Sunday, August 29, 2010

Themed Reading: Ireland

It is settled: we are going to Ireland.  The plane tickets are already purchased, (remarkably ahead of time for the spur-of-the-moment people my husband and I are,) and the next thing that needs doing is planning some themed reading.  I want to have lovely Irish bookish pictures floating through my head while celebrating St. Patrick's Day on the lovely island.  Do you have any must-read recommendations for me?  This is what is already on my shelf:
(Irish books upstage the school books I'm supposed to be organizing and scheduling.)
I need to pre-read Flame Over Tara for my son for school this year anyhow (I believe it to be a story of St. Patrick) so this trip is good motivation.

I can't believe I haven't read Angela's Ashes (maybe that should have made my Top Ten List) but the first paragraph has me hooked--that won't take me long.

Paddy's Lament is a nonfiction book about the Great Irish Famine.  I received this for my birthday and can't wait to get into it.

Dubliners was on my Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't Read Yet list; and it's nice and thin which is a bonus.

Anything else I need to add?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife: A NovelTitle: The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
Pages: 507
Published: 2009 Random House
Read For: Monday Night Book Club

Honestly?  I had a hard time reading this book and would not have picked it up in the first place were it not the August selection for my Monday Night Book Club, simply because the subject matter is not an easy one for me to read about.  This fact may color my review.

This book tells a dual story:  first of Ann Eliza Young, an historical figure in the Mormon Church's early days who escaped a plural marriage with Brigham Young; second of Jordan Scott, the estranged son of a plural wife in modern day Utah accused of the murder of his father, her husband.  Because of the semi-biographical nature of part of the book (Ann Eliza Young did exist, was married--and divorced--from Brigham Young, and wrote her autobiography "Wife No. 19" in 1875) it often left me confused, wondering what parts of the book were real, and which were imagined.  The Author's Note and Reader's Guide in the back of the book answered many of these questions, and I almost wonder if it would have been better to read these prior to reading the novel; perhaps it would have allowed me to relax into the story more.

The novel mixes articles and letters into the two different narratives, and generally does a good job in pace between the different time periods (it seemed heavy on the modern story at the beginning, and heavy on the historical story at the end.) The modern portion had too much swearing for my taste, although it wasn't unrealistic considering the circumstances, and not quite so extreme as to be overwhelming.  One of the minor characters at the beginning of the novel (Roland) seemed rather clich├ęd to me, which made it difficult for me to get into the book.

What stayed with me after reading the novel is the tension I felt throughout.  The author did a great job showing the effects of plural marriage: the disheartening destruction of self-worth, not only for the women involved, but for the children.  What a horrible thing to use someone's faith and conviction as a means for condoned abuse.  The corruption and pain in this book made it difficult for me to read much at a time.  The small flickers of hope weren't enough to dispel the atmosphere of heartbreak.  Do I feel more educated? more empathetic?  Yes, I think I do.  But I also feel sad.  Somewhat hopeless, and sad.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't Read

It's Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and The Bookish, and this week's list was the easiest for me to come up with by far.  Top Ten Authors I Haven't Read would have been almost as easy as this assignment (unfortunately).

The Top Ten Books I Can't BELIEVE I Haven't Read are:

1. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens.  (a.k.a. anything by Dickens other than A Christmas Carol.)  Sad.  Shameful.  I'm currently working on remedying this, thank goodness.

A Room with a View2. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf. (a.k.a. anything by Woolf--see what I'm talking about?) This has not only been on my shelf for years, but it's even been in my immediate reading pile quite often.  Somehow it just keeps slipping away and landing back on my TBR shelf.

3. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky. (a.k.a. anything by Dostoevsky.  mmm-hmmm.) I justify this one by asserting that I've read Tolstoy's War and Peace AND Anna Karenina and hope that makes it sound like I'm getting to Dostoevsky just as soon as possible.

4. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster.  (a.k.a. anything, nevermind. You get the point.) I started reading this and then got swamped with book club books and ARCs I needed to finish.  Time to give some ARCs a pass.

5. Middlemarch, George Eliot.  Or Daniel Deronda, which I might actually read first.  Yes, George Eliot falls into the aforementioned author's club.

6. Dubliners, James Joyce.  Need you ask?  I simply picked Dubliners because that's the book of his I already own.

7. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck.  I can NOT believe I didn't read this in high school.
Doctor Zhivago
8. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.  I was actually assigned to read this in high school and I just couldn't do it.  Fantasy is generally not my friend.

9. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.  This wasn't even on my TBR list until I actually watched the movie and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

10. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak.  I swooned over this movie as a teen, and watched it over and over again.  And I still haven't read it.  For shame.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Literary ADD

Hi.  My name is Melody, and I have Literary ADD.

I've been diagnosed by a bookish friend (and since I have but few, her opinion is weighty.)

I know I'm not the only one.  In fact, I would venture a guess that many of you out there have at least a touch of it as well (at least I'm going to do my best to make it seem that way!)

How do you define Literary ADD? you may ask.  Well let's see.  I found a website that defines ADD like this:
Attention Deficit Disorder is a biologically based condition causing a persistent pattern of difficulties resulting in one or more of the the following behaviors:

So then, Literary ADD would be those things...but with books.  Right?

How does this translate to my reading habits and enjoyment of books?  First, inattention.  Why focus solely on blogging when I could be breaking it up by checking my email every other minute?  Sitting down to write (or blog) or even, sometimes, read...when there are so many things to be done occasionally takes super-human strength for me.  I get a fair amount of reading done as it is, but I'm sure it could be more if I'd simply stop checking Google Reader to see if anyone out there has a new blog post.

What about hyperactivity?  How does that possibly fit in?  Consider this: how many books do you read at a time?  Why read one book at a time when it would make much more sense to have something going for each mood: nonfiction, classic, book club, junior fiction, ARC, etc.  How many books are on your [virtual] TBR list?  Why confine a TBR list to 20 books when it could easily have over 200?

I don't think I even need to explain impulsivity.  I can't let myself walk into a bookstore unless I'm prepared for the inevitable impulse purchase.  I keep stacks of books around me, waiting for an impulse to hit me--demanding immediate reading.  My book selection process (deciding what to read next) is largely dependent on impulse.  I don't know if I'm capable of reading a list of books in order...the impulse is half the fun!

It's true, sometimes these issues cramp my style.  Sometimes I'd love to be able to just pick up the next book in line, and sit down for hours, completely absorbed in the book.  Sometimes I get frustrated at my apparent inability to stop following those impulses.  But then I'll finish a book and have that delicious feeling bubble up inside me.  I think, "Oooh, what should I read next?" and all dissatisfaction melts away.

It's a Hopping Friday Somewhere

It's not quite Friday here yet, but why wait to start blog hopping?  It's Friday somewhere, right?
Book Blogger HopCheck out some of the great blogs on Crazy-for-Books...I found some great blogs last week, and I'm hoping to find some more this week.  This week question asks how many blogs we, as book bloggers, follow.  My Google Reader says that I'm following 65 blogs.  While I love finding new blogs to follow, I also try to keep my number manageable, since I do like to read everything that comes my way.  I do enjoy visiting more blogs than that, however, so please leave me a comment so I can be sure to visit you!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anne Bradstreet by D.B. Kellogg

Anne Bradstreet (Christian Encounters Series)Title: Anne Bradstreet
Author: D.B. Kellogg
Pages: 156
Published: 2010 Thomas Nelson
Read For: a Review for BookSneeze
My Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Not knowing much (if anything) about Anne Bradstreet, and being in the mood for a quick biography, requesting this book in exchange for a review seemed liked a good idea.  Anne Bradstreet was a Puritan wife, mother, and daughter, but she was also an educated, published poet (her first book of poetry was published in 1650.)  I am guessing that there isn't much, historically, known about Anne, because this small book is focused much more on the world she lived in: customs, politics, religion.  There seems to be more details about her husband and father than her, which makes sense for the time period.

Occasionally a few pages would be devoted to relating a specific sermon that Anne most likely would have been familiar with, and while relevant to church history, I found myself skimming in order to find out more about Anne in particular.  Details about how the early Puritans lived helped to create a frame of reference for thinking about Anne Bradstreet's life and poetry.  While this wasn't the most engaging book to read, (even as compared to other nonfiction historical accounts and biographies,) it was quick and filled with many facts that add to an understanding of Puritans and the time and places in which they lived.  I loved this quote of Anne's, "When I come into Heaven, I shall understand perfectly what [the Lord] hath done for me, and then shall I be able to praise him as I ought."  Now that's perspective.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Princess of the Midnight BallTitle: Princess of the Midnight Ball
Author: Jessica Day George
Pages: 272
Published: 2009 Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers

I'll be honest.  I almost didn't buy this book because of the cover.  I much prefer a well illustrated cover to a photographed cover--the reality of the photograph outside the book sits in high contrast to the fiction inside the book and leaves me with a skeptical uneasy feeling.  This post made me remember how I loved the Dragon Slippers series that Jessica Day George wrote, (which I bought and pre-read for my kiddos earlier this year,) and convinced me to give one of her other books a shot.  What I didn't realize (silly me) is that it is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses--one of my absolute favorite childhood fairy tales.

Simply put, Jessica Day George is a talented lady.  She has a great sense of balance--her characters are interesting but not overwritten, her plots are gripping yet evenly paced, she includes a love-interest without making it the focus of the book.  I've read four of her six books, and my experiences have all been good.  Because of the fluid writing and the captivating (yet tame) content, her books can be enjoyed by younger advanced readers as well as the older reader looking for a quick read.  If you or your children have enjoyed Gail Carson Levine's retellings (Ella Enchanted, Fairest) or if you know someone who enjoys a good dragon story, please take a look at Jessica Day George.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsTitle: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Author: Maya Angleou
Pages: 285
Published: 2009 Random House (orig. 1969)
My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first in a series of chronological autobiographies by Maya Angelou.  While very aware of Maya Angelou's name, (and what a lyrical name she has,) I was distinctly unaware of anything else about her.  (I'd like to thank The Blue Bookcase for the review that spurred me to dive in.)  This book gives you the background of her childhood, and a chance to see the world through her eyes.

I have to admit that I began reading the book without much thought as to when she grew up or when the book was published, which I am certain detracted somewhat from my initial reaction.  When I found myself thinking that the content didn't seem to be ultra-incredibly-wonderful, I immediately stopped myself, re-read the copyright page (I love copyright pages--a wealth of information!) and reminded myself that not only is it a Nonfiction account, but it was written in a time when shocking or therapeutic memoirs weren't all the rage.

There is something magical about the way Maya Angelou sets words down on paper.  She sees the world through a wider lens, and isn't afraid to be honest about all the thoughts and confusion that swirled around in her head.  Indeed, she seems to see clearly those complicated parts of life that most people are content to leave unconsidered.  Her ability to single out personality and relationship characteristics is thought-provoking.

Don't let the fact that this ended up being an introspective read for me make you think that it is universally introspective.  Much happens in the 15 or so years in this book--there really isn't a boring spot.  Little Marguerite (a.k.a. My and Maya) goes through so many things that it is a wonder she rose above.  Not only that, but she grew up in the midst of an historical period in United States history.  Read it for the accurate historical account, read it for the shared personal anguish, read it for the musical writing, read it for the introspection, but do read it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Counting Calories

Summer Book Buying Ban...pffft.  My Summer Slimdown seems to be lightening my bookshelf about as much it's lightening my hair (which is to say, of course, that it isn't.)  Between book clubs and review copies, I'm nearly done in.  I counted 12 new books that came into my house in the last month!  And me thinking I'm slimming down...

The Song of the LarkTwo PaperbackSwap books came my way: Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (I read this on my Kindle and needed a real copy) and The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  At least one of them I've already read, so that's not exactly making my shelf heavier.
The 19th Wife: A Novel
I have two book clubs, and they each meet every four weeks or so, but for some reason I bought four book club books in the last month.  I guess July I was procrastinating and August I was on the ball.  For my Monday Night book club, I didn't read (because I was out of town, missed the meeting, and loaned the book to someone else) Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell.  I need to read The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff before the end of the month.  For my Thursday Night book club (which may start to meet on Monday nights...this might get confusing) I just finished reading The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (my review here) and am excited to read Little Bee by Chris Cleave next.
Little Bee: A Novel
More review books than usual came to me in the last month as well.  I received Anne Bradstreet by D.B. Kellogg from BookSneeze, Where's My Stuff by Samantha Moss and Crap from Zest Books (my review of Crap) and Masquerade by Nancy Moser from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers (I must learn to be more judicious in my Early Reviewer requests...I had no idea I'd requested this one.)

I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsFinally, I hid two of my own choices in the mix.  My excuse is that I needed to place my order with Amazon immediately from my phone, and they were already in my cart...deleting them or moving them to my wishlist seemed like too much work at that point.  First is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (impulse buy based off of a review on The Blue Bookcase).  I finished this today, and plan on blowing through the other: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (Junior Fiction) tonight.  I was waffling on buying this one, but after remembering how much I enjoyed her Dragon Slippers series, I decided to go for it.

So there it is:  12 new books in the last month or so.  I was wondering why my shelf didn't seem any lighter.