed, or repeat a topic they really liked. I think this is a fabulous idea and while I debated creating a list not based on classics, I thought it would be even more fun to talk about the top ten "new-to-me" books I have read off my project list so far.

I have read 130 titles off my list and have loved many of them, so narrowing it down to ten was agonizing and painful. I could have easily created a top 50. ;)

But, I pushed through and after lots of painful whining and deleting books, here are the top ten titles I've read off of my project list so far (these are in the order I read them, from earliest to most recent. Trying to rank them was painful, so I didn't so that). I should also mention that I only chose books that were new to me when I read them. All rereads were immediately disqualified:

  1. Germinal by Emile Zola: This was the 13th book I read of my project list, way back in the December of 2009 (right before I got married). I knew nothing about the author or the book when I made my list, but it was one of the very first titles I bought when I went shopping to add a few more titles to my classics collection. It is about a young man who finds himself working in a village with a large community of miners. They are poor, starving, and yearning to fight back. The novel is tense, tragic, dramatic, and hopeful-not to mention beautifully written. I still think about it, and I cannot wait to read it again, as well as some of Zola's other work.
  2. The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow: Book 18 came out of nowhere to knock my socks off. One of the "modern" classics on my list, it was also a hard book to find. I wound up finding a used copy at John King books in Detroit. The novel is set in World War II era Detroit. The main character is struggling to maintain an identity in the midst of war and her children's demands. And man, this novel is heartbreaking. It was also a novel I had an intensely personal reaction to and immediately became one of my all-time favorite books.
  3. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot: I was a long-time Eliot fan even before I decided to read this as book 22. But my love for other Eliot novels paled in comparison to the overwhelming surge of passion I felt for this-what I think is Eliot's best work. It contains one of my favorite female characters, a whole lot of passion and emotion, and the ending-GOSH the ending! 
  4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I avoided this book for YEARS because I thought it was some silly romantic nonsense. I eventually picked it up as book 45, and I had the hardest time setting it down to act as a functioning adult. This book was everything I thought it wasn't. I loved the epic scope of the story, the attention to detail, and the characters. Oh Rhett! What a phenomenal character!
  5. Villette by Charlotte Bronte: The first book by Charlotte I read, book 59, was another extremely personal book for me. I felt a kinship to Lucy Snowe as she seemed to observe rather than live life. I loved the description of the school, the characters, and Lucy's life. And while I have since read Jane Eyre (and loved it), there is something about the quiet maturity in this novel that I love more. I cannot wait to revisit this one again.
  6. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham: Book 69 was a book that wasn't on my original project list. When I realized that I had doubled a James Joyce story, I added this one instead...and boy, was it worth it. Set in Hong Kong, the book explores the relationship between a couple where the wife cheated. It is in part painful, but also beautiful and hopeful. It gave me so much to think about, and I am sad I have no more books by Maugham to read on my project list!
  7. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: 2011 started off with a bang, and so did book 72. Collins was an author I added to my project list in January 2010 (I removed some of the non-fiction books in favor of more fiction). I had never even heard of Collins until I started blogging! This book was a fabulous winter read-full of mystery, suspense, and a kickass female character. Oh, and did I mention the villains? Superb! I have another Collins, The Moonstone, on my reading list for this year, so I cannot wait to read more!
  8. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko: Another "modern" classic, Silko's novel had me from the opening line. Centered on a young Native American veteran, the novel is lyrical and focused on his struggle to find himself again. The language in this one is beyond description. There were so many beautiful and haunting passages... (this was book 104)
  9. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville: I don't think I intended to love Melville's ode to a white whale, but gosh, once I started reading, I knew that the book was about more than a whale. As I finished each chapter, I was continually in awe of Melville's ability to change and alter the way I viewed his work. The attention to detail was magnificent and I slowly savored this one throughout the fall as book 113.
  10. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: Book 122 solidified James as a favorite author. Focused on Isabel Archer, this novel follows her as she comes into a great deal of money-allowing her freedoms and choices she didn't have before. Gut-wrenching and beautiful, this book was the focus of my gushing in the end of 2011.
You guys must realize how hard it was for me to narrow it down to these ten. I've left off Shakespeare! Austen! Dickens! Wharton! and more. The truth is, I have read so many phenomenal books so far that it was extremely difficult to narrow it down so far.

Have I convinced you to read any of these (or all)? Let me know!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Winter's Respite Readathon.

I wasn't going to sign up for this readathon, but after thinking it over today, I decided I better. :)

This readathon is hosted over at The True Book Addict and lasts from today through Sunday. I am signing up late, but I don't think it is a big deal. :)

Since this week is exam week for the school districts around here, I doubt I will get many, if any, subbing jobs. And while there are a few other things to take care of this week, I would love to make more progress on my reading list.

Here are my reading plans for the week:
  • Finish the five remaining Shakespeare plays I have on my project list: Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Read Volpone by Ben Jonson and Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe to finish my plans for Shakespeare Reading Month (both were contemporaries of Shakespeare, so I thought it would be a fun way to end the month).
That's it! I hope I can at least get the Shakespeare plays done-that would be a huge relief! :)

Are you joining in? Either way, what are you reading plans for the week?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Neighbor Debacle.

Goodness. The events of the last few hours have been insane in these parts. I come home and all the action happens!

Matt and I live in a good-sized apartment complex. All of the buildings are two story and connected together. There are various doors that open into "buildings" of two, four, or six apartments. Our little chunk of the complex is near the end. If you go into the door to enter our building, there are two apartments on the main floor and two apartments upstairs. We live in one of the upper apartments. The only shared walls we have with our neighbors is a small sliver of the kitchen with our fellow upstairs neighbors, and the wall in our second bedroom and bathroom with the townhome attached on the other side. It is a fairly quiet building. The couple across the hall live with her father (I would say they are in their late 30s). The person below them is another older man and he lives alone. Our old neighbors who lived below us were another couple (again, mid to late 30s) and they were gone a lot. I think they both went on business trips. But they were young, friendly, and would have people over every once in awhile.

It was a peaceful place, this apartment. Well, until this afternoon.

Only an hour after I got back this afternoon, a GINORMOUS moving truck pulled up as a new family began moving in downstairs. Matt left for work right as they showed up, so I've been dealing with the chaos by myself.

I understand that moving in is a noisy affair. All the lugging and contorting of furniture is a pain. And I can imagine that it is a lot worse when you have kids.

But seriously, COME ON.

There were two kids RUNNING up and down the stairs non-stop for a period of time. When they reached the top of the stairs, they would bang on the wall (oh, which is our apartment, since our door is literally at the top of the staircase). Then I could hear their little feet pounding back down. Then there were the hands slapping on the wall as they came up the stairs, which is the wall of our living room.

I dealt with it.

But then I am trying to read in the living room, and I keep hearing kicking and screaming from out on our landing. I peeked out our little peephole to see a very little kid sitting right in front of my door with a couple of toys. I know he didn't belong to the people across the hole, so I popped the door open to say hello.

He was playing quietly, so I said hi and shook his hand. Seriously, the kid looked to be 3 or 4 at most. I asked him his name, but he shook his head at me and kept playing. I went downstairs to see if they were, you know, LOOKING for him, but the door to the apartment below ours (where they were moving in) was closed shut. I knocked and when they answered, I told them their little boy was upstairs by himself, at the top of a very tall and scary staircase, and on a narrow balcony. She just nodded at me and shut the door.

I went back upstairs, told the kid to be careful, and went back into my apartment.

Maybe ten minutes later, the little peaceful child turned into a little hellion. He was screaming and yelling bloody murder, kicking our front door, and throwing his toys all over the landing, staircase, and downstairs into the entryway. I took it for a few minutes before opening my door and asking him to calm down. He just screamed at me, so I asked him to go back downstairs to his mom and dad. Nothing but screams.

So back down I went and knocked on the door. They opened it again and I complained about their kid kicking my door, SCREAMING, and such. All they did was nod and wave their hand at me before shutting the door. I walked back to the staircase, looking up at the little hellion screaming, then went back and pounded on their door again. It was the guy this time, and while he looked tired, he was not the one dealing with a screaming child. So I told him, you either come remove your child or I will call the cops

He just stared at me, so I said that if he could not control his child in HIS OWN APARTMENT, I would call the police and have them take care of it. He came with me and I gestured upstairs (as if he needed pointing because the kid was still SCREAMING and kicking). He picked his kid up and took him into their apartment. Finally.

THEN, just minutes later, what do I hear but little feet running up and down the stairs again, their little fists pounding against my wall and slapping our front door?

I went back down after telling the two kids to be quiet and told both parents that I was lodging a complaint with the complex. Again, they were in their apartment with their door shut, leaving the kids completely unattended in an apartment building. Simply ridiculous.

Anyway, I just called the main office and left a heated message for the manager of the complex. I am a very nice person and it takes A LOT to get me riled up and mad. We had a lot of issues at our old complex and have been very happy here. I am not going to put up with this kind of crap.

I'll let you know how the saga goes when I hear back from the complex tomorrow. For now, our new neighbors are quiet downstairs and there is no more screaming in the entryway.


Weekly Wrap-up for January 22, 2012: Home Sweet Home.

There is nothing like coming home after a week away! I am currently sitting on my own couch with my kitties clamoring and fighting for my lap. Sadly for them, my laptop already has that spot. :)

The drive home ended up being uneventful after we saw that there might be some nasty weather on our trip back north. Except for a nasty rainstorm just south of Atlanta yesterday, we didn't really encounter any scary weather. Thank goodness! Yesterday we drove for about 13 hours to get to Lexington, Kentucky and drove the remaining 6 hours today to get home. While I had a blast, I am glad to be back home.

Matt has left for the afternoon (closing shift at work tonight), so it is just me and the kitties for about 7 hours. In addition to cuddles (they missed me it seems), I also need to unpack. I might put that off until tomorrow. ;) I am in the mood for some reading, so I might try and get through both parts of Henry IV today.

I was going to write more, but we have new neighbors moving in downstairs and they are a bit distracting. I'm a little bummed about getting new neighbors...the others just moved out and into the townhouse attached to our apartment building, and I thought we might get a break from hearing noise beneath us. Apparently not. And they seem to have two VERY LOUD children. I have nothing against kids, but these are running and screaming up and down the stairs (which share the wall with our living room). I hope this isn't going to be a miserable experience.

I am going to head into the bedroom, listen to some music, and read. I'm sure I'll be back online later to update a little more about our trip.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shakespeare Reading Month Updates (IMPORTANT).

Hi everyone! We are most of the way through Shakespeare Reading Month. Hard to believe, right?

I am writing with a quick update and some important notes for all participants. Please pass this post around or link to it on your blog so that all participants see it! Thank you.

First, there seems to be some confusion about where to post reviews for the month. I have had some people post links on the original sign-up post, as well as in response to some of my own reviews. YOU MUST post reviews to the Master Post for the month (click that link to go there). Please read that post if you haven't already and follow the format to get your posts linked properly. I will be drawing the winner from those linked posts-if your review isn't linked, you will not be entered.

Second, I have had a couple of people write to request a bit more time. Since I am also behind on posting reviews and getting a few things read, I have decided to extend the date by a few days to help out. Therefore, you will have until February 10 to link posts on that Master Post above. I am hoping that the extra time will spur you all to attack another play or two, or to finish the one you already started. :)

I hope you are all enjoying your experiences with the Bard! I know I am!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book 128: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Reading Month).

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."

I decided to read Twelfth Night after finishing As You Like It on purpose. Since As You Like It contains some gender switching, I decided to read the other play known for its play on gender right after. I haven't read Twelfth Night before, but I was familiar with the story and eager to jump in.

In Twelfth Night, Viola is shipwrecked in a new land. She assumes her twin brother, Sebastian, drowned at sea, so she determines that the best way to keep her identity safe for a period of time is to dress as a man and find work. She ends up under the employment of Duke Orsino, and he soon finds a lot to value in his new servant. The Duke doesn't know that Cesario is really Viola, but it all comes out eventually...

The Duke bids Cesario to woo the lovely Olivia, and this is where the plot gets a little convoluted. Olivia ends up falling in love with Cesario (Viola) and not the Duke. Olivia also has some lovely drunk relatives who have plans for her married future, so of course, all of the characters end up swapping partners, falling in love, and being generally confused.

This was a marvelous play! I was cracking up in any of the scenes featuring Sir Toby Belch (Olivia's uncle) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (his friend). Both characters spend quite a bit of the play intoxicated, and offer quite a bit of amusement and chaos to the proceedings. Their conversations and mixed-up words are some of the funniest bits of the play!

Another portion that I really enjoyed is when Viola's actual brother, Sebastian, shows up in town with his servant Antonio. As Sebastian and Viola, stilled dressed in her disguise as Cesario, interact with the other characters, there is a great deal of confusion and mix-ups with the relationships. I liked that we, as the audience, get to know Sebastian in the end. Sometimes Shakespeare throws in characters at the end without defining them, but this is not the case with Sebastian.

In the end, everything manages to work out. The characters pair off as they should and the sneaky villains are punished. It was just what I expected from a Shakespearean comedy, and it is definitely a play I will revisit again. I loved the female characters, and I'll admit that I fell in love with both of them. Both were witty and clever-pushing the boundaries of acceptability for females in their time.

I find that I am constantly surprised by the power and wit of Shakespeare's female characters, and that has been especially true in this and As You Like It. I wonder, did Shakespeare do the gender switching because it was actually males reading the parts? Or did he really love and push for women to take on that level of strength and wit in their everyday lives? I wonder...

Anyway, fabulous play, and definitely one that I will read again and again! I hope you'll also give it a chance.

“This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
And to do that well craves a kind of wit:
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, check at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practise
As full of labour as a wise man's art
For folly that he wisely shows is fit;
But wise men, folly-fall'n, quite taint their wit.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book 127: As You Like It by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Reading Month).

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

It wasn't until I sat down to read As You Like It that I remembered I read it in college. That concerned me for a moment, since I was having a hard time remembering it, but once I got into it, all of the play came back. And I remembered that I LOVED this play when we read it in class.

As You Like It is the story of a young woman, Rosalind, who is banished from her Uncle's court and finds her way to the Forest of Arden to wait for acceptance. Her cousin Celia and the court fool Touchstone join her in the forest as they wait to go back.

One of the things that stands out about this play is the complexity in addressing identity. At one point in the play, Rosalind is impersonating a man impersonating herself. :) It is a great play on what happened with the issue of actors back in Shakespeare's time. Since, as you probably know, women weren't allowed onstage, the role was originally played by a young boy playing a female impersonating a man who was pretending to be a woman. Follow all that?

But in addition to all of that, the play is also a great comedy. It has all the elements of Shakespeare's comedies that I absolutely love: romance, confusion, fools, and a grand reveal. Of course it ends happily as well, which is always a great aspect of a comedy. The banter and relationships between the characters is fun and inviting. The play is also a fast read and one of Shakespeare's shorter works.

There are also some great lines in the play, including the bit that is on my graphic for Shakespeare Reading Month:

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind!
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude."

The play also contains one of my favorite Shakespearean speeches (the Queen Mab speech in Romeo and Juliet is another). I'm sure you'll recognize this:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard;
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

So beautiful. I love that Shakespeare created this and now, centuries later, we can still have the chance to read and remember these beautiful passages.

If you haven't read this one yet, I highly recommend it. It is a happy, loving, and funny comedy that I know you'll enjoy-especially those of you who are just discovering Shakespeare.

“Under the greenwood tree,
Who loves to lie with me
And tune his merry note,
Unto the sweet bird's throat;
Come hither, come hither, come hither.
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book 126: Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Reading Month).

“The stroke of death is as a lover's pinch
Which hurts and is desired.”
Since finishing Julius Caesar last fall during the 24-hour Readathon, I have been anxious to read Antony and Cleopatra. This play, while not a "sequel," does talk about what happens to the Roman empire after the death of Julius Caesar. In this new Rome, it is ruled by three men: Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus.

However, Antony has been cavorting and canoodling with Cleopatra in Egypt, so he has been a bit out of the loop. Things have taken a turn as Lepidus has started to push out and abuse his power. Antony must return to Rome to set things right with Caesar. This is where the play derives its plot and set things in motion. Antony and Caesar form an alliance, but the relationship with Cleopatra complicates Antony's decisions.

The last chunk of the play recounts the deaths of both Cleopatra and Antony, as well as how Rome was reunited under Caesar to start anew. Of course there is more to it in between all that, but I can't give away everything, right?

It certainly sounds interesting, but I wasn't as into this play as I thought it would be. One of my biggest peeves was how...spread out the play seemed. This is really the first play by Shakespeare where the action is spread out over a long period of time...and it is noticeable. There were small scenes interspersed into the play where a character or two seemed to "sum up" what was going on with the battles and war between the three rulers. I was a little bit...annoyed with these scenes. I am used to the fast-paced action of Shakespeare's plays, where they usually take place in the matter or days or weeks. Not months.

The best part of the play, however, was Cleopatra. Shakespeare portrays her as a witty, passionate woman. You could tell that she really loved Antony and her people. Her aims were to love him and to love her people. She made decisions for the good of Egypt and herself.

I loved the banter with Antony in the beginning when they were still together. I also loved the degree of her temper when learns about some of Antony's "betrayals." I think I would have gotten along well with her. :)

In all, while Antony and Cleopatra was an enjoyable play, there were bits and pieces that simply didn't work for me. I think it is a play that is overshadowed by some of the others before it, like Julius Caesar. 

“That truth should be silent I had almost forgot."

For those of you who have read this one, what did you think? Did I miss a big part of it?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vacation Update. :)

I thought I would write a little update about our vacation while I have some time. My mom and me are currently sitting in our hotel room waiting for Torrie to call us. She's been busy since we moved her in yesterday, so she's taking a little nap before we pick her up and head to Downtown Disney for food and shopping.

The trip has been excellent so far. We had crappy weather for the first part of our drive down, mainly in Ohio. It was snowy and windy. During the bit that I drove in Ohio, my mom and sister slept. That was probably a good thing considering the language that came out of my mouth. :) We ended up driving a bit further that day and stopped just inside the Georgia border for the night.

Saturday was much better and we could finally see the sun! It was a bit chilly Saturday and Sunday, but it has warmed up since then. :) On Sunday we vegged out for a bit before heading out to see Beauty and the Beast 3D. It was great to see one of my favorite movies in theaters again. We shopped a bit and then came back so Torrie could organize her stuff.

My mom dropped her off yesterday morning to register. After checking in and filling out piles of paperwork for her internship, she was shipped off to some meeting on the Disney complex so that she could learn a little more about where she was working and such. When she was bussed back from that, we picked her up and loaded all of her stuff into my mom's van to move her in.

She's sharing an apartment with 7 other people (eek). There are four bedrooms, so she is only sharing a bedroom with one other person, but it should be an interesting experience. They spotted a lizard in their apartment last night and again this morning, so their apartment also comes with a pet. ;)

She was happy to settle in and had another meeting at 7:15 this morning. She's had the rest of today off, so she's been hanging out with a friend and yes, taking her nap. Tomorrow is her big training day. She's going to report to the park where she is working, get her "costumes" (they are NOT uniforms), and she'll begin training. If any of you are familiar with the parks, she's in the "Star Wars" area, which is just plain awesome. She also told us that she has to take a lecture where she'll learn about the "Disney Look." We read a little bit about it online, and they have a lot of rules for how you are supposed to look and act while you are an employee of the company. There are restrictions on jewelry (necklaces and such are not allowed), hair color (including highlights), make-up (if it IS worn, it must be in skin tones), as well as her demeanor. Since she will be out with the public, I suppose that makes sense!

Her actual classes start next week, and I am sure that those will be even more amazing than the park experiences!

Anyway, mom and I will be heading to Epcot tomorrow (you might remember I said we were going to go today, but we spent today by the pool). We're still planning on "drinking around the world," but I am sure it will be more like...let's get a margarita at Mexico, then we'll be done for awhile. I highly doubt we can get a drink at each of the countries and still be able to walk. ;)

On Thursday we are going to hang out around the pool again since the weather will be nice. Friday we're going to Hollywood Studios and Saturday we'll leave! It is kind of crazy how fast this week is going by, but I am having a great time and reading a bunch-but I did overpack in regards to books and clothes. ;) I was so sure I would finish all my Shakespeare, but it shouldn't surprise anyone that I haven't. I have gotten through most...I think I have a few plays left, but they'll all be done by the time I am home on Sunday for sure. So much for bringing Dickens, Tolstoy, and the Woolf novel I grabbed last minute. It happens, right?

Well, I best be wrapping this up since we need to leave. I hope you are all having a wonderful week!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't Read Classics.

Today is Tuesday, and every Tuesday the lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish post a topic for Top Ten Tuesday. Participants post their top ten list in the week's category.

This week's category is "Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't X." I'm looking forward to reading everyone's lists, since every participant is going to fill in something different for X!

Obviously, since I am a classics blogger, I will be talking about 10 classics that I think are great introductions into authors and larger works. Hopefully if classics aren't your thing, you'll find one or two to add to your TBR. :)

These are in no particular order...

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: This is actually one of my favorite books, and I think it is a great little classic for people just starting out a classics journey. What really works about this novel is that it also ties into the big "dystopian" trend going on right now. The novel takes place in the future, where firemen don't put out fires, but start them to burn books. This is a must read for all you book-lovers!
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: I put off reading this one for a long time-partly because I thought it wouldn't live up to the hype, but also because I thought I wouldn't like it! I was surprised by how much I loved the novel and how easy it was to read. This would be a great choice for those of you who love romance.
  3. The Crucible by Arthur Miller: I know that some of you don't read plays on a regular basis, but this is a great and passionate play that will grab you from the beginning. A fictionalized account of the Salem Witch Trials, this is a fast-paced and emotional play that will suck you in. It isn't difficult, but it is deep and moving. 
  4. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes is one of the most recognizable characters from literature, but many have never read one of the stories that made him famous! I read the whole collection in the first year of my project and really loved all of them. The stories are diverse and fun. They are a great choice for mystery lovers, or those who are just looking for a small piece of classic literature.
  5. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier: This is a fabulous novel and one that I have recommended often in the last year. It is not only a mystery, but a great story of love and intrigue. I was unsure going into this one, but it doesn't read as old and stuffy at all! This is one that grabs you right away.
  6. Persuasion by Jane Austen: Since people normally recommend Pride and Prejudice, I want to give another option. This is a more mature book that P & P, giving a deeper and more lasting impression of love. It is also a little shorter, and, in my opinion, better than P & P. :)
  7. Hard Times by Charles Dickens: Of the Dickens titles I have read, this has by far been my favorite (except for A Christmas Carol). This one isn't as complex as some of the bigger titles and is on the shorter side. For anyone not used to reading Dickens' sometimes convoluted language, this is a great introductory read. It still has bits of what makes Dickens so popular, but it is far less intimidating.
  8. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway: This is a beautiful little book about perseverance and hope. It is short, simple, and a different perspective of Hemingway's writing. I think everyone should read this at some point.
  9. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: To be honest, I haven't read this one in a long time, but it is a fascinating read and one that a lot of female readers will connect to in some way. It is a more modern classic, so that may make it more approachable for many.
  10. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton: I adore Wharton, so I was trying to think of a title to recommend (and I think I have raved about The House of Mirth enough). In Custom, Wharton creates the most amazing character in Undine Spragg (lovely name...and it suits her if you know what I mean). The novel is about upward mobility and what measures people will take to get there. This is a GREAT book. :)
There you have it, a list of ten classics I think you should check out, even if you aren't the biggest fan of the oldies. I have hundreds more to recommend, so if you ever want options, please ask!

What other classics would you recommend?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Blogger Comment Issues.

I just wanted to write with a quick comment about the new Blogger commenting system. I have been having problems with it, and I wanted to let you all know-I'm sure there are others having the same issue!

First, when the comments feature is embedded on the page, many Wordpress users cannot comment. The window never appears!

With the new "reply" feature, many blogs have switched it over, automatically making their comments section embedded on the page. Last night I was reading blogs and found that I couldn't comment!  All I see are comments, and no box to add my own. Even refreshing the page didn't work!

I should also mention that I use Firefox-many with Internet Explorer are having the same problem. Later today I might try accessing with Chrome, but I wanted those of you with the new system to know that some bloggers cannot comment!

(I hope this made sense).

Anyone have a solution for the issue? I'm a little sad that I can't leave comments!

Weekly Wrap-up for January 15, 2012: In Florida and the Halfway Point.

Hey guys!

I am writing to you from the table in our hotel room in lovely Orlando, Florida. It is actually Saturday night, but I am going to schedule to post this in the morning. I'm a little tired from two days in the car, so I want to take advantage of the fact that I can sleep in tomorrow. :)

Our drive down was pretty uneventful. We left Michigan bright and early on Friday morning. We drove for about 12 hours and decided to call it a night. We grabbed a hotel just into the Georgia border and slept till about 7 this morning. After a yummy breakfast, it was time to hop BACK into the car for another 8 hour drive. Blegh. But, we made it safe and sound this afternoon.

Tomorrow we're going to hang out around the hotel, see a couple movies, and go grocery shopping for Torrie (my sister). She has to check-in and move-in on Monday morning, so I'm sure tomorrow will be low-key and relaxed. The only other set plans we have for the week is for Tuesday. We're going to head to Epcot and "drink around the world." :D It should be a good time! Expect some lovely tweets and pictures.

I'm glad to be out of Michigan for awhile. Truth be told, I was in a bit of a rut at home, so being out of the house is a good change. I think that having this kind of space from all the negativity in Michigan will be good for me and perhaps I'll get over some of that depression.

Enough of that...let's celebrate for a moment, shall we?

Earlier today, the final post went up for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, book 125 off my list. This is a huge milestone...

I am halfway done with my reading project! On one hand, I think to myself that I should be nearing the end by now! But on the other...well, I am pretty proud of what I have accomplished so far.

When I set out to read all of these titles, I don't think I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn't know anything about the book blogging community. I thought the only people who would read my lowly little blog would be my family (mainly my mom-she still reads-Hi Mom!). I never thought I would be here. I never thought people would care enough about my reading process to check in on me and read my thoughts. I am amazed every time someone comments, someone sends me an e-mail, or recommends a book to me.

I'm also in awe of the fact that I have developed so many meaningful relationships with some of you. Like I said, I thought only my family would read my blog, so knowing that there are many of you who read and care? Amazing. Thank you all for all of your support!

I also didn't think that I would be still going. I've never stuck with something so long. I'm pretty proud of how far I've come.

And I know I have a long way to go...125ish (I've read a couple since then) books to go. I am sure that I will learn even more about myself and who I want to be. And while I'm not positive yet, I know that I am learning more and more about the person I need to be. Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I hadn't started this...who I would be. And I am grateful that I set this goal for myself and I am carrying through on what I planned. It shows my growth. It shows that I am learning.

Here's to another 125!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book 125: Finished.

“We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?”

*There might be slight spoilers below*

I am so glad that you all picked the Wharton novel as my 125th book off my list. It was the perfect choice for the halfway point, as Wharton has long been a favorite author and this title has been languishing on my shelf, waiting for me to finally pick it up and read it.

What I love most about Wharton is her ability to capture the societies she pokes fun at. As someone who grew up in a wealthy family, Wharton knew the pressures and constraints of having money...and of feeling obligated to go along with what is expected and appropriate.

She certainly captures than in this 1921 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I can see why she won (although, I am curious what other novels came out that year). The Age of Innocence is an interesting look at the way people interact, relate, and ultimately change into what they "should be."

“Women ought to be free - as free as we are,' he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences.”

Newland Archer, our protagonist, is a wealthy man about to get married to the lovely May Welland. It is the talk of the town, as May is pretty and delightful. She comes from a good family and will make a good match for Newland. But everything seems to be overshadowed by her cousin's arrival into New York society. Countess Olenska, or Ellen, emerges on the scene with much controversy and gossiping.

After running away from her husband, the Countess has decided to return home to her old family and start over. But of course, being thrust into society has its downpoints, and the "who's who" of New York society shuns her and her reputation. It is only after Newland steps in for her (at the bidding of May), that she is welcomed a touch more into the homes of the rich and snooty.

Newland ends up befriending Ellen Olenska and soon begins to spend quite a bit of time with her. He enjoys the fact that she pushes against the societal norm-dining with those who are not part of the social elite, carousing with married men, and speaking out of turn.

Newland finds it a stark contrast to the women he has grown up with, including his new fiance.

“In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs.”

Newland begins to question the world he thinks he knows. What if all women were like Ellen? What if they all spoke their minds? In a way, it scares him and he rushes his wedding forward before fully understanding what it is he wants.

And as soon as he does figure it out, well, it is too late. By that point the wedding is on at a far earlier date than may originally wanted, and to back out would mean the ultimate scandal for himself and May's family. It just wouldn't be understood and the knowledge of being ostracized from society for doing it would be too much.

So he marries May while he still carries within himself the love he developed for Ellen. It is a very tragic sense of loss and it is done in a way that is truly Wharton.

“Each time you happen to me all over again. ”

Near the end of the novel, it is clear that while Newland has thought of abandoning May, but is stuck in a place and choice he made when he was far too young.

And of course, the actual ending leaves the reader wondering.

What I loved best about thsi novel, is the commentary Wharton makes on choices and maturity. When we are young, we sometimes act rashly before knowing the true nature of what we desire. Like Newland, we rush into things, assuming that we know best and that what we want in the moment will be what we want forever.

"'She said she knew we were safe with you, and always would be, because once, when she asked you to, you'd given up the thing you most wanted.'

Archer received this strange communication in silence. His eyes remained unseeingly fixed on the thronged sunlit square below the window. At length he said in a low voice: 'She never asked me.'"

And for that, I really loved the last scene of the book. Because while Newland could change his life in a moment, he chooses not to, accepting what choices he did made and staying true to what he decided in a younger age. At first I didn't get that, but the more I thought about it, the more I loved that decision. It showed a depth to Newland, and a level of growth, that wasn't there in the beginning of the novel.

I really did come to love the novel. When I began, I wasn't so sure...but the more I read, the more I relaxed into Wharton's style. And again, she impressed me with her writing and voice. This is certainly a new favorite (but secretly, I still love The House of Mirth more). :)

A few more lovely quotes...

“His whole future seemed suddenly to be unrolled before him; and passing down its endless emptiness he saw the dwindling figure of a man to whom nothing was ever to happen.” 

“And you'll sit beside me, and we'll look, not at visions, but at realities.” 

“I shan't be lonely now. I was lonely; I was afraid. But the emptiness and the darkness are gone; when I turn back into myself now I'm like a child going at night into a room where there's always a light.”