Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday Salon: Book-to-TV series

Greetings, Saloners! I got a lot of reading done this week:

The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #1: Stacey and the Missing RIng, Ann M. Martin
Chloe Does Yale, Natalie Krinsky
Four Things My Geeky-Jock-of-a-Best Friend Must Do in Europe, Jane Harrington
The Killing Joke, Alan Moore (graphic novel)
The Princess Diaries Volume II: Princess in the Spotlight, Meg Cabot
Ever, Gail Carson Levine
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle (audiobook)

I'm still reading Less Than Zero - it's pretty depressing reading, hence all the young adult novels. I have to keep mixing it up to stay happy.

One thing that makes me happy is (some) silly, fun chick lit. I read Zoe Dean's How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls earlier this year and really enjoyed it. So imagine my surprise and delight when I came across this ad for the new show Privileged on the CW:

The book was pretty good (if a bit predictable), but I'm not entirely sure how well it'll translate into a TV series. Gossip Girl is great, but the show has strayed significantly from the series. Plus, it's a series of books, so there are more stories to draw from. How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls has a definite beginning, middle, and end - how can you make a mult-season series out of that? Still, I'm pretty interested to see how they do it.

In other news, I love The Classic Tales podcast. I subscribed recently through iTunes (hence the Sherlock Holmes audiobook) and it's great! Much better than some of the other literature podcasts I've tried. Also, please visit my Weekly Geeks post and help me review some books. I've gotten a few questions so far, and I'll be posting my responses later this week. Lucky for me, Dewey's moving and has given us an extra week. :)

Happy reading!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekly Geeks #12

Here are the instructions for this week's Weekly Geeks:
1. In your blog, list any books you’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. If you’re all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s) you finish this week.
2. Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs. Most likely, people who will ask you questions will be people who have read one of the books or know something about it because they want to read it.
3. Later, take whichever questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book. I’ll probably turn mine into a sort of interview-review. Link to each blogger next to that blogger’s question(s).
4. Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them some questions!
I don't normally review all of the books that I read (I generally only review books I read for challenges), so I'm posting a list of books that I've read this year that I haven't written about on the blog yet. Ask me anything!

UPDATE: My responses are here!

Among the Hidden, Margaret Peterson Haddix**
The Baby-Sitters Club #1: Kristy's Great Idea, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phonecalls, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #3: The Truth About Stacey, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #6: Kristy's Big Day, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #31: Dawn's Wicked Stepsister, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #38: Kristy's Mystery Admirer, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #46: Mary Anne Misses Logan, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #50: Dawn's Big Date, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #53: Kristy for President, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #55: Jessi's Gold Medal, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club #58: Stacey's Choice, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #1: Baby-sitters on Board!, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #2: Baby-sitters' Summer Vacation, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #3: Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #4: Baby-sitters' Island Adventure, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #5: California Girls!, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #6: New York, New York!, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #7: Snowbound, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #8: Baby-sitters at Shadow Lake, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #1: Stacey and the Missing Ring, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #4: Kristy and the Missing Child, Ann M. Martin**
The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #6: The Mystery at Claudia's House, Ann M. Martin**
Bluford High: Search for Safety, Paul Langan**
Captain Wentworth's Diary, Amanda Grange
Chloe Does Yale, Natalie Krinsky
The Cider House Rules, John Irving
The Clique: Revenge of the Wannabes, Lisi Harrison**
The Clique: Invasion of the Boy Snatchers, Lisi Harrison**
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler
Congo, Michael Chrichton
The Crossing, Gary Paulsen**
The Dollhouse Murders, Betty Ren Wright**
Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist, Liz Kessler**
Encyclopedia Brown Mystery Collection, Donald J. Sobol**
Esperanza Rising, Pam Muñoz Ryan**
Flush, Carl Hiaasen**
Forever..., Judy Blume**
Four Things My Geeky-Jock-of-a-Best Friend Must Do in Europe, Jane Harrington**
The Fourth Bear, Jasper Fforde
Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess, Alfred de Musset
Gossip Girl: Because I'm Worth It, Cecily von Ziegesar**
Gossip Girl: You're the One That I Want, Cecily von Ziegesar**
Gossip Girl: I Like it Like That, Cecily von Ziegesar**
Gossip Girl: Nobody Does it Better, Cecily von Ziegesar**
Gossip Girl: Nothing Can Keep Us Together, Cecily von Ziegesar**
Gossip Girl: Only in Your Dreams, Cecily von Ziegesar**
Half-Moon Investigations, Eion Colfer**
His Dark Materials: Northern Lights, Phillip Pullman**
His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife, Phillip Pullman**
His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass, Phillip Pullman**
Hoot, Carl Hiassen**
How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, Zoe Dean
Inquiry-Based English Instruction: Engaging Students in Life and Literature, Richard Beach and Jamie Myers*
I Read It, But I Don't Get It, Cris Tovani*
Just Ella, Margaret Peterson Haddix**
Let the Circle Be Unbroken, Mildred D. Taylor**
The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich*
Nightjohn, Gary Paulsen**
Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman**
The Open Shadow, Brad Solomon
The Other Woman, Jane Green
Peter and the Starcatchers, James Barry and Ridley Pearson**
Pirates of the Retail Wasteland, Adam Selzer**
The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot**
Rising Sun, Michael Chrichton
Sammy's Hill, Kristin Gore
Shakespeare's Secret, Elise Broach**
Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar**
The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy*
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide, Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black**
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Seeing Stone, Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black**
Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli**
Stitch ‘N Bitch, Debbie Stoller
Sweet Valley High #3: Playing With Fire, Francine Pascal**
Sweet Valley High #34: Forbidden Love, Francine Pascal**
Through Ebony Eyes: What Teachers Need to Know But Are Afraid to Ask About African American Students, Gail L. Thompson*
Tunnels, Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams**
Twilight Saga: Twilight, Stephanie Meyer**
Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Stephanie Meyer**
Twilight Saga: New Moon, Stephanie Meyer**
White Teachers / Diverse Classrooms: A Guide to Building Inclusive Schools, Promoting High Expectations, and Eliminating Racism, Julie Landsman and Chance W. Lewis*
The Wish List, Eoin Colfer**
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis**
I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, Margaret Cho
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris

Graphic Novels:
The Complete Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
The Killing Joke, Alan Moore
Y: The Last Man #10: Whys and Wherefores, Brian K. Vaughn

* educational
** young adult

Booking Through Thursday: Beginnings

Today's Yesterday's question:
What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?
I generally don't pay much attention to first lines - it usually takes me more than a few lines to get into a story, so even if the opening doesn't grab me, I'll still give it a few pages before I put it aside. So I don't have any books that I liked (or disliked) specifically because of their opening lines. I do have a few opening lines that I enjoy, though:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife." - Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." - 1984, George Orwell

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect." - The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

BoingBoing has a link to an article about great first lines in sci-fi novels. It's very interesting, and well worth a look.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Sunday Salon - The Jane Austen Book Club

Thanks for last week's reading suggestions. I've definitely got a few ideas to talk over with my department chair during pre-planning next week. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to read Little Brother - I'm finishing up my house-sitting gig today, and this past week I was getting my things together to take back to my apartment. I've been house-sitting for about a month, so I've accumulated quite a few things here (mostly books and yarn) that need to be transferred to my apartment. Little Brother was apparently placed in the "books going back to the apartment" pile, rather than the "books staying here so that I can read them" pile. Oh, well. I did finish The Yiddish Policemen's Union, but that book has also been mis-piled, so I can't write a review of it (yet). I also finished some more BSC books and read a bit more in Less Than Zero.

Last week, I put The Jane Austen Book Club on my Book Mooch wishlist. There was only one copy available in the US, and I wrote to the owner to ask if she would send it to me. She replied that she would, but it would be a few weeks before she could get around to it. I didn't mind the wait - my TBR pile is full enough without adding to it - but then I received an e-mail from BM saying that my mooch had been cancelled because her account had been deleted. I was a little disappointed, but figured it was just one of those things and didn't think too much about it. I went by the apartment to check the mail on Friday, and guess what was in my mailbox? My mooched copy of The Jane Austen Book Club! I wasn't going to read it, but I ended up getting stuck somewhere waiting and it was the only book I had on me. I got so sucked into the story that I finished it in two days. There are a bunch of passage that I really enjoyed and wanted to share (I felt a bit like Prudie, marking places in the book to comment on later with my friends).

I loved Grigg's take on Northanger Abbey:
"I just love how it's all about reading novels. Who's a heroine, what's an adventure? Austen poses these questions very directly. There's something very pomo going on there."
The rest of us weren't intimate enough with postmodernism to give it a nickname. We'd heard the word used in sentences, but its definition seemed to change with its context. We weren't troubled by this. Over at the university, people were paid to worry about such things; they'd soon have it well in hand. (138)
I was also happy to read someone else referring to postmodernism as "pomo." I do that without realizing it, and it never occurred to me that my listeners might not know what I'm talking about. Oops.

I also enjoyed Allegra's interpretation of Charlotte Lucas:
"What I was thinking was that Charlotte Lucas might be gay. Remember when she says she's not romantic like Lizzie? Maybe that's what she means. Maybe that's why there's no point in holding out for a better offer." Allegra rolled onto her back and propped her wineglass onto her face so as to get the last drops. Sylvia could see her nose through the curved glass. Even this, on Allegra, was a flattering look.
"Are you saying Austen meant her to be gay?" Sylvia asked. "Or that she's gay and Austen doesn't know it?"
Sylvia preferred the latter. There was something appealing in thinking of a character with a secret life that her author knew nothing about. Slipping off while the author's back was turned, to find love in her own way. Showing up just in time to deliver the next bit of dialogue with an innocent face. (171)
Like Sylvia, I like the idea of characters having a secret life outside the written pages on their book. It's very similar to what Jasper Fforde does in his Thursday Next series, and that's probably one reason I enjoy those books so much. The idea of a character being gay and the author not knowing it (or maybe, knowing it but not acknowledging it) is also intriguing. I get the feeling that's why fanfiction was invented. :)

After (SPOILER ALERT!) Allegra's rock-climbing accident:
"When I was driving to the hospital," Sylvia said, "I thought if Allegra was all right I would be the happiest woman in the world. And she was, and I was. But today the sink is backed up and there are roaches in the garage and I don't have the time to deal with any of it. The newspaper is filled with misery and war. Already I have to remind myself to be happy. And you know, if it were the other way, if something had happened to Allegra, I wouldn't have to remind myself to be unhappy. I'd be unhappy for the rest of my life. Why should unhappiness be so much more powerful that happiness?" (227 - 228)
IS unhappiness more powerful than happiness? I'm not really sure. Last year, I wrote about going to visit my dying friend Karen. That visit started out incredibly sad - my sister and I spent the first twenty minutes or so of our visit crying and holding Karen's hand. And then a funny thing happened: one of her daughters started telling anecdotes about when we were younger. Before you knew it, we were all laughing and sharing memories. By the time we left, I was still sad about Karen. But I was happy, because I got a chance to say goodbye - something not everyone is lucky enough to get - and because I have 27 years worth of happy memories to look back on, rather than one really sad day. I think it's all a matter of perspective. I don't necessarily choose to always look on the bright side of life (Lord knows, I can be the world's best worrier when I want to be), but more often than not, happy (or at least content) is my default mood setting.

This book gave me quite a lot to think about! I have to confess that I saw the movie first, but the book is just different enough that I can enjoy both without comparing them to each other. The third-person limited omniscient narration was unusual; it was always "our" book club and "we" thought this, but never "I," which took some getting used to. I loved the characters, and they way they all had bits of Austen in their lives - Prudie-as-Mrs. Elton was my favorite - because it seemed very organic and believable. The idea of everyone having a private Austen is interesting; mine's a cross between Jocelyn's unmarried romantic and Bernadette's comic genius.

I actually didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did because a) I'm very protective of Miss Austen (I think I embarrassed my BFF at a Becoming Jane sneak preview after talking loudly about how WRONG the movie was) and b) I read another of Karen Joy Fowler's books - The Sweetheart Season - several years ago, and didn't remember liking it much. The Jane Austen Book Club was a pleasant surprise, and I highly recommend it, even if you're unfamiliar with Austen's novels. In all likelihood, reading this will make you want to read them.

If you've reviewed this book on your blog, leave a link in the comments and I'll post it here. I'm eager to hear other thoughts.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why so serious?

Being the geekette that I am, of course I went to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight last night. I actually made it a comic book movie night and saw Hellboy 2 beforehand. (It was awesome too, for the record.) But DK was just...amazing. It was nearly 3 hours long! And so much stuff happened. The biggest surprise I'm not even gonna mention, because I wasn't spoiled for this movie and I don't think anyone else should be, either. Christian Bale was hard core, and Michael Caine was great for comic relief, but Heath Ledger totally owned this movie. He was just so perfect as the Joker: creepy and scary and frackin' insane.

One thing I was disappointed about - no Harry Potter teaser. But we did get this:

which is just is good.

Anyone else see it? What did you think? Did you have nightmares?

I've gotten a little obsessed with amigurumi over the past few months; I made the cutest little penguin for Ashley, and now I've got my crochet hooks set on something slightly more difficult. Watching Hellboy 2, all I could think was, how awesome would it be to make an amigurumi Hellboy? With, like, a Sculpey rock hand and Big Baby?

More DK links for your entertainment:
Does Batman Have Insurance?, from Best Week Ever
"Dark Knight" Dogma, from MTV

The Dark Knight

Being the geekette that I am, of course I went to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight last night. I actually made it a comic book movie night and saw Hellboy 2 beforehand. (It was awesome too, for the record.) But DK was just...amazing. It was nearly 3 hours long! And so much stuff happened. The biggest surprise I'm not even gonna mention, because I wasn't spoiled for this movie and I don't think anyone else should be, either. Christian Bale was hard core, and Michael Caine was great for comic relief, but Heath Ledger totally owned this movie. He was just so perfect as the Joker: creepy and scary and frackin' insane.

One thing I was disappointed about - no Harry Potter teaser. But we did get this:

which is just as good.

Anyone else see it? What did you think? Did you have nightmares?

I've gotten a little obsessed with amigurumi over the past few months; I made the cutest little penguin for Ashley, and now I've got my crochet hooks set on something slightly more difficult. Watching Hellboy 2, all I could think was, how awesome would it be to make an amigurumi Hellboy? With, like, a Sculpey rock hand and Big Baby?

More DK links for your entertainment:
Does Batman Have Insurance?, from Best Week Ever
"Dark Knight" Dogma, from MTV

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Vacation Spots

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:
Another question inspired by the Bunch of Grapes on Martha’s Vineyard having burned down on the Fourth of July. Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday? Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip? What/Where are they?
One of my new favorite vacation traditions is buying a cookbook featuring the cuisine of the place I'm visiting. I love to cook, and it's fun to remember a vacation by eating like I'm still there. I also like to check out books by local authors - bookstores will usually have a special section, just for them. Reading about the places I visit is also fun - I talked about this during the FBN's Summer Reading Extravaganza.
I also like to check out Friends of the Library sales where ever I go. Some smaller towns may not have bookstores (or may just have the huge chains that you can find anywhere), and I like to support libraries. It's also interesting to see what people in a certain area enjoy reading about. There are two libraries near my little town, for example, and the reading materials available at both differ widely.
One of the best bookstores I ever found while on vacation was in England. I can't remember the name of the shop, but it was in Dorchester. Every "classic" book was available for 50p - about 75 cents at the time (now about $1 or so). I bought so many books that trip, I was worried I might need another suitcase just to get them all home!

But you don't have to take my word for it. Visit Booking Through Thursday for more opinions.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


* Open Doors is one of the most challenging games I've ever played.

* Want to win Neil Gaiman's (autographed) computer keyboard? Visit this BoingBoing article to find out how.

* Daily Writing Tips is having a really short story contest.

* Borders is giving away FREE audiobook copies of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. You have to download a special player, but it's still a good deal.

* Last month, during our family trip to Hilton Head, Mom and I discovered the BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD! Called the Sea Shack, it's billed as "Where the locals eat!" on the island. And now the head chef has written a cookbook. I was actually on the waiting list to find out when this puppy was being published, and I can't wait to get my copy. The shrimp burgers are to die for!

Monday, July 14, 2008

JBB: The Where's Your Book Set? Meme

From Mrs. S.

The questions:

1. Title and author of the book
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon

2. What year is the book set in?
Present day, alternate universe

3. What happened on this day in that year?
Umm...Miss Venezuela won the Miss World competition - it was in the paper this morning.

4. Where is your book set?
Sitka, Alaska

5. Have you visited that place before? If yes tell us something about your trip. If no, look the location up on google and tell us an interesting fact about the city/country.
No, but I want to! Fun fact: "Sitka" is pronounced "Sheet’ká," and has the largest incorporated city limits in the United States, four times the size of the state of Rhode Island. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Sunday Salon - High School Novel Unit

The new school year will be starting up soon, and I'm getting my lesson plans ready. One unit I'm really struggling with is my novel unit. I have a list of suggested reading for my 10th grade English students (the majority of whom will be remedial or inclusion), and I have to say, none of them interest me that much - Rebecca sounds boring, and my 7th graders read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, so no. I have SOME leeway with my lessons and reading choices; I'm getting a technology grant, which gives me a little more freedom, and my principal is really encouraging and open to new ideas. One book I've been thinking about for the unit is Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. I just picked up a copy today, and will probably be putting everything else aside to read it. It sounds promising enough - a high school hacker gets in trouble with the Department of Homeland Security and has to fight the man to save the world - so I'm looking forward to it. I'm really just trying to find a book that my students will enjoy and actually WANT to read.

Those of you who have read this/know someone who has - what do you think? Do you have any suggestions for other books jaded, bibliophobic 16-year-olds might like?

In other was my last day at the grocery store, which means from now on I'll actually have my weekends free to read! And crochet, scrapbook, knit, cook foods I would actually eat, clean my apartment...

This week, I read:
The Baby-sitter's Club #55: Jessi's Gold Medal, Ann M. Martin
The Baby-sitter's Club Super Special #5: California Girls!, Ann M. Martin
The Baby-sitter's Club Super Special #6: New York, New York!, Ann M. Martin
Y: The Last Man #10: Whys and Wherefores, Brian K. Vaughn

Notice a pattern? I blame Bryce.

I'm currently reading:
Less Than Zero, Brett Easton Ellis - for the 1% Well-Read Challenge. This may also explain all the BSC books - I need something light and fluffy to counteract the nihilism. Whew.
Stitch 'N Bitch, Debbie Stoller - I'm learning how to knit! It's slow going (I've restarted the same scarf four times - I'm ready to call it a potholder and move on to something else), but a lot of fun!
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon - my goal is to finish it this week.

Too many to list, but Little Brother is at the top.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peachtree Road Race

A week later, and I'm finally getting around to posting pictures from the Peachtree Road Race. This was the first year I was actually able to be in the race - my mom did it two years ago, she and I both applied last year (and were denied), and we didn't make it this year, either. Fortunately, a friend of hers decided not to go and agreed to sell me her number. Unfortunately, I had stopped training. It really wasn't too bad, just a little over six miles. I didn't even notice "Cardiac Hill" because it was nothing compared to the steep hills in my old neighborhood. The best part was getting to do it with my sister, Liz, and my friend Jen (this was her fourth PTRR). We didn't take a camera with us, but my sister had one on her cell phone.

The starting line, way in the distance...

There were over 55,000 people running this thing. My number put me in group 3, but Liz and Jen were in group 8 so I went with them. The race started at 7 am, but the groups were released every 20 minutes or so, so were stuck waiting around for almost 2 hours. Liz had a stopwatch and pedometer on her phone, too, and she had to restart them four times. We kept thinking, "Okay, we're REALLY going this time!" and then we'd walk about 10 feet and stop again.


One of the best perks of being in this thing: random strangers stand on the sidewalks to cheer you on and give you stuff. We hadn't even completed the first mile when a bar started giving out beer - at 9 in the morning! Jen and I ran to get some, and my sister joked that it would be the only time we'd actually run for the whole race. That wasn't entirely untrue.

My mom called to see how we were doing right after this picture was taken. She wasn't quite as excited about the drinking-beer-while-completing-a-10k as we were.

Some people dressed up:

We weren't sure if this was a tribute to Reno 911's Lieutenant Dangle, or just some guys celebrating Pride Week, which was also going on that day.

Guy in a banana suit. Don't know why, but I'm sure he was sweating like crazy...

There were also girls wearing t-shirts declaring their love for Clark Howard, a local radio personality who runs every year. I didn't see him, though. I also missed the pub crawlers, although I saw them two years ago when Mom did the race. Those guys are hardcore; they walk all 6+ miles, stopping at every bar along the way. I'm sure it takes them a while.

And finally...

The finish line!

It didn't actually take us 3 hours. According to Liz's pedometer, we walked 15,675 steps (or thereabouts) in an hour and 48 minutes. I'm not sure if that includes all the stopping-and-starting at the beginning, but it certainly gives me a time to beat next year.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Life Books Challenge: My Challenge Books

I've picked out the two books that I want to read for the challenge! They are John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down (as suggested by SmallWorld) and Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover (as suggested by both SmallWorld and The Sleepy Reader). I'm also going to be reading Ender's Game, which was on Becky's list, for another challenge - there are only four of us participating so far, so I figured I'd read one from everyone else!

Booking Through Thursday: Doomsday

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:
What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favorite source of books was unavailable?
Whether it’s a local book shop, your town library, or an internet shop … what would you do if, suddenly, they were out of business? Devastatingly, and with no warning? Where would you go for books instead? What would you do? If it was a local business you would try to help out the owners? Would you just calmly start buying from some other store? Visit the library in the next town instead? Would it be devastating? Or just a blip in your reading habit?

I have five book suppliers that I rely on: my local library (both for borrowing and purchasing, from the Friends of the Library sale), online retailers (I was using Amazon, but have recently switched over to Powell's), book swap sites (BookCrossing and Book Mooch), Waldenbooks (which is kinda far away, so I only go when I have a special order called in), and Wal-Mart (an unfortunately necessary evil when you live in the middle of nowhere).

The one that would devastate me the most by going out of business would probably be BookCrossing. I have so many books registered on that site, and I love seeing where they go and who else reads them. I've also used it to send books all over the place; last year I sent a box of books to a guy down in Brazil to help him build up a library. BookCrossing is unique, and I don't know what I'd do if it suddenly went under. I don't really invest any money in it right now (I can't really afford to buy labels, so I just print off my own), but if I knew the owners were having trouble I would find money from somewhere to help them out. That site is wonderful!

I would also be upset if Waldenbooks disappeared on me. There are NO bookstores in this area, so when I discovered that store (30 - 45 minutes away), I was overjoyed. It's on the way to the university I was attending last year, which made it convenient to shop there. Now, though (with gas prices the way they are), I can only go if I'm running a few errands in that area. I love the people at the store. They hosted a Harry Potter book 7 release party at midnight the day the book came out, give a discount to teachers, special order anything I want, and are just generally nice and knowledgeable. It's a smaller store (in a really tiny mall), so that probably helps. They already get a lot of my money, but I'd be willing to spend more if I needed to.

My county library is really small, and they usually don't have the best selection of books. Special ordering from other libraries takes way too much time; I had to wait so long for a copy of The Devil Wears Prada that I ended up just buying it at a grocery store and kicking myself for spending the $6 after I finished. There's another library in the next county over (which is, like, 15 minutes away), and even though I can't check out books from there, I could still buy from the FotL without any problems. So that wouldn't be too bad. Same goes for my online suppliers; if they were to go under, I could probably find another one to use without a second thought. Not interacting with a real person makes it harder to feel loyalty to a company.

Last but not least, Wal-Mart. In all honesty, if the Wal-Mart in my town were to go out of business, I don't think I would care. They provide a lot of jobs for the people around here, but their customer service sucks and the book selection is pitiful. I usually go there for the latest YA fiction, because it's super cheap and I don't have to go very far.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Visit Booking Through Thursday for more opinions.

Weekly Geeks #10: Magazines

This week's WG theme is magazines. I talked about a few of the magazines that I read regularly during the Friendly Book Nook Summer Reading Extravaganza, so today I'm going to talk about two of my online subscriptions:

1. Name of magazine. mental_floss

2. Do you subscribe or just buy it now and then? I have an RSS feed for the online version, so I read those articles prettty much everyday. I pick up the paper version every once in a while (when I'm in a store that actually carries it).

3. What’s your favorite regular feature in the magazine? I love the Morning Cup of Links and daily Lunchtime Quizzes.

4. What do you think your interest in this magazine says about you? I like knowing random facts that will come in handy while playing trivia at the bar with my friends.

5. How long have you been reading this magazine? I'm not really sure. I've been reading it online for over a year now, and I know I picked up the RL version every once in a while before that.

6. Is there any unique or quirky aspect to the magazine that keeps you reading? I am a useless knowledge junkie, and that's what this magazine is dedicated to providing. I love it!

1. Name of magazine. Education Week

2. Do you subscribe or just buy it now and then? I orginially had a trial subscription, but I had a lot of problems with actually getting the magazine. Now I have a condensed version e-mailed to me every week, and I read the articles that interest me. You have to register on the site to read some of them (and sometimes you can only read two a week), but it's worth it.

3. What’s your favorite regular feature in the magazine? They have a lot of information about politics and education, which is interesting to me.

4. What do you think your interest in this magazine says about you? I want to be a well-informed educator.

5. How long have you been reading this magazine? About a year.

6. Is there any unique or quirky aspect to the magazine that keeps you reading? It's weekly, which means the articles are usually extremely topical. I also like that I can search for articles about my specific content area.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

July Book Blowout Challenge Survey

Hey everyone - July 1 has arrived and we have 58 participants for the July Book Blowout!

I thought it would be nice to kick off with a mini-challenge - to introduce ourselves to each other. If you want to take part just answer these questions:
1. Describe yourself in one sentence. I am a 20-something who lives in a smallish town, reads too much, tries to speak Spanish, and enjoys being crafty (as in knitting, crocheting, and scrapbooking, not as in being sneaky).

2. What book will you start the challenge with? I've already read three YA books - Just Ella and two BSC books. Right now I'm (still) working on The Yiddish Policemen's Union and Stitch 'N Bitch.

3. Where is your favourite place to read? In the fall, I like reading outside. Since it's so hot right now, I've been sitting in a big comfy couch. I'll read anywhere, really.

4. What is your favourite book of all time? Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Frank Herbert's Dune. I can't pick just one.

5. Remind us all of your challenge target I want to finish 10 books.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy (Early) 4th!

Have a happy July 4th, everybody! I'll be running - aw, who am I kidding? - walking in the Peachtree Road Race tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Weekly Geeks #9: Challenges

This is actually my first WG post! It's a good thing Dewey gave us two weeks for it, because it took me a while to get organized.
This week’s theme is Challenges.

1. If you participate in any challenges, get organized! Update your lists, post about any you haven’t mentioned, add links of reviews to your lists if you do that, go to the challenge blog if there is one and post there, etc.

2. If you don’t participate in any challenges, then join one! There’s a good selection of possibilities over on my right hand sidebar (scroll down) where I list those I participate in. There’s also A Novel Challenge, a blog that keeps track of all sorts of reading challenges.

3. Towards the end of the week, write a wrap-up post about getting your challenges organized OR if you’re joining your first challenge, post about that any time during the week. Once you have your post up, come back and sign Mr Linky with the link to the specific post, not just to your blog.
Here are the challenges I am currently participating in:

1% Well-Read Challenge - I finished my second book for this challenge (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) on the last day of June; the review is here.
Book Awards II Challenge - This one doesn't actually start until August, but I got a head start by updating my list; I found a bunch of books I wanted to read for the challenge at a library book sale.

A Midsummer Night's Challenge - This one ended last month. I finished both the books I read for it (Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Pratchett's Lords and Ladies) and wrote reviews for them (posted here). It feels really good to have one challenge completed and out of the way!

July Book Blowout - This challenge is a bit of a catch-all for the month of July. I like it because the goal is just to read books; you don't actually have to post a review. I've already finished three YA novels (Just Ella and two BSC books), and I'm currently reading Stitch 'N Bitch and The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

Life Books Challenge - I just joined this challenge this week! I've already chosen and posted about my Life Books; now I just need to visit other participants and choose two books to read for the challenge.

For all of these, I linked the books I'm using either to BookCrossing or Powell's Books. I also made a sort of "challenge template" so that all of my challenge main pages look pretty much the same - after I read a book, I strike it out and post a link to the review of it, along with the date I completed it (except for the JBB Challenge - I'm not reviewing all of those, although I may change my mind and do it later, or on the BookCrossing page for the book).

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Life Books Challenge: My Life Books

I finally narrowed my "life books" down to ten. These are the ten books that I think help define me as a person. Don't judge me too harshly, okay? :)

1. Dune, by Frank Herbert
This was my dad's favorite book; he named me after one of the characters. He died when I was four, so I never really knew him. I read the entire Dune series when I was in high school (and believe me, that was quite a feat!) and it made me feel a little closer to him. It became one of my favorites, too, and introduced me to the wonderful world of sci-fi.

2. Emma, by Jane Austen
My other favorite book is Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but I've always related to Emma Woodhouse more than Elizabeth Bennett. I love playing matchmaker (I've even had a few successes!) but I have no desire to get married. Unlike Emma, however, I enjoy reading and learning new things. I also like to think that I'm not quite as spoiled as she is. :) Emma is available for free here.

3. Like Water For Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
I love reading, and I love cooking; I also spent eight years studying Spanish. So this book is pretty much the epitome of everything awesome: it includes recipes and the original Spanish en face. I read it for a class in college and loved it. The movie is pretty good, too.

4. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
If you have ever tried to support yourself (or your family) by working at a dead-end, minimum-wage job, you will not be surprised by what Ehrenreich experiences. After I graduated from college (the first time, with my B.A.) I worked at a retail clothing store for three years before getting fed up, quitting, moving back in with my parents, and going back for my Master's. Reading this book reminded me of what I left behind, and why.
This is the only one of Ehrenreich's books that I've read, but she was on The Colbert Report last week to plug her new one:

She didn't get to talk about it much, but it sounds interesting.

5. The Gospel of Judas
One of my undergrad minors was in Religious Studies. My family has never been "religious," exactly; we mostly lived by the Golden Rule. I started church-hopping in high school - I've been to quite a few Christian churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Charismatic) and Temple Mickve Israel in Savannah a few times. I've read the majority of the Bible, Tanakh, and Qur'an. It's hard finding a book that expresses my interest in religion, but I think this one comes pretty close. I find the character of Judas fascinating, and I love the way he is portrayed in this gospel.

6. How to Get Suspended and Influence People, by Adam Selzer
I'll admit: when it comes to this book, I'm horribly biased. I went to high school with Adam, so of course I'm going to love anything he writes. But the thing is, he pretty much captured what it was like to be a gifted middle school student in a small town. I never had quite as many adventures as the kids in his books, but I remember that feeling of being a smart kid and not having anyone take me seriously, that desire to do something that would make a difference and get people's attention. I still feel that way sometimes. I liked this book so much, I bought an extra copy and sent it to my second cousin in Florida. Her parents were thinking of putting her in a gifted class, and I wanted to her to know that it wouldn't be that bad. In fact, it's pretty fun!

7. America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, by Jon Stewart
I also really like politics and history (to an extent). This book is great because it's full of interesting, funny, and true information about America. I especially like that it's made to look like a textbook.

8. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Reading this book in high school did two things: it cemented my stance on vegetarianism (and converted quite a few of my classmates, at least for a little while) and it got me interested in socialism. For years, I was convinced that socialism was the greatest political movement in the world, and that it was going to solve all of our economic problems. And then I realized that pure socialism is just not possible. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward is good for this, too, but more depressing because it's actually a Utopian novel set in the year 2000.

9. Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt
A friend of mine in my Master's program had this book on CD; I used to listen to it while driving to my education classes. It's a great memoir about being a teacher and making a difference, something I hope I'll be able to do with my students.

10. Grrl Scouts, by Jim Mafood
This one is actually a graphic novel. Grrl Scouts was one of the first comic books I really got into. I picked it up because I was a Girl Scout for 12 years, and I was intrigued by the title. The "Scouts" in the book are actually a group of three urban girls who deal drugs, go clubbing, and graffiti public property...not your typical badge-earning cookie-pushers. But the story is fun and exciting (although probably not appropriate for all ages), and I loved the art.

So, there you have it. My Life Books. Visit SmallWorld Reads to get more information about the challenge and to sign up. Happy reading!