Sunday, December 19, 2010


There are those works that leave you hopeless. Once you finish rifling through its pages you're heartbroken and the rest of your day is ruined for the loss of those beautiful words. The characters, plot, writing have touched you in a way that makes it futile to even try for happiness. Your life seems simple and trivial in comparison and you wish for the world of the book back.

Welcome to my current state of being.

I have just put down "Anne of the Island", the third installment of the 'Anne of Green Gables' series. The past two books were enjoyable and I grew to love Anne, the charismatic, imaginative, charming girl of Canada. But it was the third book that blew me away. Anne goes to college to get her BA and she's truly grown up now. Her struggles, triumphs, dashed hopes, and confused romances echoed my own experiences. I connected with Anne in this book as I hadn't in the others. Her encounters with romance and her tarnished girlhood images of what romance should be resonated with me. After four years at college, her sense of loss at having to leave the place that was her home and the girls who became her best friends was almost an exact match to the despondent feelings I felt at leaving my own Alma Mater.

In Anne I find a hero, an ideal, a girl to whom I should aspire. She is good, loving, and kind yet she has faults. I want to be as decided and clear in my morals and attitudes as she is on the page. Anne has become royalty in my world of literary characters. She is a new favorite, the likes of which is rare to find in literature and the world.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An Unfortunate Read

As I review my posts, I've noticed I hardly have a bad word to say about most books. That is, of course, because I have excellent taste (insert sarcasm). Well finally I have a negative review! I'm rather excited, so get ready for my ferocious analysis!

I tried. I really did. I gave Lemony Snicket a few tries and he continues to disappoint me. Book five of the Series of Unfortunate Events, "The Austere Academy", was indeed unfortunate. I can't learn to like the characters and I spend the whole book waiting for the end when it will be done. I couldn't even finish this book. What do children see in these books? Poor orphans continuously afraid for their lives and without hope of happiness or love except between themselves. Honestly the only reason I picked this up was to figure out what happens in the end. I suppose I should have just picked up the last book, "The End", to see how things turn out. Call me old fashioned, but I like keeping things in order.

Snicket warns of the sad turn out of his characters and he really should be taken at his word. At the beginning of this book I'm pretty sure he even says don't read this if you don't like depressing stories. Why didn't I stop there?! It's because that's how they're marketed. Like they know they suck, but people like an adventure, so by saying "Do Not Enter!" it will attract people who think "I'm daring!". Again let me tell you, you don't hate yourself this much! It's not a fun adventure! Let me liken this to an owner giving a dog a slice of cheese. O how that dog loves cheese, but wait! What's that terrible taste? It's the pill that was inserted inside the cheese. That's right pup, you were fooled.

Maybe some people out there like the writing and the storytelling the books have to offer, but my recommendation is to leave them on the shelf. They look pretty, but what a waste of time! I think Young Adult/Children's literature has a lot to offer. This series makes me eat my words, and they sure do taste bitter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Searing order of pessimism with a side of humble pie

You got to give it to Anthony Bourdain, the guy can break people down. No one is safe from his scalding tongue, yet sometimes that's just what I need. In "Medium Raw", his latest book, he is beginning to mellow out. Although still critical of upscale dining, food critics, and chefs alike, he takes the time to apologize for past injuries he may have inflicted and enjoy life around him.

If you like Tony's show "No Reservations", then you'll enjoy his writing. He writes like he speaks, which I find enjoyable. I could hear his voice in my head (I'm not schizophrenic I swear!) reading me line for line.  At certain instances I found myself lost when he started naming off different food world people and places.

I like Bourdain. He's cynical and sometimes it seems like nothing is good enough for him, but this guy knows his shit (potty mouth inspired by Tony). He loves food and he loves the people who put their heart into their work. I can appreciate that. Obviously when Tony doesn't like you, watch your ass. But his brass balls are refreshing. He's giving it to the man, something I could never do and it's nice to know that 10 course meals and overpriced fare are not all the bee's knees. Just because something has a high price tag or was made by someone famous doesn't mean it will be spectacular. Maybe that's obvious, but I always need reminding that everything that glitters ain't always gold!

I enjoyed reading this book for the most part. There were instances I felt the need to put it down and read something more cheery. Still it was an easy read, and out of my typical scope of reading. Again, if you're a Bourdain fan, give it a go. If you're a foodie, this is for you. If you know nothing about cuisine or Bourdain, maybe leave this one be.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Beautiful Novel

The Help was perhaps one of the best books I've read in a while. It's taken from three different perspectives and seamlessly woven together. The story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi 1962. Skeeter, who has just graduated from college is scorned by her mother for not having her MRS, but she wants to become a writer. Aibileen is an older black maid who works for a white family. Minnie is a fiery black woman who works as a maid, but has crossed the wrong white lady. Their lives tangle together when Skeeter decides to share their side of the story; what it's like to be a black maid working for a white family.

Kathyrn Stockett did a phenomenal job writing this book. She captured the helplessness, heartbreak, anxiety, joy, and frustration of the characters. Her writing recalled my own hurts and it felt like she had taken the words that I couldn't form for myself and written them down in this book.

I actually listened to this book on tape, which I always think is cheating in a way. After hearing this read to me, I will never think that again. It actually made all the difference having it read to me. The dialog is written in southern dialect, so it's easier to say the words out loud anyway. With three perspectives, it helped having three different readers. I would highly recommend listening to this book, or just reading it for that matter. The story was rich and I could not stop listening. I thought I would only listen to it in the car, but I found myself popping it into my DVD player and just sitting and staring off, imagining what was happening.

O and for those of you who like reading books before they are raped by the silver screen, you may want to give this one a read pretty soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Joys and Perils of Perusing the Libraray

I currently have five books staring me in the face and one that I'm listening to. I thought I would be reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, but then the library let me know Medium Rare by Anthony Bourdain was in. Middlemarch gets pushed to the bottom of the pile because all the books I have are borrowed either from the library or from friends.

Isn't it funny how even with a reading list you always seem to find other books that make it in front of those you have oh so carefully chosen as "must reads"? I sometimes think of my reading list as a fall back. Just in case I'm not in the mood to search through the stacks I can always look at it. But there is something so exciting and invigorating about finding a treasure among so many other books. That first instant of seeing a book that looks good, reading the synopsis on the back or inside cover, and wondering what kind of story is waiting for you inside. This is the closest I come to having that child-like feeling of pure joy; The Christmas morning, snow day feeling. Thus while working at the elementary school library I stumbled on Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. I love young adult/childrens' literature. It has that magic and creativity in it that is sometimes hard to find in adult fiction. Along with that, I decided to continue trudging my way through The Series of Unfortunate Events. I've read the first four and haven't been too fond of the depressing stories and condescending writing, but it's been long enough since I last read one that I've decided to try again.

I'm also listening to The Help by Kathyrn Stockett. I LOVE it so far! I don't often listen to books on tape because I think it's cheating (I know that's silly), but I would recommend this book on tape. The readers are fantastic and the story is rich. More to come on this piece later.

Well since I have a daunting pile of books in front of me and even more on my list I better get reading (and decorating my Christmas tree).

Happy Reading.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Halloween Tree

Seeing as I'm cheap and prefer to borrow some books from the library, I didn't get Ray Bradbury's book, The Halloween Tree until after Halloween. So much for my Halloween spirit.

Well this book is about young Tom Skeleton and his gang of Trick-or-Treaters. It's Halloween night and the boys go to meet their best bud Pipkin at a strange secluded, squeky house at the edge of town. There they meet Mr. Moundshroud, the eerie Tim Burton-esque man, who takes the boys on a journey to discover why Halloween exists. 

The book was creepy at places, especially as I thought about reading it to a child. It was an easy read and informative. I learned about different celebrations of the dead throughout history and the world. The writing flowed well and the pictures were great. This is a short book and is worth a quick read. I could certainly see a youngish boy liking this one. Perhaps it's the fact that I could see Tim Burton jumping all over this book that made me wary. I didn't have a problem with this book, but if it went on for much longer I don't think I would have felt inspired to continue reading. It wasn't an entrancing read for me, but seeing as this is a children's book, perhaps they would find more worth in the pages.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Good Witch Work

Now here is the book I was looking for around Halloween. This is a fun, easy read. What I really like about it is you have the past and recent past combined together. The majority of the book takes place in 1991 with a Harvard PhD student. Connie is intelligent and research obsessed. Over the summer, she must clean up her grandmother's old house, while trying to find an untapped primary source. Well lucky her!! Granny's house has a mystery or two up its sleeve. Here begins the tale of Deliverance Dane and her descendants.

The book presented the fun side of research (there's a fun side?). Yes the FUN side, where you interpret and figure out what the clues mean and how to piece together evidence, search for sources, and interrogate witches (ok I've never done that). Anywho, the book presented an arguably realistic look at how one digs deep into history. Along with that, I love a good witch tale, and this was one that took a different spin on it. The history part of this book takes place around 1692, the Salem witch trials. What a terrible time in our nation's history, but what if those people weren't just paranoid, blaming others for their problems, or mad about the changing role of women in culture? What if witches exist???

I like this book and would certainly recommend it as a fun read. Katherine Howe is a good writer. It flows well between the centuries and plot points. The ending is perhaps a bit odd, but it is an overall good read. Not life changing or worthy of much discussion, in my opinion, but a fun witchy work (who doesn't love some alliteration).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fun Website

Here's a fun website I just found that recommends books to you based on books you've read/want to read. I just found this and I always love having recommendations.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

If I lived there, I'd probably miss pumpkin spice lattes.

And so goes another book! Check off "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name". Although the title is cheesy, it actually accurately depicts the scope of the book. This non-fiction piece, written by Heather Lende, is about the small town of Haines, Alaska. Originally I thought this would be a bit more about the wildlife, water, mountains, and stuff to do, but I was happily surprised by its people centered approach. This is not a book about a place, so much as it is about the people who live in the place. Alaska has molded these people into who they are in this small town, but Heather focuses on her relationships and the personalities in Haines.

The book is a bit of a "here's what I learned from that" kind of book, but it's sweet. Heather writes obituaries for the local paper, so a lot of her stories talk about death, which is depressing, but they always come back to the joys of living (especially in Alaska). It's an easy read and I enjoyed getting to know the townees, even if I did roll my eyes once or twice at the obvious life lessons. One thing I took out of this book is even if those lessons are obvious, sometimes it takes a smack in the face to realize how true they are.

I enjoyed her stories about her everyday life, running along mountainous roads, seeing seals sunbathing, and catching moose babies and cubs in her back yard. She did a good job of making you feel like a part of the town. It was nice to get a small taste of living in Alaska even during it's blinding storms and dangerous living conditions. It must be a surreal life.

I suggest reading this book during the winter. It's perfect for snuggling up with a blanket, hot cup of coffee, and a roaring fire. Perhaps then you can really get the feel for what living in Haines, Alaska is like.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

These are a Few of my Favorite Things!

My Darling Sister makes a fine point. I will now dedicate this post to my favorites!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Aren't you excited?

Well picking books is like picking children, sort of. All of us bookies have favorites, but books have personalities. You love them for different reasons. Some because they allow you to escape everything ('The Hobbit'), some because they are meta ('The Power Book') and some because they touch you and speak to your soul ('The Awakening'). So for me I cannot put books in order of most favored to least, but I can mention some that have meant a lot to me (such as the ones above).

My go to book WHENEVER someone asks what is my favorite (don't you hate that question!) is
'Pride and Prejudice'. It's a classis and Jane Austen is a brilliant writer, sociologist and psychologist. First and foremost, Elizabeth Bennet, who's name I stole for my username, is perhaps the strongest literary woman out there. She states her mind, but isn't a bitch. She has manners, values, and a personality that resonates through the pages. At the same time, she isn't perfect. This is a woman who makes snap judgements about people and is proven wrong, but she learns from it. I can flip through this book any day and instantly feel better.
O and for those interested in more reasons to love Jane Austen give 'A Truth Universally Acknowledged' by Susannah Carson a shot. It's a collection of essays by all sorts of writers about Jane Austen and her works. It emphasizes my above point. A Truth Universally Acknowledged

'Grendel'- It has been a few years since I've read this book, but it still always comes back to my mind. It's about the monster of 'Beowulf', Grendel. But this isn't the cruel, mindless monster of legend. Grendel is existential, philosophical and emotional. This book is short, but chalk full of depth, but it's still accesible.

'The Hobbit'- As I said above, it's a trip. Literally it takes you to a far away land. Tolkein is brilliant! He created what every child wants, a make believe land, but this is no Never Never Land. There are different species, languages, cultures, mythologies. 'The Hobbit' is my favorite because it packs in all of those elements with a band of great characters, Bilbo, Gandalf, and all the dwarves. It's a fun adventure.

Ok I've named off a few of my favorites and explained why. There are so many more in there, but it's boring for me to do all the talking. I want to know what you recommend! What have become some of your favorites and why?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shivers down your back....

In order to get into the season I have decked out my apartment with pumpkins, a few Halloween decorations, and other fall favorites. But I needed to REALLY get into the halloween mindset, so a little Poe always does the trick (along with ghost shows and scary movies)! He may not be Wes Craven, but this is classic horror we're talking about people! He was the granddaddy of all the greats and he's just a creepy dead writer (anyone who was in love with a family member is kinda odd in my book).

SO...I read 'The Cask of Amontillado', a short little number that isn't frightening until you start thinking about it. It's a tale of revenge, as are a lot of Poe's pieces, and somewhat of the psychological consequences thereof. The ending was a little creepy to actually picture, but it's tame in comparison to other Poe stories, so I still think I need to read some more. I would suggest giving it a read. It takes a matter of minutes to get through, so why not? I still need some more Poe frights! 'The Black Cat' creeped me out when I was a kid. It reminds me a bit of pet semetary with the dead cat coming back to life. Poe must have been one messed up guy to think of all this stuff, but they say there's a thin line between genius and insane. I think Poe may have slipped a little bit between them.

A little later.....
Ok so I just picked up my Poe book again to read 'The Pit and the Pendulum' and I needed to talk some more about him. I adore his style. He doesn't start his stories off by giving background or reminding you that this is a story, he dives right into his subject as if you're part of all the has preceded. I always start off a bit confused about what's going on, but then he works you in. In 'The pit...', he begins with the characters mental state and it feels like he's working out his current frame of mind and situation to himself. Poe effortlessly makes his audience a part of the current situation, which is the most frightening part of his tales. You feel the damp walls that the character feels, hear the raven's caw, and fear for the outcome of the situation. He's brilliant, and although sometimes dry at first and the language can be difficult, Poe is a master.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fearful Symmetry

Let's get dirty!

Alright, I just read the book Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. To summarize: A set of twins are given their aunts flat in London upon her death with the condition that they must live in it for a year before selling. It's about the extremly close relationship between the twins, the neighbors, the ghost of dead auntie, and the cemetary that borders the flat. 
I thought it was an easy read and enjoyed it while I read it. Upon finishing the book I felt a little disappointed. I didn't feel I got anything out of the book. It ended somewhat abruptly and didn't feel like it fit with the rest of the book. Overall I wasn't impressed with it. This was by the same woman who wrote The Time Traveller's Wife, so I expected it to be good (even though I never read that book). There's no doubt that Audrey is a talented writer, but I wasn't a fan of most of the characters and, again, I thought the ending fell flat. 

Just started If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name- Heather Lende. It's nonfiction about a woman and her family living in Haines, Alaska. According to the blurb about this book and what I've uncovered thus far it's about the town, land, and people. I like Alaska and people, so let's give it a shot!

Next on the docket: The Pysick Book of Deliverance Dane

A Brief History of My Blog

Well I think this blog is rather self explanatory, but let me explain anyway. I have for as long as I've been able to read made reading lists. I have a drawer filled with scribbled out pages of books I want/wanted to read. Finally I digitized it!
But what is the use of reading all of these books and then forgetting them within a few years? I decided that I need someplace to talk about what I'm reading, ask questions, get suggestions, and hopefully other feedback.

I love reading and was an English major. I miss discussions, so instead of finishing a book and setting it aside, I decided to come the the world wide web. I want feedback!

So I will post the books I'm reading/read/want to read. I'll talk about what I think is interesting about my selections and hope that someone else comments and has some more literature to suggest.