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?