Category Archives: Reading/Books

A home for all those books

I promised that once I had pictures uploaded on the computer, I would update my blog with some of the pictures. Since we just finished the second shelf last weekend, I thought I would share our bookshelf project.

Back story: a few months before our wedding, a friend of ours who is (as we call him) a “master woodworker” asked us what we would like him to make for us for a wedding present. Being the genius that I am, I suggested some bookshelves for the large amount of books my husband and I have. So our friend made them for us, but since we wanted to paint them black, he left them unfinished for us to do the painting. 

We got one of the bookshelves a few months after the wedding (I think he’s a procrastinator) but we didn’t paint it for a few weeks. We got the other bookshelf about a month ago (yeah, he’s a big procrastinator) and painted it last weekend. And honestly, for a can of paint and a can of primer, some brushes, and a few hours of elbow grease, I thought they turned out pretty darn well.

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How did I do?

Alright, time to take a look at my March goals and see how well I did. Don’t hold your breaths:

My March Goals:

  1. Spend at least 30 minutes cleaning after work every day, BEFORE t.v., computer, etc., Monday-Thursday (I figure I have some leeway on Fridays). – Kind of, sort of. Some days I slacked, and some days are really good. I’m going to try to redo this one in April.
  2. Go through my clothes and donate the unwanteds to charity. –  That was a big NADA.
  3. Read at least five books (this will also benefit my March’s book blog – February’s will be posted soon). – I got three read fully and two almost finished. So I didn’t quite make it. Boo.
  4. Have a great (not just good) day at work. – No. And I don’t see this happening any time soon.
  5. Walk the dogs at least once a week. – Yeah! Finally one accomplished. We even bought Molly a new harness to make our walking easier.
  6. Cook something from scratch at least twice. – Nope.
  7. Host a dinner party. – Another nope.
  8. Get all my lesson plans for the rest of the year done (this could help number 4, as well). – Almost. I have about one week of unaccounted school time – I just need to figure out what to do that last week of school.
  9. Cut back my internet time to 30 minutes a day (yikes!) – school work doesn’t count. – Yeah, I’m not so sure about this one.
  10. Figure out a better way to organize our recyclables in the garage. – I did figure it out – just haven’t put it into place yet

Alright, 20% fully completed is not a good number, although I guess I did get a lot of partially completeds in there (but they still don’t count). I need to work a bit on this. I’m going to think of my April goals and get back to this. Let’s hope April goes better than March!

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February Book Blog

My husband has been (dare I say?) nagging me to post my book blog for this month. And yes, it is already March 10th (1/3 of the way through, yes!) and yes, I really need to get on it, so here goes. Unfortunately, I was lazy this month and only read two books. I blame it on the short month, however. Also, the lack of reading this month lead to one of my goals for March (see below).

This month I read Object Lessons by Anna Quindlen and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Object Lessons was a Boston used book store find back in November, and it was sitting on my night stand for about two months before I finally picked it up and read it. And once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Once again, Anne Quindlen amazed me (I had read Blessings by her last year). The book focuses on the Scanlan family and the different generations. The Scanlan family is a notorious family in the town for both their clout and their riches. The family is dominated by John Scanlan, a business man who is despised by much of his family, yet is obeyed without question. Much of the family focuses on John, his outsider daughter-in-law Connie, and Connie’s daughter and John’s well-loved granddaughter, Maggie. Through this novel (which was categorized by some as YA Lit on Amazon.com but I don’t buy into that really), the reader is shown the pressures of family. While it took me some time, for one reason or another, to get past the first few pages, once I dove into this book, I rarely came up to breathe.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle might be considered a bit of a cop-out this month, since I had technically read it before, although it has been at least 10 years since I’ve read it. I picked it up one afternoon during silent reading time in my class (I had it on my classroom bookshelf and wanted to model good reading), took it home with me, and finished it that night (my students were amazed). In that short 24-hour period, everything that I loved about this book when I was a middle schooler came rushing back to me: the “adultness” of the book without it being risque or too mature, the action of the book, the true emotion. I think I remember wanting to BE Charlotte Doyle the first time I read it, and I am sure that I had written some of my own “adventure on the sea”-type novels soon afterwards. This book focuses on a young girl who is traveling across the ocean in the 1800s aboard a ship that is run by cruel and savage captain and his mutinous crew. Charlotte finds herself in the middle of it all and must take sides eventually. It was a good book, although I must admit, the ending had a “deux et machina” feel to it, although in young adult literature (YA Lit), a happy/hopeful ending is often the recipe. Overall, I really enjoyed reading the book again. It should be no surprise that the book I am currently reading is a YA Lit book as well.

Well, that’s all until March. I promise to better on the reading front this time. I need to achieve SOME of my goals for this month. 🙂

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Book Blog I

**Note: I began typing this on January 25, hence the discrepancy with the dates.

Books Bought/Received This Month:
The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory
The Boleyn Inheritance, Philippa Gregory
The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory
The Wise Woman, Philippa Gregory
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
John Adams, David McCullough
1776, David McCullough
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon
Daniel Isn’t Talking, Marti Leimbach
Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

Books Read This Month:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Daniel Isn’t Talking
The Boleyn Inheritence
The Constant Princess

My husband told me I should post my book blogs around the 25th of each month, since Christmas is on the 25th of December and that’s when I got a majority of the books for this month. Of course, he suggested this to me this morning, and then I realized, “Hey, today is the 25th. I better get posting.” So here you are with the first book blog (hence the name, “Book Blog I”).

 Okay, so I got a lot more books than I have read so far. But I am also halfway through two other books, but I surely can’t post about them until I finish them. Plus,  I read four(and a half) books so far this year, which means at this rate I am well on my way to reading at least 50 books this year, and that’s pretty cool. However, reflecting back on my first month’s reading, I realize that I might have to keep a reading diary to help me remember what I read.

So the first book I read was The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory. I actually started reading this book on Christmas Day, and finished a large majority of it that afternoon, while my husband was playing his new Wii games. This book was undoubtedly my favorite one by Gregory thus far. A bulk of Gregory’s writing focuses on the Tudor family of 15th and 16th century England: Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn. This book was written from the perspective of Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. In other books I had read by Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl), Katherine was featured but not prominent. The focus was more on Anne Boleyn, who ultimately steals Henry from Katherine and becomes his second wife. While I had some idea who she was and her story, this book brought her to a new light. I don’t think I have ever been so inspired by a book character than I was by Katherine in this novel. Despite the fact that her first husband dies and she is forced to marry his selfish younger brother, who is many years younger than her and blames her for not having a son, takes a mistress, puts her aside, exiles her from the kingdom, disowns their daughter, forces her to say their marriage was not legitimate, and ultimately causes her death, Katherine does not even flinch. She is graceful, selfless, and feels completely in the right. Her devotion to her religion of Catholicism, in a newly-formed Protestant world, is unwavering. Gregory takes a tragic historic figure and transforms her into a character that is charming, believable, and inspiring. I doubt I will find another Gregory book that I love so much.

The Boleyn Inheritence is the other Philippa Gregory book I got for Christmas. This book was interesting because Gregory wrote it from the perspective of three different characters: Jane Boleyn, sister-in-law to Anne; Anne of Cleeves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife; and Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. I really found this book compelling because it helped us get more into the psyche of the crazy king, Henry. Plus, in this book, history really did repeat itself with the characters of Anne of Cleeves and Katherine – Anne of Cleeves is almost a mirror image of Katherine of Aragon, in both her manner and her grace; while Katherine Howard is not only a kin of Anne Boleyn, but as young and stupid as her predecessor as well. Plus, in this book, Henry is much older, much uglier, and – dare we say – much more, erm, sterile. However, in Tudor England, infertility is a fault of the women alone, so to understand what these women go through at the hand of their so-called husbands is enlightening. Of course, it also, as I told my husband, made me hate men a little bit more for what they put women  through during the time. My only issue with this book is that Jane Boleyn is a supposed “bad guy,” but her antagonistic ways were not very apparent to me. In fact, I did not even know that she was supposed to be a villianess until I was purusing Gregory’s website one day. 

The next two books I read I got while I was in Atlanta visiting my parents. I have recently become fascinated with autism and its different strands. I think much of this is due in part to the student I have mentioned with Asperger’s. So after getting $75 worth of B&N gift cards for Christmas, we decided to stop by the store near my parents house so I could redeem the cards. There was a book that I was interested in,  Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, by John Elder Robison, but apparently it has gained  a lot of popularity lately and they were all out. However, the friendly B&N Reference Center lady did recommend to me The Curious Incident . . .  so I decided to check it out. While there, I also found another book (Daniel Isn’t Talking) that was in the sale section for $5 (a hardback, no less! Score!) and decided for $5, I would give it a shot.

The Curious Incident of the Dog is an interesting book in the way it is written. It kind of reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Breakfast of Champions but in a more likeable way. Like BoC, this book uses little anecdotes and less traditional ways of writing, such as math of equations actually written on the page. Plus, because the main character is a teenage boy with Asperger’s, it is difficult to get into his mind sometimes. You feel some distance from the main character, but I supposed this is the catch of this book, considering one of the main “symptoms” of Autism is the distance from other people and the lack of social skills. While I wasn’t necessarily WOWED like the lady at B&N said I would be, this was definitely an interesting (and fast) read; once I picked the book up, I didn’t want to stop reading. It also incorporates other life events in it as well – lying, affairs, snooping neighbors – so if you don’t necessarily have an interest in Autism like I do, it is still a good read.

The other book, Daniel Isn’t Talking, to put it bluntly, had me in tears at some points. Now, I have become more emotional in my young adult life than I ever was before, but it is hard for a book to make me want to cry out of joy. However, this book did just that. Unlike The Curious Incident, this book is told from the perspective of a mother who just found out her three year-old has autism. Despite this diagnosis, the mother, Melanie, strives to have a normal life for herself, Daniel, and her other daughter. Using a new sort of speech therapy to teach her son to communicate, and makes impressive gains with him without the use of a “special” school. Amidst this, Melanie has to deal with her jerkoff of a husband who takes off and starts dating his old girlfriend again (this book had me hating men for a while, too) and then comes crawling back to her at the end (I won’t spoil the ending . . . oh, okay, I will. I cheered for Melanie at this point!). I think what gets me the most with this book though is pure emotion this writing conveys (hence, the crying). The joy that Leimbach evokes as Melanie makes significant gains with her little boy is rather overpowering. This book definitely tops my list (and is now listed under My Favorite Books on Facebook).

Well, there you have it, the first book blog of the year. I already have my line-up for February going, and am well on my way for this month! It is my goal to read 50 books (at least) by the end of the year (100 would be better, although that might have to be my goal for 2010), and I think I am off to a good start, despite the fact that I bought way more books than I have read. Oh, well, as my Manteo Book Sellers shirt from the Outer Banks says: “You can never have too many books!”  🙂

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I’d rather be bit by a vampire than read Twilight

While we’re on the subject of books . . .

When I was in seventh grade, I was on a writing spree. I wrote two large (150+ pages of looseleaf note paper, front and back) “books” that were the accomplishment of that year. Those books focused on my friends and I and our “meetings” with certain celebrities – more specifically, the Backstreet Boys (I was a little obsessed). While not well-written by any means, I realize now that if I had stuck with it, I could have had had an award winning Young Adult book series, because my books were undoubtedly 100 times more well written than a little popular book series known as the Twilight series. In fact, if you had changed my character’s love affair with the lead singer of BSB to a vampire and set it in western U.S., you would have probably Twilight, only better.

Now, perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “Well, of course you don’t like the Twilight books. You were an English major and all English majors are book snobs and cannot see past their Dickinson and Shakespeare and Wordsworth.” To which I would reply, that yes, in a former life, I was an English major, but now I am a seventh grade language arts teacher, which means that none of those writers exist in my professional life at all. In fact, in the past six months, I spend more time talking about myspace and the Jonas Brothers and Judy Blume than I ever do of any “weighty” author. In addition, anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of popular, Young Adult literature series: Harry Potter, Eragon, Lemony Snicket, His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass). I would in no way consider myself a book snob in that regards because I truly love reading that genre of books.

So, when a friend recommended the Twilight books to me, and another acquaintance mentioned how she liked them MORE than Harry Potter (heresy!), and when more and more of my students started reading them, I decided I needed to give them a go. Luckily, I borrowed the book from one of my students and did not spend any money on the book, because it would be the first time I could truly say I regretted spending money on a book in my life. I cannot even describe my disappointment and frustration at this book. I cannot believe that this book is a New York Times Best seller and critically acclaimed and – this is the clincher – still being published!

One of my favorite song writers and bloggers wrote about it best in his own blog. You can read it here:

http://www.andyosenga.com/2008/12/18/twilight-a-negative-rabbit-room-review/

I was considering reading the second book after I finished the first one, to see if it got any better, but I have decided that my time would be better spend reading GOOD books. While I am sometimes critical of popular, contemporary fiction (i.e. The Lovely Bones, The DaVinci Code), I have never been so shocked at the popularity of such a badly written book (and its sequels). As a person, I feel as though I should be protesting this book in the streets. The catch 22 is, however, that it is getting my students to read, which is always a goal of mine, so,unfortunately, I have to live with seeing twenty copies of the book trailing through my classroom every day, and numerous posters and pictures of the movie being plastered on folders and daily agendas and binders right before my very eyes. I wonder if I can convince these kids to read any Wordsworth?

However, I do realize now why my seventh graders like the books so much. It is because it is written exactly like a seventh grader would write a book!

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Open the cover and come take a journey

For those of you who are unaware, which I am sure is not many of you, I am a book worm. I got a lot of books for Christmas, and I have read a lot of books since Christmas. I also gave a few books for Christmas, especially to my husband. One of the books I gave him was a Nick Hornby book that, for a year, kept track of the books Hornby bought and read each month and then review about. Actually, each essay was from a magazine Believer that Hornby wrote for each month. J has gotten quite a few book recommendations from reading this Hornby book and another one similar to it, and I have also glanced through it and read a few of the reviews.

Earlier this week, I saw on a message board someone with a post that mentioned reading 25 books in 2009. While part of me admired this person’s resolve, I also realized that I could easily beat this person in a reading contest. I am well on my way towards 50 books in 2009, and perhaps even more. While I have always loved reading, and growing up, would read a book a day, in my high school and college years I found reading for pleasure taking a backseat as reading for school became more a priority. Required reading for college classes left me with little time or ambition to read on my own. While I would sometimes pick up a book to read, for the most part, I read very little, as least comparatively to my younger years. However, lately, I have found myself with a craving to read. J and I read almost every night in bed, sometimes for an hour or more. We will often find ourselves not planning anything on Saturdays so that we can spend most of the day curled up on the couch, reading. My husband has always been a voracious reader, perhaps even more so than myself, and recently I have rediscovered that voracity as well.

So I have become inspired by Mr. Hornby’s own writing and have decided to emulate him with some book recollecting and reviewing myself. So my New Year’s Resolution is to follow in his footsteps. Each month, I will list the books I have bought (or received) and the books I have read. I will also review the books that I have read, both for your benefit and mine. Let’s think of it as a diary of reading. While I want people to know what I thought about the books that I have read, I also would like to keep track of a year of my reading and reflect back on what I have read, what I have bought (or gotten), and my opinions on them.

At the end of the month, I will post my first one. I am going to start with the books I received and started reading at Christmas, because there have definitely been some good ones. Hopefully, this will turn out to be a beneficial journey for all of us.

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