Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Sunday Salon - 24 August 2008

Hello, fellow Saloners! School started two weeks ago, and I've been busily planning lessons, grading papers, and trying to keep my sanity - hence, the lack of posting recently. Teaching is great; I love my students, but I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing. And all the drama is crazy, too. It's a big change, and I'm starting to feel (*gasp*) like an adult with a real career, which is an amazing feeling.

Moving on...I have managed to do a bunch of reading, in-between all the teacher-related stuff. At school, we have a required 20 minute reading period, so during that time I'm reading The Once and Future King, by T.H. White. I haven't gotten very far into it, but I love it! We have to do a King Arthur/mythology unit at some point, and I'd like to incorporate it in that.

I also got my first ARC in the mail, which was incredibly exciting! It's Superpowers, by David J. Schwartz. It was actually released in June, but I hadn't heard of it until it showed up in my mailbox. I read it in three days, which is impressive considering the lack of free time I have right now. The book is about five college students who have a party with homemade beer and wake up the next morning with various superpowers. There's a flyer, a telepath, a speedster, a superstrong girl, and an invisible girl. The book is set in the months leading up to September 11, 2001, so I realized pretty early on that was going to factor into the story, but just not in the way that I thought it would. I really liked it; it purports to be a true story, and I think it's a pretty realistic look at what would happen if people really had these kinds of abilities. As realistic as it can be, I suppose.

The other books I've been reading are ones that my sister left at my apartment - mostly Fear Street, and a few other YA series. I'm terribly behind on my challenge books, but I'll make more of an effort with those after I get my lesson plans straightened out. I like having the cheesy YA books on hand, because I can speed through them and not worry about really paying attention to plot, characterization, etc. They're great for when I'm trying to sleep at night or want to take a break from grading.

And now I'm off to do more teacher stuff. Happy reading!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Gold Medal Reading

Today's question has two parts:
* Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
* Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?
And, Second:
* Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
* Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.
* (Or a good sports movie, for that matter. Feel free to expand this into a discussion about “Friday Night Lights” or “The Natural” or whatever…)
I don't believe I have ever read a book about sports, aside from a BSC book involving the Krushers or that one where Jessi competed in a synchronized swimming event. I'm sure I've read books where sports have been involved in the story, but none that were exclusively about sports or the Olympics. I'm not really a sports fan in general, but I LOVE hockey. I don't really have a desire to read about it, though; I just enjoy watching it. I like baseball, too, and my boyfriend is trying to get me to watch "real" football (meaning soccer - he's Latino), but I just can't get that into it. I'm not that into sports movies, either, aside from The Mighty Ducks series (just the first two, though) and Bring It On (if you want to consider cheerleading a sport). Oh, well.

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

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Joker's even creepier...

My first day of teaching actually went pretty well, considering I really had no idea what I was doing for the majority of the day. I can already tell that my last class of the day (which is also my biggest, and meets right after lunch) will be my most challenging. The other two are a cakewalk. Of course, I say that now. Give me a few weeks to adjust and we'll see how my tune changes.

Anywho, I'm supposed to be prepping tomorrow's lesson (we're studying poetry!), but I just found this video and I had to post it. It's The Dark Knight trailer reenacted by toddlers. Man, it's creepy.

When I worked at Belk, we used to sell these flower keychains that played a pre-recorded child's giggle when you pressed them. I HATED those things. I found the giggling unsettling. My friend Stella used to laugh at me; I'd like to see her reaction to this video. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekly Geeks #13 Part II

Last week's challenge was to guess the author photos. Here are the anwers:

1. (One of) My favorite authors:
Frank Herbert, author of Dune, which is where my parents got my name (Jessica).

2. Author of a book I'm reading right now:
Ally Carter, author of I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, which I just reviewed for today's Sunday Salon.

3. Author I have met:
Rabbi Harold Kuchner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

4. Video of an author I've seen speak:

Michael Moore, author of Downsize This! and host of The Awful Truth.

5. Author of the book I most recently finished:
Stephenie Meyer, author of Breaking Dawn.

6. HOT author:
Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother, contributor to BoingBoing, blogger, and wearer of goggles and red cape. Sigh...

A big thank you to Alessandra, Deb, Care, Naida, Joanne, and Guatami for your comments. I used Random's number generator to pick a winner. Congratulations to Joanne! I'll be e-mailing you about your fabulous prize. :)

The Sunday Salon - 10 August 2008

School starts tomorrow, and I think it's pretty safe to say I'm nervous. We had pre-planning all this week, and I've vacillated between excitedly hopeful and panicky nervousness. I feel completely unprepared for the first day, and it's driving my crazy. The veterans have all told me not to worry; the first day is usually a breeze, because you have to spend so much time with introductions, passing out books, and going over the handbook/syllabus that there's not time for anything else. That, and the students are all so tired after their two month vacation they tend to just zombie out on you. So, we'll see how it goes.

I did manage to get some reading done this week, which was nice:

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter - When I did my student teaching at the middle school last year, one of my 7th graders LOVED this book. It's about a girl named Cammie who goes to school at the Gallagher Academy, which looks like a typical private school, but is actually an elite superspy training facility. The ending was surprisingly harsh, but in a good way - it was nice to have a unpredictable, anti-fairy-tale conclusion. I can't wait to pick up the sequel, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy.

Side note: what's up with Powell's search feature? I couldn't find either of those books by title, author, or publisher - I had to go to Amazon, get the ISBN, and search for them that way. Weird.

Anyway, I also read ttyl, by Lauren Myracle (which is also impossible to find on the Powell's site, which is making me regret linking the books at all). The neat thing about this series is that it's written entirely in chatspeak. It's a series of IM conversations between three best friends. The best part (for me) is that it takes place in Atlanta, so anytime they mentioned a street or business (Junkman's Daughter, Churchill Grounds), I got excited and knew exactly what they were talking about. There is a downside to this, though. One of the subplots involves a bunch of teen drivers protesting the speed limit on I-285. According to the book, it's 65 mph. I wish! It's actually 55 mph, which makes it even more ridiculous. But that was my only major quibble with the book. I don't know if I'll read the others in the series, because the IM style and constant (true to life) errors gave me a headache, but it was pretty good and definitely different.

I'm currently reading:

Peeps, by Scott Westerfield - because Breaking Dawn just wasn't teen-vampire-angsty enough for me.

The Last Temptation of Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis - for the 1% Well-Read Challenge.

The Hours, by Michael Cunningham - for the Book Award Winners II Challenge.

Some fun book links:

Locus Online and Tor both have coverage of the Hugo Award winners - YAY for Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, and Dr. Who!

Kafka apparently collected a bunch of porn. Not exactly what we learned about him when I was in school, but okay.

Livejournal user absinthetic has created this amazing Wonderland expedition kit for his girlfriend. I have no words.

Happy reading!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Weekly Geeks #13

This week's challenge: guess the author photos!

1. (One of) My favorite authors:

2. Author of a book I'm reading right now:

3. Author I have met:
I actually got to have breakfast with this guy - one of the perks of being an honors student in college.

4. Video of an author I've seen speak:

The best part is, he filmed part of this while he was at my university (The Ficus National Convention @ 1:03 - I'm in the front row, next to the guy in the yellow shirt!)

5. Author of the book I most recently finished:
Seriously, if you don't know this one...

6. HOT author:
I think it's the glasses (I also have a thing for Rivers Cuomo).

Think you know who these authors are? Leave your answers in the comments. Anyone who guesses correctly will be entered in a drawing for a free book!

Weekly Geeks #12 Part II

Weekly Geeks #12 asked that we post a list of books we've read recently (but not reviewed yet) and get our readers to ask us questions about them. Here are mine:

Molly wrote: "I've been wanting to read "The Yiddish Policemen's Union". How does it compare to his other works of fiction?"

I loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. That and The Final Solution are the only Chabon novels I've read. That said, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is completely different from both. It's set in a modern-day alternate reality, based on some research Chabon did about the government's plan to turn Alaska into a sort of Jewish settlement following WWII. The writing is very different - it reads almost like a noir or pulp mystery. I especially loved all the Yiddish. My favorite word was "sholem," which literally means "peace," but was slang for "gun" in the book. Get it? Because a gun is sometimes referred to as a "piece"? I thought it was clever. On the whole, I enjoyed the novel (although it was very dense and took me a while to get through it), but I didn't think it was as good as Kavalier and Clay. It was a very good story, though.

Alix has three questions for me:
I recently re-read Forever. I really had issues with it reading it from an adult perspective and not a giggling 12 year. How did you feel the relationship between Michael and Katherine was handled did you find it realistic, did you believe in it?

I actually found their relationship to be really believable for a teenage couple. I didn't read it as a teen, so that probably gave me a different perspective. But I can remember my first "real" high school boyfriend, and feeling like we were going to be together forever. I even liked that Katherine's disappointment and heartbreak seemed to pass fairly quickly, because I know I've felt that way before too, unfortunately.

His Dark Material - these are three of my favourite books of all time, especially The Subtle Knife. Did you enjoy it? What did you think about the whole atheism/church agreement that runs throughout? Did you think the end was necessary or unnecessarily harsh on Lyra and Will?

I love this series! I've read it twice now - my BFF bought me a copy of Northern Lights when she went to England last year, so I had to read it over again. I also like The Subtle Knife best. It's interesting to read Lyra from someone else's point of view. :) The religious aspects of the novel didn't bother me; the fact that Pullman self-identifies as an atheist has no bearing on the story, in my opinion, because it's a fantasy. I don't understand why people get so upset about it. To me, the books are about the importance of knowledge and free will and love. I love that the ending parallels the Garden of Eden, but I did think it was pretty sad that Lyra and Will had to be separated. I always cry when I get to that part. I also really love the idea of deamons. The idea of having part of my soul outside my body is scary, but a nice idea.

Finally have to ask The Twilight saga Edward or Jacob :)

TEAM EDWARD!!!!! And I'm not just saying that because I just finished Breaking Dawn. Jacob annoyed the crap out of me, up until this last book. Go, Stephenie Meyer! You actually made him likable.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Endings

Today's Yesterday's question:
What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the last line?
My answer for this week is going to be pretty similar to last week's; I've read several books with memorable final lines, but I base my opinion of the book on the whole thing, rather than just the beginning or ending. I will say, though, that I have read quite a few books that were just okay and managed to earn a good rating with a really great ending. I think because it's the last impression we have of a book, it tends to stick with us longer.

Some of my favorite final lines:

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." - A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." - Animal Farm, George Orwell

"Winston loved Big Brother." - 1984, George Orwell

"Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east..." - Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

"'Think on it, Chani: that princess will have the name, yet she'll live as less than a concubine - never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she's bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine - history will call us wives.'" - Dune, Frank Herbert

July Book Blowout Challenge Wrap Up

Mrs. S' July Book Blowout Challenge ended yesterday! My goal for the challenge was to read 10 books - and I did it! My list of books can be found here, but the breakdown goes like this:
1 audiobook
2 graphic novels
11 YA rereads
5 new YA
3 adult novels
1/2 adult novel that I started in June

Wrap up questions:
1. Did you discover a new author?
Yep; I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Cory Doctorow's books.

2. Where was the most unusual place you found yourself reading?
I read everywhere normally, so no place was unusual for me. I try to keep a book in my purse, just in case I get stuck waiting somewhere. I also read while eating (so long as no one else is eating with me) and while taking bubble baths.

3. Did you read more than usual?
It certainly felt like it! I think because I reread so many BSC books. Those things are easy to get through, and they helped me recover from the darkness of Less Than Zer0.

4. Did you give up anything in order to read more?
Playing video games, crocheting, knitting, blogging, lesson planning (oops!), and hanging out with my boyfriend. Actually, I was able to convince him to read with me, so that was pretty cool.

5. If you won the Amazon voucher what would you spend it on?
Books, of course!

6. Would you like to see a 2009 Book Blowout?
Yes, please! This was fun, and great motivation.

1% Well-Read Challenge: Less Than Zer0

Title: Less Than Zer0
Author: Brett Easton Ellis
Genre: Fiction
Published: 1985
Pages: 208
Rating: 6 / 10

Hoo, boy. Where do I start?

This is Ellis' first novel. He wrote it when he was 19, which I find amazing. Our narrator is Clay, an east coast college student visiting his friends and family in Los Angeles during winter break. Basically, all these characters do is take drugs and have sex with one another. Seriously. This book has pretty much every sin and depravity you could think of: male prostitution, pre-teens doing coke, a snuff film, etc. There were a few funny moments toward the beginning, but after a while the stream-of-consciousness writing and complete amorality really wore on me. I had to stop every once in a while and read a Baby-sitter's Club book just to keep my spirits up.

I marked a few passages that I found interesting, but I don't think I'll quote them here because I don't want to offend or upset anybody. But please don't let that turn you off the book. It has an oddly hopeful ending, despite all the nihilism along the way.

While doing research for this post (read: Wikipedia), I discovered that Less Than Zer0 was made into a movie in the 80's - starring Robert Downey Jr. - and now I want to see it. According to the article, it deviates greatly from the book, but still. For some reason, all of the books that I'm reading for this challenge have been made into movies.

Up Next: The Last Temptation of Christ