Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November Wrap-up.

This month was pure insanity. From moving into a new apartment, to completing and finishing NaNoWriMo, I had an incredibly successful reading month.

If you recall, I decided to take a trip back to my roots. I thought that reading some childhood favorites would help rekindle my love of reading. I was beginning to get burned out on heavy classics, so a month devoted to books that I cherished so much as a child was a welcome reprieve.

And wow. I was a reading machine. My husband thought I was insane as I flew from book to book, reliving memories from reading as a child. It was utter insanity.

In all, I finished 25 books. That is the most I have completed in at least three years for a single month. It put me back on track to hit 100+ books this year. And while part of me feels guilty for devoting an entire month to mostly children's literature, I feel so motivated to move forward in my own challenge.

Anyway, here is what I read in the month of November:
  1. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  3. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  4. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  6. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  7. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  8. The BFG by Roald Dahl
  9. Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O'Dell and Elizabeth Hall
  10. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  11. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  12. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  13. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  14. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  15. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  16. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  17. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  18. The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  19. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  20. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
  21. Messenger by Lois Lowry
  22. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
  23. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  24. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  25. Matilda by Roald Dahl
I feel I should also point out that I am halfway through both Barchester Towers and The Metamorphosis. So, this month was an excellent month for me.

Crazy? Yes indeed. But I feel much better about refocusing, diving into War and Peace and all those other wonderful titles I pulled for on my nightstand.

I hope you all had a great month as well-how did you do?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Future Read-a-Longs.

I am looking for some input and feedback, so please comment and give me your opinions.

I have hosted a number of read-a-longs in the past (Gulliver's Travels, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Tempest, and Cranford). Personally, I really enjoy read-a-longs. I find that they are great motivators to read books that are fun and challenging. The company is great and I love the community aspect of it.

I have been taking a break from hosting read-a-longs in recent months. Mainly because as a host, they are time consuming to coordinate (at least I find it to be so). I also had some mixed results from hosting. Cranford was a big success, where One Hundred Years of Solitude was kind of a dud. That happens when interest is not high, so I was to be assured of having some successful read-a-longs in the future.

I would love to reinstate read-a-longs hosted here at A Literary Odyssey, but I am looking for some feedback. If you would be so kind, please give me some feedback about the following:
  • What are your favorite parts about read-a-longs?
  • Least favorite?
  • What classics would you like to read as a part of a read-a-long?
  • How do you feel about multiple posts for read-a-long books? Do you prefer one post at the end of the slotted time?
  • If I host more, would you participate (obviously if the book interested you)?
  • Anything else?
I haven't made my decision yet, but I would love your input. I appreciate it!

Book 63: The Little Prince.

This is another novel I read for the read-a-long (yes, that one WAY back in the beginning of October. I am well aware how behind I am).

The Little Prince is a book that I regret not reading when I was younger. I think I would have adored this little book so much as a child. At only 113 pages, with illustrations, it is a small book with a lot of power.

The story is essentially of the Prince, who journeys to other planets and meets adults (meant to be silly I assume). His observations on their lives critique a little bit of the human experience. My favorite is when the Prince meets the businessman, who believes he owns the stars that he can count and wishes to use them. The Prince's explanation of property and ownership is touching. I love the contrasting view-that by caring for things you can own them, not just point and claim.

There are other portions I love-the geographer who spends all of his time creating maps, but spending no time visiting the places he draws. It made me a little sad to think of that in relation to my own life. I spend a lot of time reading about places and visiting them in my mind, but I don't travel (more that I don't have the means to).

I wonder if this is what adulthood means for many people-wanting things and working for them without ever understanding their importance.

I don't want to say any more about this marvelous little book, except that you should read it if you haven't, as well as reading it to a child. Share its wonder and wisdom. Its beautiful and perfect in every way.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up for November 28, 2010: Settling In, Illness, and Challenges.

It feels good to be back in the blogging world. With the chaos that was this past month, its great to be able to read blogs and catch up on everyone's posts. I think I'm pretty much caught up on old posts. You'll have to excuse my lack of commenting, but you all write too much. :)

In any case, we're still settling in to the new apartment. We have too much crap to put it bluntly. We can't really walk into our second bedroom as it is stuffed full of boxes. I suppose that'll happen when you lose 300 sq. feet of apartment by moving. But, we'll make it work (eventually). For now, the living room, kitchen, dining area, and our bedroom are put together and organized, so it'll work until we find some storage solutions, and decide to throw out some stuff that we really don't need.

One of the biggest storage problems we have is my book collection. When you have over 1200 books, they are hard to store. I have three bookshelves (2 large and 1 small) that are currently holding my classics as well as some favorite books. In addition, I have 20 or so boxes full of other books sitting in various closets in stacks. I really wish I could display them all, but there is no room. Frustrating.

I did decide that I need to purge some. I have a lot of big history books from my college days (I have a history degree-did you know that?) that I honestly will not read again. Perhaps it is time to part ways with them.

Anyway, things are going well in the new place except that I seem to be coming down with a cold or something else nasty. I have a slight fever and a sore throat, so I will be spending the next day or two drinking lots of tea and orange juice and nursing myself back to health. I hope it goes away, as I have a lot I need to get done! I don't feel like writing when my head's all fuzzy and I have A LOT of posts to write and edit.

I did sign up for 3 challenges yesterday. I feel I need to state again that I am not a huge fan of most challenges. But, considering I have that list of 250 books to get through, it is best that I find ways to motivate myself. As I get further into it, I know that I will be less and less excited to read those nasty books I decided to put on the list. So, I am using challenges within the confines of my own project to get some books read. And that's really the purpose, right?

Anyway, the three I decided to join are the Victorian Literature Challenge, the Special Topics in Calamity Physics Challenge, and the Shakespeare Challenge. I think that all 3 of these will push me through some hard titles faster than if I were doing it alone.

On Tuesday I am posting my recap of the month, so I'll give you more details of what I finished reading then. I have one more book not on my list to finish this month (The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls) before moving on to the Trollope book for the Classics Circuit and War and Peace.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

2011 Victorian Literature Challenge.

There is no way I couldn't sign up for the Victorian Literature Challenge hosted by Bethany over at words, words, words. I mean, I do love most Victorians and this will be an excellent kick in the pants to read some of their work...and some of that work by that reader I hate (you know, that Dickens chap). And, like said in another challenge sign-up post, this challenge serves as a great way to get more books read off my list (I am only signing up for challenges that allow me to do so, and I figure that challenges are a great way to reach out into the book blogging community).

Anyway, like all challenges there are a number of levels to choose from:

Sense and Sensibility: 1-4 books.
Great Expectations: 5-9 books.
Hard Times: 10-14 books.
Desperate Remedies: 15+ books

I'm aiming for some middle ground and while I am reaching for some Hard Times, I might just get to Great Expectations. (haha).

In any case, I have a lot of Victorians on my list and I know that reading too many of them will make me sick, so I made a list of 15 books that are possibilities. This list will most likely change as I go and I am sure that when I finish this thing, hardly any of these titles will make it. :)
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
  • The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
Anyway, that is where I am starting from. I hope you'll give this one a go as some of my favorite writers are from this era, as well as my arch-nemisis. :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

2011 Special Topics in Calamity Physics Challenge.

This post is my starting point for the Special Topics in Calamity Physics Challenge hosted by Amazingly Pretty and Somewhat Literary.

I love the premise of this challenge and that is why I am joining. I also like that it is more of a short term goal (it lasts for only 3 months-January 1, 2011 through March 31, 2011) and short term goals are my friends.

And while it might seem slightly complicated, I am looking forward to it. The challenge was inspired by the book that was reviewed on their site, and the reading requirements come from the titles of the chapters.

The goal is to read books from the following sections, with each book being assigned a point value. Once point values are added up, you earn a degree. Here is the full list of books and their point values:

50 points:
Othello - William Shakespeare
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
The House of the Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

40 points:
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Pierre Chordelos de Laclos
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Pygmalion - George Bernard Shaw
The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie

30 points:
Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
Women in Love - D. H. Lawrence
"The Housebreaker of Shady Hill" - John Cheever
Sweet Bird of Youth - Tennessee Williams

20 points:
Laughter in the Dark - Vladimir Nabokov
The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales - Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
A Room With a View - E. M. Forster
Howl and Other Poems - Allen Ginsberg
The Taming of The Shrew - William Shakespeare

15 points:
Deliverance - James Dickey
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
Bleak House - Charles Dickens

10 points:
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
Justine - Marquis de Sade
Quer Pasticciaccio Brutto de Via Merulana - Carlo Emilio Gadda
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
The Nocturnal Conspiracy - Smoke Wyannoch Harvey

5 points:
Che Guevara Talks To Young People - Ernesto Guevara de la Serna
"Good Country People" - Flannery O'Connor
The Trial - Franz Kafka
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Metamorphoses - Ovid

100 points:
Paradise Lost - John Milton

From there, you can add up the points for the books you are reading to see what level you will reach. The levels are as follows:

Freshman 0-200 points
Sophomore 201-400 points
Senior 401-600 points
Undergraduate 601-800 points
Graduate 801-900 points
PhD 901-950 points

Since some of these books I have already read, and some are not on my list, I took each of the books that is still left to create my own list for the challenge. The books I will be attempting to read for this challenge are as follows:

Othello (50 pts)
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (50 pts)
The Woman in White (50 pts)
The House of Seven Gables (50 pts)
Moby Dick (30 pts)
Heart of Darkness (15 pts)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (15 pts)
Things Fall Apart (10 pts)
The Trial (5 pts)
Metamorphoses (5 pts)
Paradise Lost (100 pts)-
This is if I am feeling brave.

Whether I am feeling brave enough to tackle Paradise Lost or not, I am still in the range from 280-380, which means I will be aiming for the sophomore level.

This is a great way to get some of those books off my list that have been sitting there for awhile out of dread. :) It will be a fun way to kick off the new year and start on some new goals.

2011 Shakespeare Reading Challenge.

To be quite honest, I'm not big on a lot of challenges. I mean, I already have enough to deal with by reading off my own project list. I also have a hard time dealing with the confines of fitting my own list into the requirements of other challenges.

With that being said, I think there is an opportunity to participate in a couple of challenges as a way of being slightly more active in the book blogging community at large. And I am only signing up for those challenges that will help me with my own project, and that sound like something that will push me.

The first challenge to catch my eye is the Shakespeare Reading Challenge, hosted by Elena. Since Shakespeare has quite a few titles on my list, this is a great way for me to get through more of his works.

There are three levels to the challenge, as follows:
1. Puck: Read 4 plays over the year, 1 of which may be replaced by a performance
2. Desdemona: Read 6 plays, 2 of which may be replaced by a performance
3. Henry V: Read 12 plays, 3 of which may be replaced by a performance

I am choosing to go with Level 2. In the last year and some months, I only read 4 of his plays, and I still have 12 left. 6 would be a great number for the coming year and enough of a challenge for me.

I am excited for this one and hope you will decide to join in. Shakespeare is not as difficult as he is made out to be. I find that with a good edition he can be fairly accessible.

Anyway, this is the first of the 2011 challenges I will be signing up for. I will be doing single posts for any other challenges I may decide to join.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am Back (ish).

Hello everyone!

We officially have internet in the new apartment and that makes me very happy. All of our things are over here, and while the apartment is still kind of a mess with boxes in every place you look, it is beginning to feel like home. We've already met some of our neighbors and love the new area. I feel much safer!

So, with the move being pretty much done, internet hooked up, and my finished book pile going up to staggering heights, it is time to make a return to blogging. I have a lot of catching up to do on all your wonderful posts, as well as slamming your feeds with multiple posts of my own.

To make my point, I've read a grand total of EIGHTEEN books this month, and its not over yet! And while all of those books might be considered children's lit or YA, it is still a big accomplishment. I mean, I read all NINE of the "Little House" books in the last 8 days, WHILE MOVING. Its insane. I am feeling this huge urge to read as fast as I can and to read everything I can.

I can only hope that this will continue when I move into the books I have picked out for December. I have The Glass Castle on my nightstand. I'm not sure how I feel about it. It is a fairly new book, but I am teaching it in January, so its best that I read it first. Has anyone read it? Thoughts?

I also have War and Peace out, along with Barchester Towers, Wise Blood, and Civil Disobedience. We'll have to see what happens.

Anyway, I look forward to catching up on the million posts you all insisted on writing while I was gone. Please let me know if there is one I should really look at so I don't miss it!

I'm so glad to be back. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A "We're Moving" Hiatus.

Hi all-

I wasn't planning on posting this until Thursday night, but I am not feeling motivated to edit posts with all of these empty boxes looming over my head.

We are moving to a new apartment starting Friday morning and there is a lot to be done! I have boxes and STUFF everywhere and while I thought I would have time to sneak in some posts, its just not going to happen. And can you really blame me?

Anyway, I'll be taking a short hiatus from putting up posts. However, I'll be around on the blogosphere reading and such. I hope everything will be moved in this weekend so we can get out of here and get our lives back to normal, but we'll see how things go (we have until the end of November on this lease).

If you are feeling low please think of how I will be trudging all 1200+ of my books out of this place and into the new one by myself (Matt said he's not helping me, but I know he's kidding). It should be a very comical image-enjoy. :)

Once everything is moved over, I will be sure to come back and get back to blogging. I have a TON of books to talk about (I've read TEN this month and we're only halfway through)! Plus, I'll be sure to show how I decorated the bookshelves at the new place.

See you soon!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up for November 14, 2010: What a Crazy Week.

I'm going to apologize in advance because this is going to be one of those long, rambling kind of posts that inevitably come about when I have had a crazy week. I'm not sure where to begin, so I guess I will attempt to give a recap.

My last day of work for the park was last Sunday, so this week was spent home. We're moving on Friday (the 19th) to a new apartment, so packing and organizing and cleaning things out has been a major priority. I really went crazy last year when I moved out of my parents' house and threw a lot of old things away, but there are still a lot of items that I am unwilling to part with. But, they've been sitting here for the last year so I did some major toss-age of things that I simply don't need anymore. I also took a carload of clothes and other things to Salvation Army. But I am still incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we have.

Moving my books is really going to be a pain. I attempted to cull my collection by plowing through boxes stuffed full of books and removing doubles (yes, I have doubles, and in some cases triples) of books to sell back to my local bookstore. They really doesn't solve the problem since I will have to use the store credit they give me to buy more books, but they'll be gone. I just hate getting rid of my books. I always think, "What if I really want to read this again?" So, it is a never-ending cycle. And I am not a good library user. I always rack up fines and I have the insane itch to own what I read. Silly? Probably, but its how I roll.

But even after removing some books and making a pile to take away, I still have over 1200 books. Its insanity. Right now one whole closet is full of books in boxes and we have six boxes sitting on my hope chest in the bedroom because there is no where else to put them right now (I cleaned up and packed my 3 bookshelves this week, which was only 9 boxes). Matt told me that I have to move them myself, so perhaps another culling of the books is in order.

I also joined Twitter. I had been going back and forth about it for awhile...then I caved. The fact that we also got new phones with internet access on Thursday aided my decision and I am so glad I joined up. It is has been wonderful to chat with other bloggers online. I do hope you'll come and find me. And please forgive my "noobness" as I am still learning. :) My name over there is alliedanielson.

The other big event this week was meeting with the teacher I am subbing for! We met on Thursday afternoon and I cannot tell you how EXCITED I am to be her sub. We have similar personalities in the classroom (loud and sassy), and she is just a wonderful person. We went over the things I will have to teach come January and she sent me home with 4 big binders of lessons, a textbook, and a plan book with what she did. It is going to be a wonderful experience and I get to teach some fun and diverse topics. For the sophomore English class I am teaching Of Mice and Men, The Crucible, and A Raisin in the Sun. I've read the first two, so they should be okay, but the Hansberry needs to be read soon. For the senior English class I am teaching Jeanette Wallis' The Glass Castle. I've never read it, but I picked up a copy. Any thoughts on it??

Anyway, it is going to be a wonderful experience and I can't wait for January to get here.

Yesterday we had a birthday party for Matt (his b-day is on Tuesday), so we had a lot of friends over last night. It was a great night full of drinking and laughing, and friends, but I am wiped out today. But the apartment got cleaned early this morning and I have been trying to relax most of the day.

I am sure most of you saw my post from Friday night. I debated a long time on whether to put it up. Well, the first post I wrote wasn't suitable for anyone else to see, so technically that was the second one I wrote. ;) Now I am glad I did. I was bothered by that e-mail when I first read it, and when I was writing that first, never to be seen, post, but I got over it quickly. If I cowered in a corner every time someone didn't like what I was doing then I would always be hiding. That's not who I am. I have learned this about myself in the year I have been doing this. I'm a pretty strong lady and I'm not going to take any kind of disrespect from anyone.

I have grown a lot from reading. Reading has altered my life significantly. I learn from the authors I read and take their lessons to heart. I always feel bad for those people who don't cherish reading the way I do because they are missing out on so many wonderful things. And this past year has been a life-changing experience for me.

Anyway, all of those lovely comments truly touched me. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of a supportive and loving community like this one. And while I do write for me first, I do love sharing my experiences with all of you. In the times when I have wanted to quit this thing, your support has pushed me on. So again, thank you.

And that is all I will say about that.

Now, to get to reading news! I plowed my way through Narnia this week and finished all 7 of the books. I'm in the middle of The BFG by Roald Dahl and have the rest of my children's literature sitting on my nightstand as all of my other books are put away. But, I was thinking today that I am ready to dive back into my project. And, since all of my books are packed and put away, I had a minor panic attack about digging through boxes to find something to read. I chatted with Amanda on Twitter this morning and decided to visit my library for some audio books. I found 4 that interested me and were from my list, so I am sure they will be keeping me company as I continue packing, cleaning, and organizing. I'll probably keep reading from those other books as well, so it all works out in the end.

I am going to spend the rest of my evening reading, writing, listening to my audio books from the library, and crocheting. It should be a wonderful way to spend the evening. :)

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Purpose of This (Response to an E-mail).

Hello all.

I feel that I have harped on this enough in the past so that my readers know why I started this whole shebang and why I am "forcing" myself through this list of the classics. Late last summer I hit a wall and this idea came to me in the middle of the night. At the time, I was insanely frustrated with where I was headed in my professional life. I had no permanent job (and I still don't), was doubting what my purpose was, and needed to find some answers (You can find more about this in my "About Me" page up at the top of my blog).

So I turned to something that has always been there for me in times of need before: books. I decided what better way to improve my circumstances than by reading through a list of classics. Who better to teach me about life and love? And since then, I have read nearly 80 books from the list and each of them has taught me something. I am an incredibly different person than who I was just over a year ago.

On Wednesday, I had an e-mail from a reader in my inbox. I read it, thinking they were asking a question about a post or something of that sort, but I was wrong. Instead, it was a rant TO ME about what I am doing here. I won't quote the entire thing here, but to give you a small taste of what the e-mail said, here is a short portion;

"The thing about your blog is that no one really cares. You're reading from this list like you're some big deal, but you're not. You offer nothing new or intelligent on any of the books you've read and you are torturing yourself through books you don't like. I don't understand your purpose or why you're trying to do this. Its almost as if you are trying to become something you are CLEARLY not.

Do us all a favor and revert back to what you usually read. Perhaps then your posts will be more intelligent and better written."

I don't feel like I need to explain myself to anyone, and originally I wasn't going to give any kind of a reply. Matt convinced me otherwise.

Here's the thing...I don't give a crap what anyone thinks of what I am writing. When I started this whole shebang I didn't even know how extensive the book blogging community was. I figured my mom and a few friends would read every once in awhile. This whole blog and project was for me, not for any of you (sorry if that offends you). My goals and reasons for starting this had nothing to do with reviewing books, but recording what I learned while I was reading them, and my reflections about each book and author when I finished with them.

I have tried to stay true to that as I have explored the vastness of the book blogging community. And while I may call myself a book blogger, I don't do it to review books. I do it as purely selfish thing and I'm still amazed by the response I get. When I had my first comment that was not from my mom or a friend, I was absolutely astounded. And if everyone decided to banish me from the community, I would be okay to continue on with writing for myself. I participate in the things that interest me, and I don't have a heart attack if I can't meet a commitment for a post or a read-a-long. That's why it has never really bothered me when people comment on my "unconventional reviewing technique." I post in a way that works for me and I will continue to do it as long as I think it serves its purpose.

I don't like defending myself or my project to anyone. And if you don't like what I am doing, or why I am doing it, or the method I choose to complete it in, then please don't read anymore.

And with that, I have one more thing to say. For all of you who have been supportive and welcoming and who have taken the time to come by and read, THANK YOU. I truly appreciate all of the support, advice, and mentorship I have received since starting this little project over a year ago. I talk about all of you to my husband until he gets twitchy. This has become another home for me and I enjoy writing here. And I hope you enjoy reading here.


Book 62: Finished.

This was another book I finished during the read-a-thon (yes, the one that was a month ago. I'm a little behind).

I mentioned in my first post that this was a book that I began to read one years before I went back to college. And I attempted to finish it before classes got busy, but I failed miserably. I think that part of the reason I crashed and burned so quickly is that there is a long passage in the first part of the book that is incredibly confusing. There are 2 conversations going on, but the dialogue is mixed. Here is what I am talking about:

"'I simply must get one like it,' said Fanny.

'There were some things called the pyramids, for example.'

'My old black-patent bandolier...'

'And a man called Shakespeare. You've never heard of them of course.'

'It's an absolute disgrace-that bandolier of mine.'

'Such are the advantages of a really scientific education,' (51).

It is confusing when you first read it. Your mind jumps back and forth as you try to keep both conversations in mind and you have to ask yourself, why did Huxley want to do this to me? But, as much as I hated it that first time, I got it this time. And, once I got to the end of those two conversations, I realized he had a purpose-showing a contrast between the different groups of people who live in this new society.

I was much more connected to this novel in this attempt (and success) at reading it. In fact, I was swept into it and even yelled at Matt to leave me alone while I was absorbed (don't worry, he wasn't too offended). Where I felt like I was connecting to the story that first time I tried to read it, I was sucked in and kept flipping pages to see where Huxley was leading me.

And boy, was this book an adventure. Huxley takes us into a world where embryos are sorted into classes. Depending on the embryos class, it is nurtured for a different task and placement in the world. Those who are slated for life at a lower class, like Epsilon, are given less oxygen so their brain functions become limited. Alphas are nurtured lovingly-given more chance and training to fulfill their intellectual duties to this society. In all, its kind of creepy-conditioning people to fill certain needs and tasks. At the time in which this was written (1932), this had to be an extraordinary way of thinking. I am sure that no one thought we would see the day where we could tamper with embryos in the womb, and here we are with some of those capabilities.

The rest of the novel continues on this theme-the right of mankind of alter itself as it please vs. the way we were born and meant to recreate our species. There is a scene late in the novel about a woman who was left in the "wild" for a number of years-without the ability to alter herself to make her visually appealing. Her anger at what she had become (naturally btw) was infuriating and the revulsion of the other characters to her natural state repulsed me.

I can see the commentary that Huxley is making; he discusses in a futuristic and extreme format how our obsession with looks and youth can take us down a very dangerous path. But, it seems as if his modern audience perhaps hasn't heard his message. I see those TV shows with the woman who are more silicone than cell tissue and human flesh. Its disturbing and creepy. And I can see where a society like the one Huxley portrays is a very real possibility. Of course there would be benefits to farming embryos like he pictures: we could eliminate diseases and disorders so that ever human born would be "normal." But if we did that, doesn't that take away from the diversity and wonder and magic of the human race? I certainly think so. So I, for one, am perfectly happy with the way we create our babies now.

I could go on and on. I found this whole reading experience to be a beautiful one, in light of the dreary world Huxley creates because I would never want to live in it. But it was realistic, and heart-wrenching, and so full of caution and wonder that I didn't want this reading experience to end. In fact, I marked so many passages Matt told me just to quote the whole book here for you all, but I can just tell you that if you haven't given this one a try, or gave up only 50 pages in, you must persevere. Its wonderful, it truly is. It was a great choice for the read-a-thon and my only regret is that I am going to wait until I am done with this whole list business before picking it up and reading it again, along with Huxley's other works.

"'But why is it prohibited?' asked the Savage. In the excitement of meeting a man who had read Shakespeare he had momentarily forgotten everything else.
The Controller shrugged his shoulders. 'Because it's old; that's the chief reason. We haven't any use for old things here.'
'Even when they're beautiful?'
'Particularly when they're beautiful. Beauty's attractive, and we don't want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like new ones,'" (219).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Twitter Discussion (Post 2).

If you missed my lame post about Twitter earlier this week, I'm going to continue the discussion here.

I read all your comments, poked around online to find more information, then said "to hell with it" and signed up. I love the idea of getting to know more of blogging friends over the site, as well as following some people and organizations that I hold dear to my heart. I'm not saying that I won't post a link every once in awhile, but you all sold me on the community aspect of twitter-something that is lacking here.

Anyway, I would love to add someone people to "tweet" at and I will apologize in advance for my noobness. I added a few of you who I know have twitter accounts listed on your blogs (that I found through the comments on my previous post). I am sure I will figure this all out, but more helpful hints would be wonderful. :)

For those of you who want to add me, my little name is "alliedanielson" Feel free to add/follow/whatever it is you do!

Literary Blog Hop: November 11-14

This is a wonderful little event hosted by The Blue Bookcase as a way for literary fiction blogs to spread around and discover wonderful new blogs. I usually only participate in a few memes sporadically, but this one is right up my alley. :)

This weekend's question is: What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?

This is a tough question for me to answer since some of the most difficult books on my list I haven't even touched yet. I will say that there have been a few books that have proved hard to get into and finish.

I can obviously point to my 2 experiences with Charles Dickens. When I read both Great Expectations and Bleak House I had an incredibly hard time finding the motivation to read them. I found both of them long and tedious. He was in desperate need of an editor.

I also struggled at first with reading some of Shakespeare's plays. When I first started reading Shakespeare, I attempted to read it from the straight text. I soon discovered that it is incredibly difficult to read Shakespeare straight without a little guidance.

Surprisingly, both of the novels by Dostoevsky that I have read so far (Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov) were accessible.

Looking forward, I know there are a few books that I will struggle with: War and Peace, Ulysses, Lord Jim and The Heart of Darkness (I really don't enjoy Conrad), the rest of the Charles Dickens madness, Don Quixote, The Aeneid, and Moby Dick. Well, at least those are the ones I'm assuming will be difficult.

I hope that you will head on over and participate in the Blog Hop! See you all next week!

Thursday Treat #32: American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

I am really surprised that I haven't featured a novel by the wonderful Neil Gaiman yet. While I discovered him only in the last few years, he has become an author that I truly love. His work is original and marvelously written. And while I haven't read his complete backlist, I have read enough to know that I want to own everything this man has written.

My first experience with Gaiman is the book pictured at right, American Gods. I loved the title and the premise of this novel. Taken from Goodreads.com,

"After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the days, then the hours, then the minutes, then the seconds until his release tick away, he can feel a storm building. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in apparently adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr. Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But they are being pursued by someone with whom Shadow must make his peace..."

What I loved most was the originality. I loved the gods that Shadow and Mr. Wednesday encountered. The novel didn't make light of any of the big names in religion, but focused on the gods of ancient people-the ones that were "dying out" from a lack of followers. It also creates new gods-the gods of technology, internet, and media that are fighting for prominence in the minds of believers. The novel is the story of their war, and of Shadow's involvement in the fight between gods.

I love the contrast between old and new in the novel. America is making a shift away from an emphasis on religion. Religion was far more prevalent in the lives of our ancestors. Today, we spend more time watching TV, seeing movies, and focusing on other things than reading the Bible with our families and celebrating our gods. Gaiman's commentary on this isn't over our heads, but gives a subtle warning of where we are going. You can make of it what you will, but it fascinated me and made me a lover of Gaiman.

I also love how Gaiman creates a dark and seedy world within modern day America. This is where he truly shines-showing us what our worlds could, and might be. The result is a world that is both wonderful and strange. He has this skill in many of his other novels (Neverwhere for example). Gaiman is truly the master of creating a mysterious urban setting.

I haven't read the "Sequel" to American Gods-Anansi Boys, but it is on that never-ending TBR list of mine. If you haven't given Gaiman a chance yet, you definitely need to!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Questions About Twitter-In Terms of Blogging.

I am not a twitter member.

When twitter first hit the scene, it just wasn't interesting enough for me and I thought it would slowly go away. Well, it seems as if I was wrong and it appears that twitter is here to stay. And I know that a large portion of the blogging community utilizes it for communication and discussion.

So here are my questions for you all:
  1. If you are a twitter member, what are the reasons why I should join?
  2. How beneficial is your relationship with twitter in regards to bringing more people to your blog?
  3. How do you utilize twitter in relationship to your blogging life?
  4. Is there anything else I need to know before making my decision?
I am asking all these things because I am debating adding another responsibility to my life and blogging existence. I just don't know who to turn to for answers, so I am hoping you can all help me. :)

Thank you!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book 62: Brave New World and Book Stats.

Before you read any further, I should point out that this post was originally written when I finished the book during the read-a-thon (yes, a long long time ago). It has been sitting in draft form waiting to be posted. Here it finally is. :)

Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

First Published: 1932
My Edition: Perennial Classics (Seen at left)
Pages: 268

Other Works Include: Crome Yellow (1921), Those Barren Leaves (1925), Eyeless in Gaza (1936), After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939), Ape and Essence (1948), The Genius and the Goddess (1955), Island (1962)

I attempted to read this title a few years ago when I was in college in my "spare time." I remember thinking it was an odd little book and I was having a hard time getting into it. I believe I only read 60 or so pages before giving up and turning to my school reading instead.

Since then, I have been meaning to give it another go. I always hear wonderful things about Huxley, but I haven't read anything by him. A good friend of mine raves about Island, which has long been on my TBR list as well as this title, so perhaps another try will do the trick.

This is the only Huxley novel on this project list, but if I like it, I will definitely be giving his other work a try. As a sci-fi lover, I need to read more of his work!

Let's keep our fingers crossed that this is a perfect book for today!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up for November 7, 2010: Back to My Roots Reading.

Today marked my last day working for the parks department. It is kind of bittersweet that I won't be there this winter, and if things go well, I might not be back next summer either.

This also marks the beginning of a crazy month. I am participating in NaNoWriMo, planning for my long term sub job, and moving into a new apartment. This past week has made me extremely glad that I am taking a break from my heavy classics and reading some great books from my childhood.

I finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn late Sunday night and was reminded why I loved the book so much when I was younger. Since then I have been reading through the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I am in the middle of the fifth book (of seven), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and I am really enjoying these rereads. I have only read the series twice before, so it is a great reminder, especially with another movie coming out in December.

This week I am planning on finishing Narnia and reading some of the Lowry titles on my list: The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger. I'm not sure what else I'll grab off the shelf, but I know I'll have a bit more time this week to read. :)

Happy Reading Everyone!

Book 61: Book Stats, The Waste Land, and Finished.

Before you read any further, I should point out that this post was originally written when I finished the book during the read-a-thon (yes, a long long time ago). It has been sitting in draft form waiting to be posted. Here it finally is. :) And I should point out that because this "book" is actually a poem, everything about this is in one post. When does that ever happen? ;)

Title: "The Waste Land"
Author: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

First Published: 1922
My Edition: Harcourt (Seen at left)
Pages: The full book is 88 pages, however, the poem is about 25 pages in length.

Other Poems Include: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915), "Gerontin" (1920), "The Hollow Men" (1922), "Ash Wednesday" (1930), "Four Quartets" (1945)

Plays Include: The Rock (1934), Murder in the Cathedral (1935), The Family Reunion (1939), and The Cocktail Party (1949)

I am a huge poetry fan. And while I don't read it as much as I probably should, I do read more than the average Joe. There is something very relaxing and comforting about a poem.

This is the one solitary poem that made my list. I took off quite a few others, including Eliot's other masterpiece "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in an attempt to rein in my list, but this one had to stay, only because I had never read it. Seems silly, doesn't it? All the other poems were removed, but this little title stayed through a bunch of cuts and edits to be in the final 250.

And while I know it is not a "book" it stills counts as one title off my list.

At only 25 pages, and a poem, this was a quick and easy read for the purposes of the read-a-thon. I will have to remember to read some poetry in the next read-a-thons if I ever get the chance.

The poem is structured into five sections: The Burial of the Dead, A Game of Chess, The Fire Sermon, Death by Water, and What the Thunder Said. Each section has its tone, voice, and mood. The narrator switches and gives the poem a very melancholy feel.

To be honest, this is a hard poem to describe, especially that I read it in one sitting and haven't had a great deal of time to digest all of the little nuances that come into play with poetry. But, speaking as someone who has read it for the first time I will say this: it captures a lot of the desolation and pain that was felt after The Great War (WWI). Some of the scenes Eliot described seemed to be of empty battlefields and rebuilding.

As I have not lived through a great war, or had personal destruction come down around me, I cannot really relate to the struggle of that kind of pain-of seeing the world crumbling and life disappear. But Eliot captured it for me in his words, so I could feel a glimpse.

I loved his language. Everything was vivid and alive in the way that only poetry can be. Here is the beginning to show what I mean:

"APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter," (29).

It is simply beautiful. My favorite of the five sections was the last, the one called What the Thunder Said.

"AFTER the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and place and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience," (42).

I really believe this captures the mood of the entire poem. Those last three lines I choose were just so powerful as I read them.

I wish I knew more about Eliot so I could understand the deeper meanings of this poem. But he is not a poet I am familiar with. I think to truly understand poetry, you just read and reread it, immerse yourself in the knowledge of the poet, and just let it sink in. I haven't the opportunity to do that now, but I know I will be returning to Eliot eventually, to read more and learn more about the man who wrote such a chilling poem.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Treat #31: The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card

I have always claimed Orson Scott Card as one of my favorites writers. And while deep in my mind I know that there may be better and more skilled writers out there, I still love his writing; particularly his earlier novels.

I think I love these novels as they were my first foray into the science fiction world. Card introduced me to the genre, and for that I owe him.

This particular novel is one that is overlooked. It is a compilation of one of Card's early novels with nine short stories. Together they tell the story of Jason Worthing and a society that prizes longevity of life over everything else.

If you are wealthy enough, you can afford to sleep away years of your life. You may only be awake one year in ten, or one day in twenty years to live your life as long as possible. The idea was to speed up human progress, to save the lives and minds of those who were creating great things. In the end, it began to destroy humanity.

In desperation, ships were sent to the far reaches of space. They carried seeds, animals, and human embryos. Each ship carried a sole living man to begin a life and society in a new world. Jason Worthing was one of these men and the stories in this novel are his story-the way he took hold of a new life and molded it.

This novel showcases Card's writing at its best-a deep exploration of human nature and they we we struggle to survive. It is powerful, and like most of Card's works, warns us of impending doom if we continue the way we are. However, it never seems to preach at the reader, but shows us a possibility of renewal, and what we could do if we had a chance to do it over.

It is an interesting concept, and one that is well developed here. It is thought-provoking and wonderful and I do hope you consider trying it.

"In many places in the Peopled Worlds, the pain came suddenly in the midst of the day's labor. It was as if an ancient and comfortable presence left them, one that they had never noticed until it was gone, and no one knew what to make of it at first, though all knew at once that something had changed deep at the heart of the world. No one saw the brief flare in the star named Argos; it would be years before astronomers would connect the Day of Pain with the End of Worthing. And by then the change was done, the worlds were broken, and the golden age was over," (chapter one).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book 60: Finished.

Before you read any further, I should point out that this post was originally written when I finished the book during the read-a-thon (yes, a long long time ago). It has been sitting in draft form waiting to be posted. Here it finally is. :)

"The days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used tissue paper that a train passenger sees whirling in the wake of the observation car," (15).

I think I am in love with Vladimir Nabokov. I am still trying to wrap my head around the novel I just finished and understand the strong emotional reaction I had to it.

I know that when I explain this novel and say what it was about, some might say, "Why would you even read THAT?" But there is a reason why this novel is so highly regarded. It is a beautiful piece of fiction, even if it about a middle-aged man and his obsession and love for the young Lolita.

I'm really not quite sure where to begin. I mean, there is a man, Humbert Humbert, who has this fascination with young girls, who he calls nymphets. He watches them, and judges them on the beauty of their slender legs, their youthful faces, and prepubescent bodies. It is slightly creepy but fascinating at the same time as we watch him search for a girl to molest, to be with.

He moves in with Lolita's mother as a lodger. He falls hard for the beauty and youth of little Lolita, and is saddened when she goes away to summer camp. Her mother gives him a choice: marry her or leave. Her determines to marry her solely to remain close to his Lolita. Obviously, it comes to a crisis when she realizes his affections for her young daughter.

Fortunately for him, tragedy strikes and he is allowed to remain close to Lolita.

It is certainly an odd book to say you love, wandering through his dirty mind and his fascination with a girl that should be so childlike. But the Lolita we see is not. She knows far more about sex and manipulation than you would want in a girl her age. She teases him, manipulates him, and uses him as much as he uses her. In a way, they fit together well.

But the real beauty and strength of this book is the writing. Nabokov has a gift for stringing together language in a way that makes your heart ache. It is through this gift for storytelling that we begin to understand Humbert Humbert and his Lolita. We see them as real people, with faults and disturbing tendencies, but they aren't just shells of a reality. They come alive, and could be anyone.

I marked so many passages that my husband has been making fun of me. There are so many to choose from, so many beautiful lines that I want to keep forever. Here a few of my other favorite passages. See how Nabokov winds so many comparisons and descriptions to make the scene alive.

"Then she crept into my waiting arms, radiant, relaxed, caressing me with her tender, mysterious, impure, indifferent, twilight eyes-for all the world, like the cheapest of cheap cuties. For that is what nymphets imitate-while we moan and die," (120).

"At the hotel we had separate rooms, but in the middle of the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go," (142).

"There was no shock, no surprise. Quietly the fusion took place, and everything fell into order, into the pattern of branches that I have woven throughout this memoir with the express purpose of having the ripe fruit fall at the right moment; yes, with the express and perverse purpose of rendering-she was talking but I sat melting in my golden peace-of rendering that golden and monstrous peace through the satisfaction of logical recognition, which my most inimical reader should experience now," (272).

I am kind of sad to be putting this one away. I kind of want to soak into it even more and absorb more of the language that Nabokov so mastered. I am certainly looking forward to Pnin and if I had a copy on my shelf, it would be in my hands next.

For those of you who have read Lolita, what did you make of it?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book 60: Lolita and Book Stats.

Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)

First Published: 1955
My Edition: Vintage International 50th Anniversary Edition (Seen at left)
Pages: 317

Other Works Include: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941), Pnin (1957), Pale Fire (1962), Transparent Things (1972), Look at the Harlequins! (1974)

This is one of those books that I have always wanted to read, but just never have. I remember one of my best friends in college raving about this as she read it. I have seen countless bloggers review it and rank it high, so I know it is something grand.

Of course the subject matter is slightly disturbing. The story is basically about a pedophile and his "daughter." But from what I do know, it isn't graphic in any way, so hopefully I don't get incredible creeped out by it. :)

In any case, I am looking forward to my first experience with Nabokov. I also have Pnin on my list, so I hope that this is a great experience and I fall in love with his writing.

Book 59: On Part Three and Finished.

This is a heavy book. And I'm not sure how it does compare to Jane Eyre since I haven't read it, but I loved it anyway.

While it was certainly a chunker of a book, it was beautiful and required every word and moment to accomplish its purpose. And when it came to its end, I was in love.

Lucy Snowe and M. Paul Emmanuel eventually did come together in the way I thought they would, even if obstacles were thrown in their way. It was a love that grew slowly during their conversations, and I could see it long before Lucy admitted it.

The result is a climax that I was yearning for, but Bronte still left it to the imagination...

The fact is, Villette has an ambiguous ending. As a reader, you aren't sure what direction Bronte is heading. Is Lucy happy? Did it end the way I wanted it to? I'm not sure, but I still liked it.

As a person, you are unsure of who Lucy is-her purpose, her goals. She floats through her life and the experiences chronicled here with little significant care for the direction her life took. And while she befriends Emmanuel and seemingly falls in love with him, I have to wonder of she merely fell in love because he was there and he cared. Don't get me wrong, I feel that he loved her and wanted the best for her, but I am not sure how she felt. Lucy was never overly emotional about the men in her life.

So Bronte left us a puzzle at the end, and a way to figure it out for ourselves what happened after the last page. Sometimes this can annoy me in a book, but that open-ending worked here. It fit the mood and the purpose.

Overall, I am left feeling like I found a very deep friend in Lucy Snowe. I related to her, felt her pain, and understood many of her mannerisms. This was certainly a novel I will have to revisit.

My only concern is how I will feel about Villette's big sister Jane Eyre. Will I love it as much? Will I remember this novel with as much fondness? Will Jane Eyre ruin my love for this particular Bronte?

Only time, and more reading, will tell.