Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lady Chatterley's Lover Readalong Post 2:

"All hopes of eternity and all gain from the past he would have given to have her there, to be wrapped warm with him in one blanket, and sleep, only sleep. It seemed the sleep with the woman in his arms was the only necessity."

Welcome to post 2 of the readalong of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover! We posted a couple of weeks ago about the first half of Lawrence's highly controversial novel. Here, we'll wrap things up a bit!

After the first half, I was curious as to where Lawrence was headed. Lady Chatterley had begun her scandalous affair with a man "below her station," and I was curious to see where Lawrence was headed with this and what the final result would be.

Lady Chatterley continues her affair, and the reader gets to be in on every moment of the scandal. She sneaks out of the house to meet him in the woods. She even escapes for a night and stays with him in his household! They have conversations about their relationship-its impropriety, her unhappiness in her "marriage," and the struggles he is facing with his own estranged wife.

It is a convoluted mess, but Lawrence's writing style truly made it come alive for me. He is a great writer with some wonderful descriptive passages. It was the same kind of writing that encouraged me to continue Sons and Lovers last winter when I hated the story.

But I will say this-I felt he was shoving a message at me repeatedly and by the time I closed the novel, I was a little sick of what he was teaching me. It is clear from the beginning that Lawrence is exploring the importance of a physical relationship in a marriage. That there must be some level of intimacy and sharing for a relationship to work. The reason Lady Chatterley continues with the affair is that she lacks that in her relationship with her husband (who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair).

And while her husband had the conversation with her early on in the novel that if she wants a child, it would be okay for her to sleep with another man, you can tell that he truly isn't okay with that (and who would be?). He becomes bitter and angry, as I believe anyone would be.

It is through all this misery and despair that Lady Chatterley has her affair. She finds a man who can be with her emotionally and physically, which is what she needs. I get the "point" of the novel and what theme Lawrence was exploring.

It should be fairly obvious why the book has been controversial since it was written. In addition to the affair, there is also the fact that it exists between a man of a lower class and well, Lady Chatterley. When a couple other characters determine who is the lover, they react in an angry fashion. How dare she have an affair with someone so inferior?

The other big issue, and the reason why the book is constantly challenged, is the language. I've read romance novels before and haven't really been shocked. But this book shocked me. The fact is, Lawrence reels you in with his writing-it is so beautiful and descriptive-and then, BAM. Sex scene. And it isn't that he is overly graphic, it is just that you don't expect it. You don't expect to see f*** and c*** in a classic of all things. I think it borders that line of vulgarity simply because you don't see it coming.

I told a girl at work that it was like reading a very old and dirty piece of erotica, but so so beautifully written, with a message and description that you couldn't help but love it.

And when I closed it, I did love it in a way. I liked the fact that it was in my face, pushing issues and ideas to the surface that I don't really think about. I like that it made me uncomfortable as it explored the connection between sexual and emotional relationships. It made me think. I like books that challenge me and give me things to think about. I like that it opened up a conversation with Matt about his thoughts on the ideas Lawrence presented.

It has also made me curious about Lawrence's other writing, which I was no so excited about after my feelings on Sons and Lovers. This was just another reminder that I cannot judge an author by one book, and that I must give authors a chance to woo me with other writing.

So what did you think of the book? Was it as scandalous as you heard it would be? If you completed your post on the second half of the readalong, please leave a link so I can link it below!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book 83: First Impressions.

I really think there is some value in reading an author's works in the order in which they were published. For present-day, living authors, we eagerly await their newest titles and read them as they are published. Of course we read things from the middle, but I always find it fascinating to see how writers grow as they mature and perfect their craft. A perfect example of this is J.K. Rowling. The first couple of Harry Potter novels seem very youthful and fun. Granted, the subject matter wasn't as dark as it gets in the later novels, but you can also see a sense of growth as she continues Harry's story.

So when I read an author "out of order," it sometimes leaves me wondering if I should grow in knowledge about that author through their work. When I made the decision last fall to read Villette over Jane Eyre, I did it mainly because I was worried Jane Eyre wouldn't live up to all the hype. I wanted another experience with Charlotte Bronte to get me into her writing. And I was told, at the time, that the two novels are different in scope and style.

And my first impressions of Jane Eyre?

Charlotte Bronte was a different person when she wrote this novel. There is a sense and hope in life that wasn't always clear in Villette. And from the little I know about her life, she went through some major life experiences between the publications of these two novels. Where Lucy Snowe hid information from the reader, kept secrets, and seemed distant, Jane Eyre is rather...strong in her opinions and thoughts. I have a firm grasp of who she is from the beginning. I sense that she also has a strong handle on who she is and what she wants to accomplish. Unlike Lucy Snowe, she has not let the circumstances of her life completely take over her identity. Jane is still optimistic in so many ways, even with the grimness of her situation. Lucy just seems wistful throughout her narration.

But I am loving younger Charlotte just as much as older Charlotte. There is something insanely refreshing about the character of Jane Eyre. She is bright, ambitious, and seems to have a strong sense of identity. I am through the portion where Jane is at Lowood and she is about to embark on her journey to her new situation as a governess. But during these opening scenes, I can see that Jane is one of those people who does not let their misfortune in life dictate who they are. That is an admirable trait, and I love that in characters.

And I am not sure what I was expecting from this novel, seeing as I knew nothing about the plot when I began, but I don't know if this was it. I know there will be a love connection (with that Rochester fellow when he shows up), but he is no where to be found just yet. I am anxious to see what kind of man is a match for Jane.

In any case, I am looking forward to my adventure with young Charlotte Bronte. I am already half in love with the novel, the writing, and the ability Charlotte has to create a perfectly likable character, who is strong and independent. We will just have to see if that feeling continues as I move forward.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book 83: Jane Eyre and Book Stats.

Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)

First Published: 1847
My Edition: Penguin Clothbound Classic (seen at left)
Pages: 578

Other Works Include: Shirley (1849), Villette (1853), The Professor (1857)

I read Villette back in September/October and many of the comments I received mentioned that it was odd I wasn't started with Bronte's more famous novel, Jane Eyre. When I was deciding between the two, I was extremely hesitant to pick up this title, so I grabbed Villette first. To be honest, it looked more interesting and suited my mood. I ended up loving the novel and have wondered ever since how this one could possibly top it. That might be the reason I have been so hesitant to begin reading it.

Here are links to my posts on Villette if you are interested:
In any case, with the new movie out and all the hype, I realized I should probably read the novel to avoid spoilers. Somehow I have managed to avoid any knowledge of the plot of the book during my lifetime. Impressive, isn't it? All I do know is that there is some fellow named Rochester, a girl named Jane, and that she is an orphan. There is a lot missing to make that a story.

As I start this, I am nervous and hesitant. I am worried it won't live up to my high expectations, or that it will be overshadowed by the beauty of Villette. Another part of me is a little sad that I am reading this so soon. Once I finish it, I won't have any more Brontes to look forward to on my list (Obviously they have more novels between the three of them, and I haven't read any of Anne's work, but none of their other titles are on my 250 list). But, I am excited and I can't wait to see what all the fuss is about.

How many of you have read this one? How does it compare to the other Bronte titles you have read?

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Teaching Literature.

One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is lead a discussion. I still struggle to find a great balance in my classroom with mixed activities and that includes leading discussions. Where my seniors were able to lead their own discussion a couple months ago on Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle, I know that my sophomore classes would melt down into chaos within a few minutes (I prefer my classes on the brink of chaos if you must know).

But discussing literature is a HUGE part of English classes, so discuss we must. There are times when I almost kind of dread it. Sometimes the kids don't get into it and I have to wait uncomfortably through awkward silences until a brave student raises their hand. Other times, they're shouting to get their points across because suddenly, they all have a lot to say.

Discussions are beneficial, however, so I must shove any discomfort I have in leading them aside and well...lead. And lead I do. Because after all, don't I discuss books here on a regular basis?

(Granted, most of you LIKE books and LIKE discussing them, so it is fairly easy to do so in this place).

Anyway, today my sophomore English classes were continuing on in their unit of Civil Rights Era literature. We started to read a speech by Malcolm X on Thursday, and they had to finish it over the weekend and respond to a couple questions:

"Do you think Malcolm X was racist? Why or why not? Do you think his views were justified in light of what he went through?"

In their responses, they had to use textual evidence (still hammering home the idea of "plagiarism") and well thought out answers. I figured we would discuss it for a few minutes and move on to discussing the beginning of A Raisin in the Sun and starting the first Act. But if you know anything about teenagers, it is that they do their own thing.

Both of my sophomore English classes had a LOT to say on the subject of Malcolm X, racism, and the literature we have been reading. And their discussion was insightful and meaningful. So even though they had to take a lot of reading home tonight, they still benefited from our discussion of the literature we're reading.

It was a day like today that I needed, in light of struggles with my other classes. It is when I get to discuss the details and intricacies of literature with my students that I am in my glory. Today was one of those days. They were pulling evidence from the text, analyzing the specific diction that Malcolm X used in this speech, and adding their own background knowledge. It was an English teacher's dream.

More than anything, it made me wish that I could always discuss literature in that way with them. That I could always give them things to read that would engage them, get them riled up, and make them passionate about the words that have been indelibly set in ink for them to read. I would love just to talk to them about the literature they love, add more for them to read, and run the class like a workshop-each student adding knowledge where they WANT to add knowledge, and all of it through reading.

I suppose that might be the dream of many an English teacher. I know I would, after a while, miss the writing portion. I love going through the process of crafting essays, of getting my students to put power and passion in their writing. So, I suppose I would miss that.

But discussing literature on an open stage like that would never get boring. Each and every one of them had an opinion, and you would never cease to hear something new, some connection they've made to their own lives. THAT is the power of literature.

As I sat there and listened to my classes discussing Malcolm X's words and comparing them to Dr. King's, I was again reminded of this place. I know that many of my students will stop discussing literature at some point in the future. For some of them, literature and the world of writing is not something that they will be insanely passionate about. But some? They might be other people out there, writing book blogs and continuing to discuss their love of the written word. And that made me so happy this afternoon, in light of everything else going on.

Because even with all the other "stuff" going on in the world-new gadgets and technology and strife-there is still literature for us to turn to. It is an art form that won't die out as much as people might think it will because it still offers us so much. We still feel the need to make connections to it, to understand the human condition before our time and during our time. I feel reassured knowing that some of my students will carry it on, and so on, and so on.

And while there continues to be people listening, I will continue to do my best to "teach" it in the best way I can-by discussing it even when it scares me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up for April 24, 2011: The Easter Edition.

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful day!

I feel I should mention that I am writing this one late on Saturday night, since I have every intention of sleeping in since I am desperately tired. I suppose that is what happens when you are working two jobs. :)

This week has been kind of ridiculous and unproductive. I spent Monday trying to catch up at school after being out for two days. At least I came in my classroom and found a wonderful sub note. That is always a good thing to find. I have still been feeling really off. I took a three hour nap on Tuesday after school, and then went to bed for another 6 hours after. On Wednesday I came home, ate dinner, and went to bed at 5:30 in the evening. I didn't wake up until my alarm went off the next morning. Ditto for Thursday. I ended up going back to the doctor on Friday morning where the doctor yelled at me. I am to sleep as much as possible and to not overwork myself. :) Of course, I went to work Friday night.

I do promise to take better care of myself. My kids are moving in to the end of the school year and a lot of projects are coming up, which will make my life easier. Less grading! woot! But there are 8 weeks until the end of the year. I can rock that out.

Needless to say, reading fell by the wayside. I am still trudging through Atlas Shrugged. I had set it aside for a long time (to be honest, it was on the floor where it landed the last time I threw it), and I finally got around to picking it back up. I forgot some of the I backtracked a bit and it is going slowly. I highly doubt I'll finish anything else by the end of the month, but I am sure going to try. We'll see what happens.

In case you missed any posts from the last week, here is what I have posted:
Lots of fun stuff up there! :)

What are you all reading this week? How do you find time to read when you are feeling under the weather or under a lot of stress?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book 82: Acts 3 and 4/Finished.

Well, my students are of two minds about this play. The vast majority of them loved it. I even had one of my female students crying at the end (she also screamed out "why?" and threw her book on the ground in frustration. I can understand that feeling). The smaller group of students absolutely hated it.

We had heated discussions about why those accused of witchcraft in the play didn't just admit it so they could be free. It took awhile for it to sink in as to why characters, like John Proctor, didn't want to sully their names,

"Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!"

Proctor's dilemma at the end of the play was a scene we discussed AT length. For so many of my students, they didn't understand why Proctor valued his reputation so much that he would be willing to give up everything to protect it.

To get them to understand, I painted a scenario for them. I told them to imagine that their peers started a nasty vicious rumor about them (I had them decide for themselves what that might mean). They are given a choice: they may continue to proclaim their innocence and therefore protect who they REALLY are, or, they can admit to the fault and forever be remembered as the kid who did such and such.

They wrote about those experiences and those reactions were powerful. For many of them, it finally stuck-that power of reputation. I was happy that they finally understood. And we were finally able to bridge the connection to the McCarthy era, which really helped them "get" why Miller wrote the play in the first place.

They also took a vote and decided that Giles was their favorite character with his saying of "More weight." We had a lengthy discussion about the significance of those two words.

Besides the more emotional aspects of the play, the kids had a lot of fun reading it out loud and taking on parts. We had some good laughs in both hours near the end of Act 3, when the girls "see" a bird and start freaking out. They got really into it, which inevitably led to giggles. :) But it was productive, and I am glad that they were willing to "act" it out as much as possible.

As for myself, I had the opportunity to remember how much I love this play. I found myself getting emotionally invested as well. Of all literature pieces I have taught in my young career, this has been, by far, my favorite unit. The discussions, the insight, and the passion really drew me in.

I feel I should also point out that we did watch the film version after we read it (with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder). The film obviously takes some liberties with the story, but it closely follows the play. It is definitely worth watching for any of you who are interested.

What did you think of this one if you've read it? If not, what are you waiting for?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Brought to you by the number "4."

This has been popping up all over the place, but I started writing mine after I saw Amanda's the other day. :)

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:

  1. Babysitter
  2. Writing Consultant at the MSU Writing Center (I miss this job)
  3. Seasonal Park Ranger
  4. Teacher (in various forms-Substitute mainly in my two subject areas: English and history)

Four books I would read over and over:

  1. Harry Potter Series (I love them)
  2. The Odyssey
  3. The House of Mirth
  4. Ender's Game

Four places I have lived:

  1. Sterling Heights, MI
  2. Rochester Hills, MI
  3. East Lansing, MI
  4. Rochester, MI (Yes, Rochester and Rochester Hills are 2 different cities, but share schools, etc. Everything. :) But they're my hometown!)

Four books I would recommend:

  1. Jane Eyre-recently read it and loved it.
  2. The Painted Veil-I am still thinking about this one and I finished it a couple months ago
  3. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood-My favorite YA novel of all time
  4. Crime and Punishment-for some reason, this one has been on my mind recen

Four places I have been:

  1. Toronto (I have only been out of the country to Canada. A couple of times were for band trips in high school, but only once or twice for an actual trip)
  2. San Francisco
  3. Chicago
  4. Denver

Four of my favorite foods:

  1. Macaroni and cheese. It is my ultimate comfort food
  2. Cheerios. I love them on their own.
  3. Strawberries
  4. Pretzels. YUM.

Four of my favorite drinks:

  1. Diet Coke. Usually in the Super Big Gulp Variety from 7/11
  2. OJ. My husband is responsible for my love affair. I never drank the stuff before we lived together.
  3. Skim milk
  4. Tea. I am partial to black teas.

Four places I would rather be right now:

  1. Some place where it is not supposed to rain for 7 days.
  2. New Zealand.
  3. Greece
  4. Ireland

Four things that are very special in my life:

  1. My husband. I love him so much. It is hard to believe I met him over 10 years ago.
  2. My family. I have a great support system.
  3. My kitties.
  4. My books and the world that reading has opened up for me (I'm looking at you book bloggers!)

Four bloggers I hope will do this meme:

  1. whoever would like to!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Book Database.

I am about to let you into my inner book craziness. Prepare yourself for what you are about to see.

About 5 or 6 years ago, the books were overflowing in the linen closet outside of my room at my parent's house. Books were in piles all over in the closet, to the point that I had no idea what was three stacks IN on the shelves. I needed a way to organize and keep track of my books in a way that suited my needs. I asked my older brother for help and he created a spreadsheet for me in Excel that I have been using ever since.

When I first set it up, it was a time-consuming process that took me hours of sitting on the floor outside my closet entering information. Now, when new books make their way into my possession, it takes a matter of minutes to log the information in, color code it, and sort them into their homes in the spreadsheet. Here is a small portion of what what the spreadsheet looks like (I believe that you can click on the pictures to make them easier to see):

The top row are my categories and from left to right they include title, author (by last name), pages, genre, rating, the last month/year I read the book, and a column for who it is lent to. If a book is highlighted in blue, it means I haven't read it. And it shouldn't surprise you to see that a lot of things in my spreadsheet are blue. :) I am a book collecter. I can't help it.

I also highlight books in green if I am currently reading them. Books in purple are lent out (I have a book that has been in a friend's possession since 2007. I should probably give it up for lost).

The spreadsheet also helps me keep track of what I have by author. If you look at the picture above, you'll see that I own three editions of Wuthering Heights. One is a paperback copy that I have had for years. One is the Penguin clothbound edition I acquired last year. The third, labeled the "1959" edition, is one I found in my grandparents' basement when we were getting ready to sell their house. Obviously, I don't need three editions, so I will most likely cull the paperback version at some point.

One thing I truly LOVE about the spreadsheet is that by manipulating the "data" then "sort" options, I can reconfigure the database to sort by genre first. Below is my collection of Chicano Literature:

I can also sort for my individual Shakespeare titles. Scary how blue it is at the moment:

However, while there are a lot of things I love about my spreadsheet system, there are a lot of problems. First, I am debating getting rid of that whole "ratings" column because I hate assigning stars to how I feel about books. Nowadays, I just plug in whatever I feel like putting there to take up space.

I also have a hard time defining the genres of what I read. In some cases, a novel can be many things, so how specific should I get when I categorize it? I could go crazy in that area, and I don't want to go there.

But the biggest problem right now is that my spreadsheet is incorrect. You might recall that I had some computer issues last spring and I lost a lot of old files (including a whole slew of my personal writing). While I thought the database/spreadsheet was intact, since reorganizing my bookshelves and the few books that ARE on display, I have noticed a lot of gaps. There are many, many titles missing from my spreadsheet. So while my spreadsheet says I currently have about 1310 books in my possession, I know I have more. When I wrote my "About Me" page nearly a year and a half ago, I had 1200. Clearly I have acquired more than 100 books in that time span (you've seen my book loot. I have serious acquisition problems).

There are also a great deal of books that I have read at some point that are currently blue. A good example is all that Shakespeare up there. I have read MORE of those than what it shows, but because of the loss, all that data is lost! Sadness!

So now I am going to start the long process of re-entering my books and checking that they are all accounted for. I haven't done this since I created the spreadsheet so long ago. I am sure there are some books that have disappeared somewhere, and others that I am going to get rid of. I am starting with the books that are currently on shelves (mainly the classics I am reading for my project and an assortment of YA and favorites). After that, each box that is in storage will find its way out so I can "check in" each title.

And this is where I need your help. Do you see anywhere that I can improve my system? I'm not talking about transferring everything over to Goodreads, but adapting the spreadsheet in any way (I love GR, but I prefer it for the community aspect, not for organizing my library. Sounds crazy, but that's how I feel).

Additionally, do any of you have crazy book organization systems like mine? What works for you?

But most do you keep track of what you already own? One of my problems is "forgetting" that I own a title. This often happens when I am at used book sales, but sometimes, with such a large collection, I can't keep everything straight. Any ideas? tips? Want to send me on that show Intervention? I totally understand. :D

Thanks you guys! I'm looking forward to what you have to say!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the wonderful The Broke and the Bookish every week. It is a fun meme where participants pick their "top ten" in each topic for the week and share.

I don't participate each week, but when the mood strikes, I go for it. That has worked out for me, since this week's topic is "rewind." Participants get to pick a topic that they may have missed and post their list. You can find a list of past topics here if you are interested.

I decided to go old school and complete the second topic they hosted, "Top Ten Books I'd Want on a Desert Island." So, here they are in all their glory (not in any kind of numerical order).

10. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz: Hand's down, this is my favorite YA novel of all time, and it has dawned on me that I have not mentioned it nearly enough. It is a story about a group of teenagers who live in a barrio in New Mexico. The story is mainly about Sammy, but connects to the issues he has with his friends and growing up in a racially tense area. It is a beautiful piece of Chicano literature and if you have never heard of it or read it, you need to.

9. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: I own the "death-bed" edition of this collection of poetry and it travels with me all the time. I find something insanely comforting in Whitman's words and there is enough depth here to last me forever. Whitman weaves so much complexity into his poetry that I would never be bored. (fun fact: I wrote my senior thesis in college on Whitman's "Song of Myself")

8. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: Wharton has long been a favorite of mine and this is my favorite. It is so heartbreaking and sad, but I love every word. Again, it has emotional depth that I don't think I would ever tire of it.

7. Complete Novels of Jane Austen: First of all, this is not cheating because such collections exist in one volume. :) But really, I would want all of Austen with me. There is an Austen for every occasion. Romance? Pride and Prejudice. Fun and silliness? Emma. Deep-rooted passion? Persuasion. Plus, I would be able to read the world's greatest love letter any time I wanted to (and if you are unsure what letter I am talking about, clearly you haven't read all of Austen. Go do that. I'll wait).

6. The Odyssey by Homer: I love the drama and intensity of this one. I love the lyrical style and interference of the Gods in mortals' lives. I love the trials and tribulations of Odysseus and Telemachus. And since I am on a desert island, I can read this the way it was intended: out loud and at the top of my lungs.

5. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Just like Jane Austen up there, this one isn't cheating either. I own a one book collection of his complete works and while heavy, it is necessary as well. At this point in my life, I am maybe a third of the way through his works. I have a lot further to go and a desert island would offer plenty of opportunity to chug my way through some Shakespeare. Plus, I could work on my acting. :)

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Aren't you glad I can finally add this to my list? This is such a beautifully romantic story that I absolutely adored (I can't give away too much since my posts aren't up yet). I can't wait to read this one again and soon.

3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: SURPRISE! A sci-fi novel! But this is the book that got me started on my journey through that genre and my life wouldn't be complete on that desert island without it. This book has truly shaped me as a reader and I wouldn't feel whole without it there.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: This might challenge that other YA book up there for my favorite YA novel of all time, but it has been so long since I have read it, that I can't give it that title. This one is also beautifully written and narrated by the sarcastic and grim character of Death. It is a haunting and moving story that I knew I would cherish in my island solitude.

1. The Bible: There is lots to read here-history, poetry, inspiration. This is the book to beat all other books and would offer me hours of patient and quiet study.

Other books I would love to have with me include:
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Complete Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (this was the hardest one to leave off the list up there)
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  • The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
What would you bring with you?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book 82: Acts 1 and 2.

I haven't read this since I was a high school sophomore, so teaching it to MY sophomores is quite the experience. They are getting really into the story and power of the words they are reading out loud (every student is taking turns reading a part out loud, which is really adding to the dramatics of the play).

I made sure that we covered a lot of the historical context before diving in. It helps that the district I work in has aligned the history and english curriculum for sophomores together. The classes follow each other so that the students are building on the knowledge that they are taking from each class between the literature we study, and the era it was written in.

It also helps that I am teaching U.S. History, so I see some of my students twice a day. This has really helped us dive into this play.

The Crucible was written in 1953, in the midst of the McCarthy era, and those ideas are truly prevalent in the play. Suspicion, accusations, and lies plague the characters. The Salem Witch trials make the perfect foil for that era and the kids have been making huge connections between the two.

I am also getting far more out of it than I can remember from my first reading. I am surprised by the intensity of each line, and I am drawn to the other characters more than the main heroes (the character of John Proctor is my students' favorite. They "hate" the villains). Reverand Hale is one that I am insanely interested in. He comes to Salem (in the play), in the first act to diagnose what is wrong with the sick girls. He has a reputation and is there to look at the suggestions of witchcraft, but he begins to change in the second act. I am trying to remember back to the other time I read it, but I am pretty sure he undergoes a large change.

Another character I am enthralled by is Abigail, the ringleader;

"Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!"

So violent, and so vicious. But she is a woman scorned by the man she loves (John Proctor), so it makes watching her more interesting.

The one question the kids continually asked after finishing Act 2 is why the accused don't just admit witchcraft to save their lives. In one of my classes, this erupted into an intense debate about the lengths you would go to in saving your life. Most of the class said they would lie, but we'll see what happens when we finish the play, won't we?

I can't wait to see what they say about the end and that last powerful scene.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up for April 17, 2011.

I just typed in the date and had a mini-freakout. This month is flying by! I suppose when you are working two jobs and recovering from pneumonia, these things happen. :)

I am feeling much better by the way. After going to the doctor on Wednesday afternoon, he ordered me to stay home in bed on Thursday and Friday. I did that and while I still don't feel 100%, I do feel a lot better than I did early next week. I worked yesterday (the park) and I think I am on the mend.

Going into this week, I need to remind myself to take it easy and not overdo it. Luckily we have a 4 day week (we have Good Friday off), so that will definitely help. I am trying to keep a balance between school and my home life as I continue working through the middle of June. I think that is the only way to keep my head on straight as I continue to work both jobs (if you missed it on Friday, I announced that I would be continuing to teach, as the teacher I am subbing for decided she is not coming back this school year-definitely exciting).

Anyway, I am feeling good about things after having time to digest everything, and I am looking forward to spending the next 9 weeks with my kids. :)

Reading and blogging has suffered a little, but I have made a few changes to keep my head on straight. I have some personal goals I am working on, so hopefully you'll see some of that happening here. :)

One personal goal I don't mind sharing is that I am trying to get back in the gear of going to the gym on a more regular basis (right now, I physically can't do some things because of the pneumonia). I decided to combine that with my desire to read all of the Harry Potter books before the last movie comes out in July. I have all the books on CD, so I am going to be burning them to my IPod so I can listen to them while at the gym. I have to finish them before the movie, so this is a great motivator.

I launched the next two readalongs yesterday. I realized as I was getting ready to put the posts up that I was going to be diving into both The Iliad and The Aeneid at the same time. That didn't sound fun to me so I switched Virgil out for Dostoevsky's The Idiot. If you are interested in signing up for both, or would like to spread the word, here are the links:
I am planning on making some big progress with the books I am currently reading. The first one I need to finish is Lady Chatterley's Lover for the second readalong post (I should finish it today). Next up I need to plow through Atlas Shrugged. I put it aside a little while ago and I suppose that I need to read it...*grumble*.

I also started Their Eyes Were Watching God during the last few hours of the readathon, but haven't touched it since. I also have a big urge to read Silas Marner, so maybe I can squeeze those in before the end of the month.

How has your reading been going? What are your plans for the coming week?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Idiot May/June 2011 Readalong Sign-ups.

Welcome to the sign-ups for the May and June 2011 readalong of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot hosted here at A Literary Odyssey! You might be wondering what happened to Virgil's The Aeneid...well, in looking at the readalong schedule, it dawned on me that I would be reading two big Greek pieces at the same time, and that didn't sit well, so I switched it for this big Russian masterpiece.

To say I am pumped up for this one would be a complete understatement. I have been surprised by how much I have LOVED the Russian novels I have read in this process. All of them are lengthy, but each has surprised me with its level of accesibility. Don't let the length scare you! Or the names! These are wonderful books! I will say that a part of me is a little sad that I am reading this one now, as it is the last Dostoevsky on my list. I am sure I will be reading more of his work in the future (I have previously read Crime and Punishment (book 2 in this process) and The Brothers Karamazov (book 40)).

If you are unsure if this is the book for you, here is a little synopsis taken from;

"Just two years after completing Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky produced a second novel with a very different man at its center. In The Idiot, the saintly Prince Myshkin returns to Russia from a Swiss sanatorium and finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with wealth, power, and sexual conquest. He soon becomes entangled in a love triangle with a notorious kept woman, Nastasya, and a beautiful young girl, Aglaya. Extortion and scandal escalate to murder, as Dostoevsky’s “positively beautiful man” clashes with the emptiness of a society that cannot accommodate his innocence and moral idealism. The Idiot is both a powerful indictment of that society and a rich and gripping masterpiece."

Excited? I am!

I am basing the page numbers on my edition, which is the lovely Pevear and Volohonsky translation that makes up the image for our readalong. I read a random translation when I read Crime and Punishment, and switched to the dynamic duo for The Brothers Karamazov, and there is a DRASTIC difference. These two translators are great at capturing the essence of the novels they translate (they also translated the edition of War and Peace I read back in January and February). I highly recommend them.

Here is the posting schedule (again, based on my edition):
  • Post 1 will go up on May 19 and cover Part 1 (roughly 170 pages-the longest part!)
  • Post 2 will go up on May 31 and cover Part 2 (roughly 140 pages)
  • Post 3 will go up on June 15 and cover Part 3 (roughly 130 pages)
  • Post 4 will go up on June 30 and cover Part 4 (roughly 150 pages)
This one definitely isn't as scary as some of the others, but the names will trick you up a bit if this is your first go at a Russian novel. Don't let that sway you. After a bit, you will be used to the names (and make up fun pronunciations in your head in the process).

If you are interested in joining in on the fun, leave a comment below with a link to your blog so I can link it here. I look forward to tackling my last (for now) Dostoevsky with you!


Read the Book
Becca A.
The Book Nook

The Iliad May 2011 Readalong Sign-ups.

Welcome to the sign-up post for the May 2011 readalong of Homer's The Iliad hosted here at A Literary Odyssey! I am very excited about this one (and only slightly bummed that my reading of the Hardy novel it beat out will be delayed).

I love The Odyssey and it was the first book I discussed here. It inspired my blog and everything I have accomplished since starting this wondrous piece of the internet up. While I have read The Iliad, it was a long time ago, and it was a bad translation. I am excited to be getting back into the wonders of the Greeks with this title.

If you aren't sure if you want to tackle this one or not, here is a little synopsis taken from;

"One of the greatest stories ever told, The Iliad has survived for thousands of years because of its insightful portrayal of man and its epic story of war, duty, honor, and revenge.

While The Iliad recounts the war between the Trojans and Achaeans, it also is the tragic story of the fiery-tempered Achilles. Insulted by his king, the proud Achilles decides to stand by as his comrades are annihilated, but circumstances finally spur the warrior to wreak savage retribution upon Troy.

The battle between the Trojans and Achaeans stirs ancient passions and vendettas among the gods of Olympus. While the two armies of mortals confront each other, the gods fly to earth to aid their allies and confound their enemies. Soon, they too enter the fray alongside the men, which leads to an attempt to betray Zeus himself, the supreme king of Olympus.

Woven among the battle scenes are the stories of the men and women caught in the war: the Trojan prince Hector, who is torn between duty and love for his wife and young son; Helen, who is the most beautiful woman in the world, but who comes to regret being born; and Priam, the king of Troy, who is too old to battle, but has the strength for one final act of courage."

Like I said, I can't wait to read this one with all of you. Now, be warned that this one is a little bigger than some of the other ones, and it will vary greatly depending on your translation. Make sure you pick a translation you like before you begin (I suggest going and reading the first couple pages of a few at the store before deciding).

The page breakdown is based on my own edition (the same edition that makes up our image for the readalong). I love Robert Fagles and he is a marvelous translator. His translation of The Odyssey is by far my favorite.

Here is the breakdown and it goes by the "books" that make up the tale. There are 24 books, and in my edition (the one translated by Fagles), the actual text of The Iliad is 536 pages.
  • Post 1 will go up on May 16 (a Monday). Post 1 will cover books 1-12 (263 pages)
  • Post 2 will go up May 31 (a Tuesday). Post 2 will cover books 13-24 (273 pages)
I hope that many of you will decide to join in! If you are planning on it, please comment below with a link to your blog (so I can link your name here). I will see on the battlefields of Troy! (<- see what I did there? Clever, aren't I?)


Read the Book
Becca A.
Avid Reader

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lady Chatterley's Lover Readalong Post 1:

"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work. There is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen."

Welcome to post 1 of 2 for the readalong of Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence hosted here at A Literary Odyssey. This is a title I have been anxious to read, after hearing so many interesting reactions to the scandalous story.

Before continuing on, I want to apologize for this post being up late. I am recovering from being sick and well, I slept most of the day. :) Sometimes, you just need your sleep.

Anyway, onward to the book discussion!

Like I said, I was excited and anxious to dive into this title. I have only had on previous experience with Lawrence, and that was with Sons and Lovers. While I enjoyed Lawrence's writing style, I really couldn't stand the story. I read it last winter and it took me quite some time to get through it.

This title, on the other hand, seems to be more famous than the other, and much more scandalous. When it was first released, there was a lot of outcry against the blatant sexual nature. Copies were confiscated and destroyed. When it was finally released and protected, it shocked many readers.

Obviously, going into reading this one, I was looking forward to seeing what about this title was so controversial and comparing it to some of the things that we might consider scandalous today.

Again, I was drawn into the beauty of Lawrence's writing. I find his style easy to read and comforting. He doesn't cover up his meaning with a lot of bells and whistles, if you know what I mean. But from the beginning, the novel explodes around the concept of sexual relationships between men and women. Lawrence certainly points out the differences in how men and women view sex, and its impact on the relationship.

Connie, our main character, is married to Clifford. When they first married, he was home on leave from the war, but when he went back, he was injured and has lost all feeling from the waist down. Obviously they have to have a different, less physical, relationship as man and wife. But here is where we can see that the two are clearly friends. Connie takes care of her husband, and she seems willing to do anything to make him happy.

She gradually begins to wilt from lack of a physical connection. Her husband even has a conversation with her, urging her to find a man so she may have a child. So she begins to wander and eventually begins to find the sexual, physical relationship she seems to need. The novel is more about relationships than sex, but sex is still a major part of that. You can see that Lawrence is showing that sex, love, and a healthy relationship seem to go hand in hand. I won't argue either way, because honestly, I don't want to go there.

I will say I was surprised at how often sex was brought up in the novel between characters. It reminded me of being in high school and overhearing teenage boys-know what I mean? That silly fascination with a scandalous and outlawed act? But it is talked about, and sometimes in terms that made me squirm. I will say that it wasn't graphic or overdone. I have read worse, and I am sure you have too. But it is CLEAR why the novel has been controversial since the time it was written. The characters have sex. It is talked about. There are controversial words to describe the act. Going into this, know that.

In any case, I am enjoying it. I like the play between the aspects of relationships and what is necessary to have happiness. I hope that those of you who are joining in are seeing those same things. :)

If you are participating in the readalong, please comment below with a link to your post so I can link it here. I will see you back here at the end of the month for the second post!

Lit Addicted Brit

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some News.


I am currently sitting at home in my warm comfy bed with a bunch of kitties all over the place. After going to the doctor yesterday, he told me I had to stay home from work for a couple of days. I am going slightly stir crazy already. I have been so on the go recently that sitting at home is not as appealing as it should sound.

Anyway, with all the crazy events that have happened since Sunday, I haven't had a great deal of time to blog (I know, after all my boasts and promises). I'll get around to it eventually.

I do have some news to share....the teacher I am subbing for is NOT coming back this school year like she informed me a few weeks ago. This means I am finishing up the year in her classroom with the students I currently have. This is definitely good news and I am excited to finish out the year with "my" students.

It also means that I will continue to be super busy. In addition to teaching during the week, I will also be working at the park on the weekends. I am sure I am going to go slightly crazy in the process, but what can I do? Had I known about the school thing, I would have delayed my return. I can't do that now. I'll manage.

Anyway, I'm working up a schedule to make sure I have regular posts once I am feeling better. :) We're going to see how it goes!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

End of Event Survey.

It is currently 6:34am and I am waiting out the last hour and a half of the readathon before collapsing into bed. I have to work at 11:45 (yeah, I know. I'm crazy), so I am going to crash in bed as soon as possible. I did take a nap from about 11:30 to 3 in the morning, so at least I got some sleep.

That said, having pneumonia really put a damper on my readathon experience. I am bummed I wasn't more active and didn't read as much.

Hosting the last couple hours has been fun. Colleen was wonderful and did an extra post so I could wake up a bit and get my bearings. I really should have looked at wordpress a bit more before jumping in, since I was trying to figure out the posting format as I was going. Oh well, lessons for next time. :)

Anywho, because I am the last host and I am wasting time before crawling back into bed, I am going to start my end-of-event-survey. Maybe I can be #1 on Mister Linky. Woo!!

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
I would say the first few hours were the hardest. I woke up on time to start with everyone and managed to do the first mini-challenge, but I was so exhausted that I had to go back to bed. When I woke up again, husband put his foot down and told me I had to go to the doctor. And I am glad I did. Pneumonia is no joke people. It stinks.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I had every intention of reading some fun things-some YA for example, but I just didn't spend a whole lot of time reading. I think that having variety is key to having a good readathon experience.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I think everything went great this year! And seeing it from the administrative end was new and inspiring. The volunteers and coordinators bust their butts. It is amazing to see!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I think we had a great variety in mini-challenges! And it seemed as if readers were really responsive to the challenges we had!

5. How many books did you read?
Technically 2. I finished the last 200+ pages of Mary Barton and started Their Eyes Were Watching God, but didn't get very far.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
See above. :)

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Even though I just started it, I have a really good feeling about Hurston's book!

8. Which did you enjoy least?
While I really liked Mary Barton, I should have read something fun today. I was going to...but my guilt got in the way and I knew I needed to finish it.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I was not, but I did stop by as many blogs as I could to leave comments. I think next year I will take a stint as a cheerleader. :)

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I will most definitely participate again. I really liked my co-hosting gig. It was rewarding and I would consider doing it again. I also LOVED hosting a mini-challenge. I had 158 something entries. It was amazing and I loved people's answers. Later this week I'll have a post up about the books people chose.
I will say that I will never do this again if I am sick. I have no idea how I am awake right now and I feel like death. Never again. It was fun and rewarding, but I know I am going to regret it later.

I hope you all had a great readathon! I am sticking online for a few to make sure things run smoothly through the end and then I am CRASHING. Talk to you all later!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Read-A-Thon Update #3. (with kittenz)

Oh HAI all!

I know I was just here updating with my mid-event survey, but I'm back because I FINALLY finished Mary Barton. WHOOO!

Now it is time to move on to something else and since I have been talking about it non-stop , I am definitely picking up Their Eyes Were Watching God. I'm not sure how far I will get into it, since at some point I am going to need a nap before picking up the hosting gig at the main site at 4am. Right now I am feeling pretty awake. We'll see how it goes.

I am also waiting for the husband to come home with food because I am HUNGRY. We are lacking in the dinner ingredient department and since I was supposed to be at a family party tonight, I was okay with that. But with the pneumonia diagnosis and such, I stayed home. Therefore, no tasty dinner. *sigh* Oh well, he should be home soon.

How is everything going with you guys? I am trying to comment as much as I can, but I am no good at that cheerleading. I am not good with rhymes so all I seem to be saying is "Good job. Happy reading." <--- LAME.

Anyway, the two pictures are of two of my reading buddies. The little gray one is the baby, Lily (named after Lily Bart from The House of Mirth) and the black kitteh is Sparty (short for Spartacus-my college mascot was a Spartan). Lily does that little "Oh, look how cute I am" move all the time and I find it irresistible. And Sparty? He's cuddling with my copy of Jane Eyre in the picture and on the world's ugliest couch-it used to be my grandmother's (taken a few days ago). Cute.

The other kitteh is a big grouch and I didn't want you all to become grumpy on me, so she gets no picture.

I hope you are all making great progress reading! Let me know how it is going!

Mid-event Survey.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
I am still reading Mary Barton. I took a break and read a short story last hour (The Yellow Wallpaper), but I only have 93 pages left in Gaskell!

2. How many books have you read so far?
None. Thanks for asking. :)

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm looking forward to starting Their Eyes were Watching God. I have heard so many good things.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
I tried, but spent an hour or so at the doctor's office earlier since I have the plague. Needless to say I only started reading about 2 hours ago.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
see above. :) I would also like to say that twitter is way too distracting. :)

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
It seems to be a lot bigger this time around-YAY!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I actually think it would be a good idea to push the time...forward? so we would start earlier? Maybe that is silly, but I would prefer reading from 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM in ONE day rather than have it carry over into the next day. I know that wouldn't work for all timezones, but in some areas it really carries over into Sunday.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
I haven't had my co-hosting gig yet, so I don't know if I can really answer this in regards to that. As a reader, my goals for next time are to not be sick.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
Well, I am just trying to enjoy myself at this point. I realized as soon as I woke up I wouldn't be gung-ho today with being so sick, but I am managing just fine. Whatever I get read it okay and I am enjoying getting to talk with other bloggers.

And I am most definitely going to host another mini-challenge in the future. I had a blast hosting and it is a GREAT feeling to give away books. So, be prepared for more of that!

Now I really won't be back until I finish Mary Barton.

Happy reading!

Read-A-Thon Update #2.

I figured it was time for another update.

I have spent a lot of time sitting up in bed chatting on twitter and browsing participants' blogs. I finally decided to get down to reading last hour and flew through about 70+ pages of Mary Barton by Gaskell. I have a bit more to go (about 140 pages), but the end is in sight.

I also just fixed myself a snack since dinner items are no where to be found in this house. Matt is at work, so I am sure I will eat some dinner when he returns home tonight.

In any case, I probably won't update until I finish Mary Barton, so happy reading to you all!

Book Origami Mini-Challenge.

Perhaps it is the drugs and illness kicking in, but I just spent fifteen minutes creating some wonderful book origami for a mini-challenge.

Before anyone yells at me, this copy of the book is missing about 50 pages, so...don't hate me for ripping and folding a book. A good chunk of the story is missing people. And that means that this book would be pretty unreadable. I love me some books, so NO HATING on me.

Anyway, here is what I started with, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne:

Then I started tearing and folding (I KNOW-SEE ABOVE PEOPLE):

And ended up with an "A" (if you've read the book, you'll get why).

That was fun. Now I am really getting back to reading. :)

"Oldies but Goodies" Mini-Challenge Winners. you guys. I am impressed by the number of entries (155!) and the fact that you all seemed to love talking about these old books that I hold so dear to my heart. It has been an absolute blast reading through your comments and I have added a LARGE number of titles to that massive TBR list I have. It also made for good reading while sitting in the doctor's office this morning. :)

It is great to see that at some point, these books we call "classics" have impacted everyone. I suppose that is why we call them classics, hmm?

Reading through all of your entries and your cries of, "How can I pick just one?" had me thinking about which books I would label my favorites. It came down to 1 story out of a million that I wanted to share.

When I was coming up with the premise for my blog and developing my book list, challenge requirements, and naming my blog, I took a good long look at what I was trying to accomplish. I wanted a name to speak to what I was going to do and years long project it was going to be. That is when my eyes glanced over Homer's The Odyssey on my list. It had been a couple years since I read the story, but I was drawn to the name. I loved the struggle of Telemachus finding himself and his role in society, I loved the drama of Odysseus finding his way home. No matter what obstacles were in their way, both men met those challenges and conquered them.

The name of my blog was born and The Odyssey was the first book I read and discussed on my blog. And whenever I get low or frustrated, I can look at that blog name and remember.

Cheesy? Probably.

Anyway, I know why you're all here and that is for the names of the WINNERS.

I chose two winners randomly through They are:

#41: Savs (having a hard time finding your blog!)


#125: Simplerpastimes

And since there were so many entries....I randomly picked one more winner (again, from

#20: Amanda

Congrats to all the winners! You have until the end of the read-a-thon to contact me through my blog e-mail (you can find it on my profile page).

But wait....

My husband was so impressed with your response and shocked by the outpouring of your responses that he wants to pick one more commenter. I let him read through the comments and he selected one more person to win based on this comment:

You rock, Allie Cat.

My favorite classic? Gone With the Wind, Gone With the Wind, Gone With the Wind!!

Because it is about a woman's struggle through war, and societal expectation, and an insane sort of upbringing.

Because it was my first classic. (I was sixteen the first time I read it.)

Because I share a love of the book with my mother. She doesn't adore much literature, but it was she who kept nudging me to read Mitchell; when I finally did, I fell in love, with reading, with history, with Atlanta, with the story of the American Civil War.

Because my grandmother was from Atlanta, GA, and I hope to move back there, some day. I'm pulled to my history in Atlanta. My people were in Georgia for generations.

Because all of my love, for everything above, is rooted in Gone With the Wind.

And Margaret Mitchell? She is my literary best friend."

Congrats Jillian! Now my husband is calling me Allie Cat. :)

Thank you all for entering. Winners, contact me by the end of the readathon so I can be in touch with you about picking which title you want (that way I can order you your lovely and get it on the way)!

Read-A-Thon Update #1.

Well guys, I have had an eventful morning and I haven't had a chance to read anything.

I decided after waking up super early this morning that I needed more sleep after writing my introductory post. I made sure to set my alarm to get my mini-challenge off the ground and running and collapsed back into bed.

Once I woke up, I knew I needed to just give up and go to the doctor. My lovely husband bundled me up and off we went. Sure enough, what I have been fighting off the last week is not a mere cold. They did some tests and told me I have walking pneumonia. Wonderful, huh? So, I got a big old shot of antibiotics and strict instructions to take care of myself. The doctor told me to relax, lay in bed, rest, and maybe read a book.

Good timing? Maybe.

Now that I am confirmed in having the plague, I am staying home the rest of the day. I am going to go huddle up in bed with my pile of books and read/sleep. I'll leave my laptop on the nightstand so I can update.

First up will be finishing off Mary Barton. After that, who knows?

In any case, I hope you are all having a great time reading and plowing through your big piles of books. My task will be determining the winners for my mini-challenge!

Another update once I actually read something!

The "Oldies but Goodies" Mini-Challenge.

Hello read-a-thoners! How is your day going so far? I hope you are making great progress towards your reading goals!

Welcome to my humble little blog in the big book blogging world. By looking around you might be saying to yourself, "Wow, I see a lot of scary classics on here. Is she crazy?" I assure you that I am quite sane most of the time, but I do love the classics and that, my friends, is the primary focus of my blog and the mini-challenge that brought you here.

For this mini-challenge, all you need to do is leave a comment here with the answer to these big scary questions:

What is your favorite "classic" and why? How has that classic impacted your life?

See? Scary.

Now you might be asking, "Allie, what do I get if I win?"

I'll tell you.

Those pretty books up there are Penguin Clothbound classics and I absolutely love them. I own the set and have been gushing about them since I bought my first one over a year ago.

There will be two winners, both who will be randomly chosen based on Depending on how many entries and how much you all gush over your classic love, I will pull a third winner. Each winner will get to choose their title of choice from the following list:

  • Little Women
  • Emma
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Jane Eyre
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Woman in White
  • Inferno
  • A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings
  • Great Expectations
  • Oliver Twist
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • Cranford
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles
  • The Odyssey
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • Shakespeare's Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint
  • Treasure Island
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
In addition, there are four more titles being published in the U.S. at the end of April if you decide you want one of these:
  • Middlemarch
  • Tale of Two Cities
  • Dracula
  • Gulliver's Travels
To recap and clarify the rules:

To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment with an answer to that question up there. The challenge will run for three hours. At the end of the three hours, I will randomly select the winners and make an announcement post. The winners will have until the end of the readathon to get in touch with me or I will select a new winner. This contest is open to anyone who lives in a country that the Book Depository delivers to and you should be 13+.

Sound wonderful?

Good luck and start telling me about those Oldies you love!

Read-A-Thon Introduction Meme.

Hey guys-

I woke up specifically to complete the introduction meme before heading back to bed. I am still feeling quite ill, so I need some more sleep. I'll be back in an hour or two I am sure. :) I hope you all get a lot of reading down this first couple of hours!

1)Where are you reading from today?
2)Three random facts about me…
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

here we go:

1. I am reading from home, which is in Michigan. I live about 45 minutes north of Detroit and wonderfully, no snow today!
2. I am happily married, I have 3 cats, and my favorite TV show of all time is I Love Lucy.
3. I think there are close to 10, but I'll be happy just to finish the one I am halfway through (again, not feeling good)
4. I want to have fun. Originally I was hoping to plow through some reads, but feeling like crap won't help me get there.
5. Take breaks. That is what saved me the last couple of times. And I have never stayed up the entire thing... (this time I have to be up during the last 4 hours. eek).

Good luck guys. See you soon.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Read-a-Thon Prep.

Hey guys! Are you all pumped for the read-a-thon tomorrow?

I know that I am super excited, especially since I am taking a much more active role in the events tomorrow. I am hosting a mini-challenge starting at the beginning of Hour 4 (with a cool prize if I do say so myself), as well as hosting the final four hours. Yep, hours 20-24 will be hosted by yours truly. I'm assuming you might all be asleep, but I promise to attempt to be entertaining if you are up then!

I am a little worried about tomorrow. I woke up Monday morning feeling a lot like death. I have been taking lots of medicine and such, but I still feel quite awful. Most of Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in bed, so I am still recuperating. I didn't get nearly as much done or read this week, so I am hoping to pull it together for tomorrow.

I am going to try and condense my posts for tomorrow as much as possible, with only one post for status updates (I said try, so don't hold me to it!). We'll see how it goes since I like the freedom of posting when I feel like it.

I do know that I am taking two breaks. Tomorrow night we are having party for my grandma's birthday at my parents' house, so I will be gone for a few hours eating and carrying on. I also know that I will be gone at some point taking a nap before my hosting gig. I'm sure you understand that! ;)

All that being said, I have a huge stack of books that I am going to be reading from, and here they are (sorry about picture quality. It was early when I took it and rather gloomy):

The left stack from top to bottom:
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  • Great American Short Stories Collection by Barnes and Noble
  • House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
The right stack from top to bottom:
  • Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume 1 by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Walden and "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Looks ambitious, doesn't it? If I don't finish Mary Barton tonight, then that will be the first thing I read tomorrow. I also want to get the first half of Lady Chatterley's Lover read for the readalong. After that? Things are up in the air. The two books by Diana Wynne Jones are in honor of her passing. I have read the Chrestomanci title before (it is my own copy), but House of Many Ways was lent to me by a friend. I'm not sure I want to read it if I am still feeling plague-y, but we'll see.

So much to choose from!

What are you planning on reading tomorrow?

Atlas Shrugged Readalong Post 2:

Welcome to the second post in our readalong of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged here at A Literary Odyssey. If you missed it and want to go back, we posted our thoughts on the first part a few weeks back. Since that time, another blogger managed to finish the whole shebang, so be sure to look at Christina's post linked below.

As I get further into this one, the more I am realizing how there can be two feelings about this book. On one hand, Rand is infuriating in the fact she seems to shove her philosophy (Objectivism) down her readers' throats. I get that the story here is meant to be a platform for her to do so, but didn't she ever learn what will piss a reader off? I don't enjoy being told what I should or should not be thinking, and Rand has a way of making me more than a little grumpy.

The other school of thought, well, loves the book. I can see why. I can see how her philosophy is appealing (again, here is the link to the Wikipedia article. I cannot begin to explain it better). I can see why quite a few people fall in love with her philosophy and ideas about societal movement. I get it. And I think that if I had read this a few years ago, I would be sucked in as well. Now, in my old age, I don't buy into as easily (I'm joking about the old age, but there is a large maturity difference in a matter of years after high school and after college, know what I mean?). I see flaws in what she is saying and while I can honor her ideas, I don't necessarily believe them.

And I feel I should be perfectly honest and say that I am approaching this title with a lot of trepidation and skepticism. I went into this one prepared to hate it, wary of what Rand was going to preach to me, and sure that I would hate it. So it is hard for me to approach this like I do many of the other books I read. I know too much about and had I just read it without knowing anything about Rand, who knows what thoughts I would have.

Moving on from all of that and my unsure feelings, let's talk about the storyline and what has happened in this second portion of the book. There are most definitely spoilers if you haven't read the book.

Economies in different areas are beginning to collapse and the railroads are on the brink. Dagny and gang are slightly panicking as they try to keep the railroads open. In the midst of all of this, Reardan is indicted and once he refuses to cooperate at trial, he is let off with a fine. There is also a lot of bruhaha about Reardan being selective in who he sells his precious metal to, which causes the government to get involved, etc. Then a group of pirates steal the copper needed for the Reardan metal, which means Reardan can't fulfill his order to Dagny (OH THE SHAME), so she must close one of the lines of her railroad and use what she has to fix the main line (I sense disaster).

Jim Taggert, Dagny's wuss of a brother, starts freaking out and tries to get to the bottom of what is going on. He invites Reardan's wife over and she learns that Reardan's mistress is Dagny (DRAMA). Soon after, a directive is passed, ordering the economy to freeze. All businesses have to stay open and companies must turn over patents, etc to the government for control. Obviously Reardan is mad since he doesn't want his precious metal manufactured by anyone else. Someone attempts to blackmail Reardan and make his affair public and Reardan whines about not making his affair known and/or being done with his wife. There is some more drama with his wife and a mysterious man shows up to give Reardan a bar of gold...

Then a Taggert train is stalled and cannot move, so a new engine is attached that burns coal. Knowing it is dangerous, it goes through a tunnel and the toxic fumes kill everyone on board (stupid). When Dagny hears about it, she returns to work to fix the problem (going against the directive-eek!) and more drama happens. Men are in love with her and get rejected, etc, etc. Eventually Dagny finds her way on to a train where she (and we) finally learn about the mysterious John Galt. We learn he was a real person, the first to leave and walk off. He also said he would "stop the motor of the world" and Dagny's new quest is to find him.

Did you get all that? It was a lot and I attempted to simplify. Basically the economy is in chaos and people are freaking out. Capitalism seems to be failing and Dagny simply can't get a good man.

What I noticed most in this section was the high level of talk on the role of companies, big businesses, etc in the role of a government. Everyone in the book freaked out when the directive was passed and forced them to think outside of making money and being successful on their own. There was also a lot of drama surrounding Dagny and her relationships with the men around her. Even though Reardan is scuzzy, I still kind of like him (who knows why). I also still really like the character of Dagny. She is no nonsense and sassy, which is something I love.

Going into this third part, I am hoping for some answers. I want more information on the character of John Galt. I want to know how it all ends. And I want Rand to stop shoving philosophy at me in such an obvious way (every time she does this I throw the book down. My book is dented...a lot. I like to punish her for assuming I am stupid and can't read between the lines).

What I really hate about her writing is that she never acknowledges other feelings about what she has to say. She presents everything as if to say "this is how it is." For someone who believes something very different than what she does, I have a hard time with this. There are other viewpoints, beliefs, and ideas about the way the world should work. At least acknowledge that you might not have all the answers lady.

(On that same note, that exact writing style is probably why so many people can relate and love this story. By putting it all out there, Rand gives readers something to latch on to and believe in. I just don't necessarily buy it-many do).

More than anything, I want to be done and move on. This experience is rather draining and I am sick of being on my toes, know what I mean?

If you are participating, please leave a comment below so I may link it here. Visit other participants' blogs and comment away! We have one more chunk to go and that post will be up on April 30th.

Christina (thoughts on whole book)
Adam (Linking again-his thoughts on whole book)