Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

I haven't written in about a week and while it is easy for me to feel guilty about this (a "good" blogger would have written everyday), I am going to try to refrain from the self-flagellation. This blog is, afterall, supposed to be fun.

After preparing all the Christmas meals and cookies, and celebrating the season with presents to family and friends, I have spent most of my time either reading books in my TBR pile (I completed Mockingbird and Wuthering Heights and have started Outlander and The Book Thief) OR....reading and discovering new book blogs to follow (I am now up to a total of 55 and counting). There are so many of you out there in the blogosphere who publish great, professional blogs that I sometimes feel a bit intimidated by this community. However, one of my New Year's Resolutions for 2009 is to get out of my comfort zone and attempt to become an active member. I have a lot to learn, but I can tell that I have some great teachers out there who by sharing their posts on the web will be providing me with a great education. I thank you in advance.

Since I only started this blog less than a month ago, I really cannot follow suit as most of you and post my "best of" lists for 2008. Truth be told, I really did not keep much of a reading list in 2008 because I was either reading books for the classes that I teach OR books for my Master's program at the Bread Loaf School of English. While I will still have both of those demands on my life in 2009, the book blog world has taught me that I desperately need to make time to read books for ME. So, with that in mind, I am formally declaring 2009 as the year for me to make time for me. I also plan to keep better track of what I read with a simple Excel spreadsheet in order to participate in the "best of 2009" next year.

2008 began with such promise: Geoff had a good job - I had two "good" teaching jobs (good as in I enjoyed them - not necessarily good in a financial sense, but then again, that is not why I teach); I began a Master's program; my kids were healthy; our labs had a litter of 6 healthy and adorable yellow lab puppies; and while gas prices were somewhat inflated, the economy seemed in relatively good shape (at least here in middle America). WOW -- did the year end on a different note. Geoff has been unemployed for about 5 weeks; my mom spent about 3 months in and out of the hospital - even put on hospice for about 4 weeks; my 2 teaching jobs were cut down to 1; our female lab died unexpectedly in June (I still miss you, Mia); and the economy seems quite dismal all over the US (especially if you are looking for a job!). It is hard to begin this New Year with a positive outlook.

Ilana Simons, moderator of the Life and Literature book club at the Barnes and Noble website, posted a question earlier this month that I have been mulling over for the past couple of weeks: "If this is the Great Depression, what good are books?" If you are interested in following that discussion, the link is here. This is how I have incorporated that thought into my current lifestyle: books are more important to me now than ever before. I truly feel the need to read the classics, not all the classics but many of them, in order to learn more about the history of human nature and the human experience. When I read the classics I realize that these themes are timeless because life is cyclical. When going through tough times, which our family seems to be experiencing at the moment, it is very easy to feel that I am an island unto myself: "no one else has suffered as much or in this way" This is rubbish! The truth is that death is always around us -- financial disasters have happened to many -- people disappoint -- and life does not always (in fact, rarely) turns out as planned. However, when read through the Christian worldview that I choose, there is always HOPE. The classics help me to keep that perspective.

I also think that is very important for me to read books for pure pleasure because books allow me to escape from the mundane and sometimes overwhelming pressures of the "real world." I am a very pragmatic individual - and incredibly independent. In the saying, "Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God" --- I have the first part covered; I struggle with the second. It is very easy for me to focus so closely on the problem --- analyse and evaluate and play countless "what if" scenarios -- that I develop tunnel vision that leads to a very dark, depressing, and at times, suffocating place. And while I believe that I must have some responsibility in solving the problem --- the truth is, I can only do so much (wow - that is hard to admit for a control freak like myself!). All my worrying about the situation will not "add one minute to my life." So, I think that allowing myself the freedom to read what I want to read when I want to read it will not only be a method of temporary escape from the harsh reality, it will also help teach me to "Let go and Let God" -- which has many healthy fringe benefits. NOW.....if I can only discipline myself to read these novels on the treadmill!!

Obviously I am not starting this new year with a "pie in the sky" attitude - but I am also not totally despondent either. I am cautiously optimistic that the world economy will slowly improve - and that the Lord will provide the Totoro family needs (not wants --- but that's ok). I plan to use this blog as a place of refuge --- to read what others have to say about my favorite past time, to broaden my literary horizons, and to write out my own thoughts and feelings on life. I may even try my hand at a book review or two (but let's not go overboard with promises that I may not be able to keep).

May you all have a very safe, joyful, and prosperous New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Traditions

It is hard to believe that it is already Christmas Eve. My family knows that on Labor Day I begin my mantra "Christmas will be here before we know it" and it comes true each and every year. We woke up to about a half inch of snow here in Kansas City and the high is not supposed to reach 20 degrees, so I think we are guaranteed a White Christmas - which is always special. My eldest will be spending her first Christmas away from home. She has gone to Memphis to spend the holiday with her -in-laws. She and her husband will be missed, but we will just begin some new traditions on the 26th when they arrive back in town.

Our holidays are steeped in traditions, that began with baking several favorites over the weekend. Today's tradition centers around the Italian tradition of the Vigil dinner. In the past I have made the dinner exactly as Geoff's grandmother did for decades, but over time I have adapted the dinner to fit our own family's tastes. We used to "import" bacala (salted cod) from St. Louis for the traditional bacala fritters, but since my father was the only one who truly enjoyed those, we ceased that tradition about two years ago. We have now substituted Alaskan Snow crab for the bacala. We also used to prepare whiting fish - but no one was a fan of that dish, so about 7 years ago I substituted boiled shrimp. I still make the angel hair and aioli sauce (anchovy - garlic - olive oil) and spinach bread (spinach - garlic - olive oil - parmesian - green olives) and I have added chicken cutlets to the menu as well (not fish related, but since we are no longer Catholic, I thought I could fudge on that minor detail). Dessert consists of several cookies plus the Italian honey balls called Strufoli (very time consuming - but worth the effort. In fact, I need to start on those as soon as I finish this blog entry).

We will eat the meal around 5:00 and then the clean up the kitchen will begin. Around 7:00 the kids are allowed to open their gifts to one another and then a special gift from us --- always matching Pajamas and DVDs. At around 9:00pm the kids disappear to the basement where they will watch movies all night - and the parents will then wrap the Santa gifts and stocking stuffers while watching Preacher's Wife (my personal favorite). Children are not allowed to wake up parents before 7:00am (yes....they are still very excited on Christmas morning and get us up very early. Then.....everyone goes back to bed around 10:00 and Mom has the house to herself for a short while).

Christmas morning consists of opening gifts and eating our traditional egg casserole with bagels and salmon cream cheese. The Christmas dinner will not be served until around 4:00pm and will consist of Prime Rib, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin or mincemeat pies. Children then spend the evening with friends - and parents relax in front of the fireplace, Geoff will probably watch television while I will read on my new kindle!

I love the next 48 hours because somehow time seems to stop. The traditions take over and it is as though the past, present and future have all merged at once. Troubles seem to disappear and the eternal hope that is truly Christmas seems to reign supreme. We have much to be thankful for this Christmas: health - food - shelter - love of family and friends. But we do have one Christmas wish - that Geoff could find employment soon. We know that our security is not in the job or in the dollars earned, but rather in Jesus Christ. But....the job and the money are (unfortunately) necessities here on this earth. I do have confidence that the Lord will provide, and I choose to cling to the following verse:
Matthew 6:31; 33-34 - So do not worry saying "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink" or "What shall we wear" ....But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

My all of you have a very blessed Christmas!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Salon - December 21, 2008

The first day of winter greeted Kansas with a high temperature of 9 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind chill of -15!! IT IS COLD! So I spent the day getting ahead on my holiday baking. I made some Angel Bites (the rest of the world knows them as Puppy Chow, but my mom was a member of the Angel Collectors Club and they renamed this tasty treat to suit their needs) - Holiday Biscotti (traditional almond biscotti with red and green candied cherries added for a festive look) - Snowflake Sugar Cookies (I wanted to try a new icing technique using color flow. Technique was ok - cookies are tasty) - Chocolate Covered Pretzels - and Bishop's Bread (looks like a fruitcake but ever so much better with chocolate chips - dates - candied cherries -and walnuts). Tomorrow I will bake M&M cookies (my personal favorite) and an Italian tradition, Strufoli (honey balls). It is beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!


I thought I would share my favorite Christmas devotional book in this Sunday Salon. I bought this book for myself about 7 or 8 years ago and have given countless copies as gifts over the years. I truly enjoy Thomas Kinkade's art, and have about 4 of his prints hanging in our living room. His artwork has a way of calming me down and helping me realize what is truly important in life. This little devotional does the same. For example, today's thought centers around candlelight:
Of all the colors of light, the warmest is the color of candlelight. When I paint light coming from the windows in my Christmas paintings, I try to capture the color of candlelight. Glowing amber. Warm. Welcoming. Nothing transforms the feeling in a room like candlelight. If Nanette did nothing else to prepare our house for Christmas, baking gingerbread and setting a room aglow with candles and greenery would be enough for me.

The day's meditation goes on to compare our lives to that of a candle wick. There are times when we set the room aglow and flicker and dance; and then there are times when we are like a dimly burning wick, depleted emotionally, spiritually and/or physically. But fortunately Christmas does not depend on us - but rather is "steadily illuminated by the Holy Spirit" and "just as the Christ child came to a waiting manger, God comes to a waiting heart."

I hope that through the hustle and bustle of this holiday season - that you too can take time out to refresh and renew in the eternal HOPE that is Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week there are two prompts posted for Booking Through Thursday and I think both of them are worth a response.

The first prompt is:

Do you give books as gifts?

To everyone? Or only to select people?

How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

I do enjoy giving books as gifts, but not all those on my Christmas list enjoy reading literature like I do. My son is not a fan of books. He is an audio engineer and his entire life is sound and music. I tend to give him iTunes gift cards. My oldest daughter has started reading more, but I am uncertain of her literary tastes, so I tend to give her cookbooks (we all enjoy cooking). My youngest daughter takes after her mama -- she does like to read, although I think she prefers receiving a gift card and she can select her own books.

How do I feel about receiving books?! I simply cannot imagine a better gift. I love receiving the actual book (although I would never turn away a gift card to Borders, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Half Price). I like the actual book, though - and the more the merrier. I love the feel of the book in my hands. I love to read the back cover and imagine what adventure is waiting for me within the pages. I love having several books from which to choose so that I can read the first chapter of each and then decide which book best fits my particular mood. I love the fact that a book is a gift that keeps on giving. I can read some today - and have more to read tomorrow. There is no more perfect gift for me than a book.

The 2nd prompt for today reads:

What is the best book you ever bought for yourself?

And, why? What made it the best? What made it so special?

Ok - this is an easy questions for me, but the answer may surprise you. The best book I ever bought myself is How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster. This book changed my life - and I mean that sincerely.

I was standing in a VERY long line at Borders on December 20, 2005. I had just finished my first semester teaching British Literature and I was mentally exhausted. I felt so unprepared to teach this class and I felt I was lucky to keep 2 days ahead of the students. As I was waiting in line I noticed this book on one of the endcaps. I knew I had a 20 minute wait ahead of me, so I decided to glance through it while standing in line. By the time I reached the cash register I was so engrossed that I bought the book on the spot (I rarely buy anything spontaneously) and with no coupon (I NEVER buy a book without some sort of discount). I finished the book before nightfall. I re-read the book over break. I took notes on the book. I even developed a lesson plan and handouts to give to my English 4 students on the first day of class. In short, this book opened my eyes to literature and took the fear out of reading the classics. The book helped me realize that great literature is accessible to all --- and the more we read, the more we understand and appreciate the artistic beauty of the written word.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Musing Monday on Tuesday

I had all intentions of posting yesterday, but time just got away from me. I really liked the "musing monday" prompt, however, so I thought perhaps a day late won't matter too much.

The prompt reads:
I always like to have a book with me at all times – call it a nerdy grown-up security blanket – and rarely do I leave the house without slipping one into my bag (even if I KNOW I’m not going to have a chance to read it). Do you take a book with you? Do you take whatever book you’re currently reading, or do you have a special on-the-go book? And do you have a preference for a these types of book (paperback, hardback; short stories; poetry etc)?

I really wanted to respond to this question so that I could brag about my birthday present. Yesterday was my birthday -- the big 49 (as my husband informed me --- this is my last official birthday; all others will just be the anniversary of my 49th) -- and I was one of the very fortunate souls to receive an Amazon Kindle (they are currently on backorder with an 11-13 week wait!). I have had my eye on these since they were first introduced in November, 2007. While I was intrigued, I simply could not justify the $399 price tag.

Over the past few months I have followed several discussion groups devoted to the Kindle. Most posts were quite positive and Kindle devotees are very persuasive. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Last summer I even met a total stranger with whom I had only conversed on one of the discussion boards for the expressed purpose of touching and feeling a Kindle for myself. She simply could not praise her Kindle enough and had intentions of replacing her entire library with kindle editions. She sold me. I came home and immediately put the Kindle on my wish list. As luck would have it, Oprah showcased the Kindle on her show one month later and Amazon offered a special $50 off to celebrate the endorsement. My husband took advantage of the discount and that is how I have come to have this very special birthday gift.

While I have only had the Kindle for a couple of weeks (we celebrated my birthday at Thanksgiving when all the kids were home), I have truly come to love it. I am not at the place where I prefer eBooks to the paper version, but I am very comfortable reading on this device. The features I like best are: I can download public domain books (which the british classics tend to be my preferred genre) for FREE!! and in under one minute; I can download samples (at least the first chapter, sometimes more) at Amazon for FREE to see if I truly want to purchase the book (I can't tell you how many samples I currently have on my homepage); I can purchase some Kindle version books for a fraction of the paper back price (for example, I downloaded Of Mice and Men for about $1.50); I can change the font size with a touch of the button - which is very useful at night when my eyes are tired; and I can easily highlight and annotate passages that are then automatically saved and organized (this will be very helpful in my teaching and my Master's program.

However, one of the best features of the Kindle (and why I wrote about this amazing device in response to today's musing prompt) is that I can carry virtually thousands of books in my purse at one time - and it weighs less than one pound!! I can have instant access to any book at any time -- so my ever changing moods can be appeased with just a touch of a button. Kindle automatically bookmarks where I stop reading - so I have no problem reading several books simultaneously (which I do on a regular basis). If I hear of a new book when I am out and about, I can instantly access the Amazon store through Whispernet and download a sample in about 30 seconds. I even find that I now make time to read when I am on the go --- and I am therefore reading more --- than I did when I would carry a paperback with me.

So, in answer to today's prompt - YES - I do carry a book with me at all times. In fact, I carry hundreds with me of all different genres. And I definitely prefer the electronic version --- at least for my books on the go.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Salon - December 14, 2008

For those who are following my blog who might not be well-versed in the world of reading blogs, let me quickly paste the description of the Sunday Salon from its website:
Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.

So, while I am somewhat intimidated to enter this literary salon, here is my first posting.

My pers
onal reading time is rather at a premium right now (too many holiday preparations, end of school activities, and final papers to grade), but I have managed to sneak away a few minutes here and there to begin a new book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. As my husband commented upon reading the title, "This is certainly outside your normal reading fare!" Well, it is and it isn't. The title is very misleading (and to be honest, I have not yet learned the significance of the hedgehog), but this book has already won my heart and has moved from my "to borrow from the library list" to the "I must have this book for my personal collection list." This is a book that I will want to read again and again because of the intriguing characters, the Parisian setting (I LOVE that city) and, primarily, because of the depth of the language that is so captivating.

A brief summary from the inside flap of the book reads:
Paloma (a 12 year girl who resides with her family in a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood) and Renee (the 54 year old concierge of the bourgeois building) both hide their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. Paloma is a super-smart adolescent who has come to terms with life's seeming futility and chooses to live behind a mask of mediocrity until she decides to end her life on her 13th birthday. Renee is a cantankerous widow who loves soap operas and cats, but secretly is a ferocious autodidact who devours art, philosophy, music and Japanese culture. The two eventually discover their kindred souls that results in a redemptive novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.


The story is a double narrative, with each of the main characters writing a journal of their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to life. Renee's voice has the edge of a cantankerous old woman, but with a great deal of humor. Renee's vocabulary is exquisite and find myself reading and re-reading some of her detailed descriptions. I found the following excerpt particularly inviting:
I have read so many books....And yet, like most autodidacts, I am never quite sure of what I have gained from them. There are days when I feel I have been able to grasp all there is to know in one single gaze, as if invisible branches suddenly spring out of nowhere, weaving together all the disparate strands of my reading - and then suddenly the meaning escapes, the essence evaporates, and no matter how often I reread the same lines, they seem to flee ever further with each subsequent reading, and I see myself as some mad old fool who thinks her stomach is full because she's been attentively reading the menu. Apparently this combination of ability and blindness is a symptom exclusive to the autodidact. Deprived of the steady guiding hand that any good education provides, the autodidact possesses nonetheless the gift of freedom and conciseness of thought, where official discourse would put up barriers and prohibit adventure. (p53)

I think I have read that paragraph at last 3 times, and I still find myself in awe. Renee has described ME (although I am not quite a 54 year old cantankerous woman). I had no idea that there was a name for people like me, but I am an autodidact (wow - that sounds so very fancy). While I have a college degree in French and Political Science, I have not used those skills since writing my last term paper in 1982. I currently teach several classes of English, but the last English class I took was my senior year in high school. I teach British Literature, but I had never read a single one of those books before taking over the class. I have virtually taught myself everything - with amazing debt and gratitude to the internet. But more importantly, I LIKE being an autodidact. I love learning and have often said that if it paid well, I would be a professional student. I simply cannot imagine a week where I have not learned something new, interesting, and though-provoking.

Paloma's journal entries are much more serious. In fact, she has set the goal of having the greatest number of profound thoughts before her suicide on her 13th birthday, and she devotes one entire journal to keep track of them. She enjoys writing these thoughts in either haiku (3 lines) or tanka (5 lines) poetry. I particularly enjoyed reading the details that she used to describe profound thought #5: Life - Everyone's - Military Service.
"Colombe (her sister) has figured out that what I dread more than anything else in life is noise. I think she discovered this by chance. It would never have crossed her mind spontaneously that somebody might actually need silence. That silence helps you to go inward, that anyone who is interested in something more than life outside actually needs silence: this, I think, is not something Colombe is capable of understanding, because her inner space is as chaotic and noisy as the street outside.....Since she can't invade anything else because I am totally inaccessible to her on a human level, she invades my personal auditory space, and ruins my life from morning to night....(she) won't stop at just ignoring the facts; she converts them into philosophy: 'My pest of a little sister is an intolerant and depressive little runt who hates other people and would rather live in a cemetery where everyone is dead - whereas I am outgoing, joyful, and full of life.' If there is one thing I detest, it's when people transform their powerlessness or alienation into a creed." (p 84)

What I found fascinating about this paragraph is that it is also ME (and I am mosts definitely not a precocious 12 year old). I have always loved silence and prefer driving in silence to listening to the radio (I can't even listen to a book on tape). I like that silence allows me the ability to think clearly - without any distractions. I like to "go inward" and be self-reflective. I have solved many a problem by allowing the quiet moments to stir my own creative juices and think "outside" the box. I like reflecting on my life - not necessarily to ponder regrets, but rather to think how I might respond differently in the future. Solitude allows me to listen to that still, small voice and really hear it. I think the love of silence is one of the reasons why I love to read. In the silence of the moment I can be transported to a different world. But....far too often I feel that my love of silence is not understood. I think some do view me as the "one who prefers a cemetery where everyone is dead" - and they don't understand that a preference for silence does not mean a joy-less life. To the contrary, I am really quite at peace.

So, there you have my first Sunday Salon post. A bit verbose, but hopefully an insight as to how this book can be incredibly thought-provoking for those who choose to read it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What I read for school


I thought it might be a good idea if I mentioned which novel studies I use in the classroom, which would provide insight to what I will read next year, along with the book challenges I have recently joined.

I teach at a very small University Model School, which means that the students attend school Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then they are homeschooled on Tuesday and Thursday. The school is set up to be "cafeteria-style" - which means they can choose which classes to take at school and which classes they will continue to take solely at home. The school accepts students in 3rd - 12th grades, but has a concentration of students in 7th-11th grade (many 12th graders are allowed to take classes at the local community college and earn dual credit - which is a financial blessing for their parents).

This is my 5th year to teach at the school and while I was originally hired to teach the elementary grammar classes, I now teach 7th grade English, 8th grade English, English 1 (9th grade) and British Literature and Composition. I also teach Computer Applications, but that is irrelevant to the discussion on this particular blog. I should also add that teachers in this model school are paid by the class - and by the number of students in the class. I certainly do not make enough money to shake a stick at ---- but I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

So.....the books that I teach, and therefore read and re-read each year (although I constantly tweak and adapt my syllabi each summer), include the following:

7th grade: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech; and selections from the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

8th grade: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Pearl by John Steinbeck; Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; and Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare.

9th grade: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Animal Farm by George Orwell; and Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand.

Brit Lit: Beowulf; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (unfortunately we do not have time to read any of the tales themselves); Macbeth by Shakespeare; Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (seniors have totally tuned out after spring break, so The Hobbit is about the only story that will sometimes hold their attention).

So there you have it.....my list of several novel studies that I try to re-read every year so that they are fresh in my mind as I teach them. This doesn't leave a lot of free time to read much of anything else (by the time you add the time spent in preparing lesson plans for 5 classes and then grading all those papers), but it does motivate me to constantly search out new titles to add to my TBR pile that I can attempt to attack over Christmas break and summer vacation.

One more week to go and then I will have nearly 3 weeks of that "free" time where I can read what I want to read. Of course, I have more books on my TBR pile that is humanly possible to accomplish, but I will have great fun trying to tackle the impossible.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Books Read in 2010

This is where I will keep a running tally of the books read - with links to reviews:
  1. Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
  2. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
  3. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
  4. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  5. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
  6. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty
  7. Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling (audio)
  9. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  10. Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson
  11. 8 Minutes in the Morning by Jorge Cruise
  12. Turning Life into Fiction by Robin Hemley
  13. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  14. The Christmas List by Richard Evans
  15. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  16. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  17. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
  18. The Cotton Queen by Pamela Morsi
  19. Travel Writing by L. Peat O'Neil
  20. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  21. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  22. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  23. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
  24. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  25. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  26. On Writing by Stephen King
  27. Impressionism by Peggy J. Parks
  28. Monet and the Impressionists for Kids by Carol Sabbeth
  29. Edgar Degas by Susan E. Meyer
  30. Edgar Degas by Mike Venezia
  31. Mary Cassatt by Philip Brooks
  32. Mary Cassatt by Mike Venezia
  33. Impressionism by Jude Welton
  34. How to Talk to Children about Art by Francoise Barbe-Gall
  35. Impressionist Quartet by Jeffrey Meyers
  36. Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe
  37. A Weekend with Degas by Rosabianca Skira-Venturi
  38. Degas and the Dance by Susan Goldman Rubin
  39. Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari
  40. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Baillett
  41. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  42. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby
  43. The Digital Photography Book - volume 2 by Scott Kelby 
  44. How to Use Flickr by Richard Giles
  45. Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson
  46. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  47. Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson
  48. Life is a Verb by Patti Digh
  49. Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Connor
  50. Traveling Light by Debrah DeWit Marchant
  51. In the Presence of Books by Debrah DeWit Marchant
  52. Writing about Art by Henry M. Sayr
  53. Will Work for Food by Diane Jacob
  54. Fables:  Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
  55. Writing True:  The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz
  56. How to Make a Journal of Your Life by Daniel Price
  57. Nature Journaling by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E Roth
  58. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
  59. Best of Taste of Home Recipes
  60. Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook by Paula Deen
  61. Lady and Sons Just Desserts by Paula Deen
  62. A Whole New Batch of Recipes from Savannah by Paula Deen
  63. Rachael Ray's Book of 10
  64. 365 No Repeats by Rachael Ray
  65. Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals
  66. Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten
  67. Martin Yan Chinese Cooking
  68. Cook Yourself Thin


  69. Cook Yourself Thin Faster
  70. Everyday Food:  Good Food Fast by Martha Stewart
  71. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  72. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  73. Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner
  74. Lydia Cassatt:  Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman
  75. Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell
  76. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (audio)
  77. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland
  78. Life Studies by Susan Vreeland
  79. Letters to My Daughter by George Bishop
  80. The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier
  81. If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
  82. Scout, Atticus, and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy
  83. Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch
  84. Lift by Kelly Corrigan
  85. Ways of Seeing by John Berger
  86. Writing about Visual Art by David Carrier
  87. Trust the Process by Shaun McNiff
  88. How to Look at Everything by David Finn
  89. How to Look at Photographs by David Finn
  90. Criticizing Photographs by Terry Barrett
  91. Interpreting Art by Terry Barrett
  92. The Journal Junkies Workshop by Eric M Scott and David R Modler
  93. Heroes and Heroines by Tami D.  Cowden, Caro La Fever, and Sue Viders

Challenges for 2010

This post will be a record of all the challenges in which I choose to participate in 2010 - and my running record of books read for each.

I enjoyed Carl's RIP challenge so much in the fall of 2009 that I didn't want to miss out on the fun this spring with his Once Upon a Time challenge.  While fantasy fiction is not something that I have enjoyed in the past, it is a genre in which I hope to better acquaint myself in the future.  There are several options in which to join this challenge, but I will only commit to the lowest level which is The Journey:  to read only one book in one of the four categories (fantasy, folklore, fairy tale, or mythology) between March 21 and June 20, 2010.




I love a good mystery and when I saw the Mystery Reads Cafe challenge I knew it was one that I could complete. The challenge is hosted by the Mystery Reads yahoo group (which you must be member to join) and the rules are very simple: read a book whose author's last name begins with B; read a book that takes in a different country from where you live; read a book published in 2010; and read the first book in a series. I will keep track of my accomplishments below:
  1. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (published 2010)



I am THRILLED that the Harry Potter Challenge actually extends until the end of July - as that means I have a chance of completing it! Michelle at GalleySmith is hosting this incredible event and I am very grateful, as this is the motivation I need to start - and finish - this amazing series. The goal is to read all 7 books, which I will do via audio books while walking on the treadmill. I also want to watch each of the movies as I finish the book - which will also count toward C.B. James' challenge (see below). You can follow my progress below:
  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (audio)


The 2010 Bibliophilic Book Challenge is hosted by Lesley of A Life in Books and is truly one that I know I will fully enjoy. This challenge asks us to commit to read a certain number of books about books and/or reading. These books can be either fiction (such as 84 Charing Cross Road) or
non-fiction (such as Jeremy Mercer's Time Was Soft There). While there are 3 levels of participation to choose from, I have decided to only join at the Bookworm level, which means I will commit to read 3 books that fit this description. The ongoing tally will be shown below:
  1. Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
  2. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
  3. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  4. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett


This challenge is one that is near and dear to my heart. I truly love the Victorian time-period, and thoroughly enjoy the detailed serial novels that were so popular at the time. Our Mutual Read is hosted by Amanda of The Blog Jar and I have chosen to participate at the entry level position, which is to read 4 books total - 2 of which must have been written between 1837 and 1901, and the remaining two can be neo-Victorian novels. The list of books completed for this challenge can be found below:

  1. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll



A challenge that marries well with the Our Mutual Read Challenge is the Typically British Reading Challenge hosted by Book Chick City. Since I teach British Literature, love Victorian literature, and dream of living in England --- this challenge was just too irresistible. I have committed to read 4 books over the next 12 month period, which puts me at the "Gordon Bennett" level (although I do secretly aspire to reach the "Cream Crackered" level -- which is for anyone who reads 12 books in that same time frame). My progress will be tallied below:
  1. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
  2. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


This is a rather odd challenge for me to join as I tend to not watch many movies. However, I am beginning to think that I am missing the boat, so to speak, as I feel left out of many student conversations. So, in an attempt to rectify that problem I am joining this challenge, hosted by C. B. James. There are several levels of participation, but I think I am going to shoot for the Double Feature, that is, read 2 books/watch 2 movies between January 1 and December 31. This sounds doable to me - and who knows - perhaps I will become quite the movie buff. I will track my progress below:
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

I am very excited about this challenge, The Rory Gilmore Books Project, hosted by Shona. First of all, I enjoy the show and this challenge has given me a renewed interest in watching all the episodes from the beginning. What fun! Secondly, this challenge is a perpetual challenge - that is, there is NO ending date! Woo-Hoo!!! If I only read one book this year I am a winner! Finally, the books on this reading list are vast and varied. I anticipate each book to be a mind-opening experience. I will update my progress below:


  1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
  3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


A challenge with which I truly hope to follow through is the Flashback Challenge hosted by Aarti of Booklust. This challenge focuses on re-reading books from our past, something that I have longed to do but never make the time. While there are three reading levels from which to choose, I think I will shoot to complete the Bookworm level, which means I will re-read up to three novels over the course of the year. Who knows, if I succeed this year, perhaps next year I will strive for the literati level (read 6 or more books). The list of books completed this year are as follows:


The TBR Lite challenge is only challenge that I know I SHOULD join.  I have added more books to my shelves since starting my blog, than I think I have added in the entire decade prior.  The "lite" challenge is meant to be stress-free, which is what I need, while at the same time to help us learn to appreciate the books we already have.  There are several levels in which to participate, but I plan to join at the Option B level which states that I will read any 6 books from my shelves between January 1 and December 31, 2010.  I can pre-select which books I think I will read, but I am allowed to change the list as it suits me.

  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  • Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland



This is my second year to join the "Support Your Local Library" reading challenge. I had such success with this challenge in 2009 (I read 35 library books), that I knew I wanted to participate again this year. J. Kaye is the host, and she has challenged all participants to aim high. In that spirit, I will shoot for the "Just My Size" level of participation, which means I will attempt to read 50 library books over the course of the year. Below you will find the update to my status:


  1. Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
  2. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
  3. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
  4. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  5. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
  6. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty
  7. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  8. Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson
  9. Turning Life into Fiction by Robin Hemley
  10. The Christmas List by Richard Evans
  11. The Cotton Queen by Pamela Morsi
  12. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
  13. Impressionism by Peggy J. Parks
  14. Monet and the Impressionists for Kids by Carol Sabbeth
  15. Edgar Degas by Susan E. Meyer
  16. Edgar Degas by Mike Venezia
  17. Mary Cassatt by Philip Brooks
  18. Mary Cassatt by Mike Venezia
  19. Impressionism by Jude Welton
  20. How to Talk to Children about Art by Francoise Barbe-Gall
  21. Impressionist Quartet by Jeffrey Meyers
  22. Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe
  23. A Weekend with Degas by Rosabianca Skira-Venturi
  24. Degas and the Dance by Susan Goldman Rubin
  25. Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari
  26. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Baillett
  27. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  28. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby
  29. The Digital Photography Book - volume 2 by Scott Kelby 
  30. How to Use Flickr by Richard Giles
  31. Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson
  32. Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson
  33. Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Connor
  34. Writing about Art by Henry M. Sayre
  35. In the Presence of Books by Deborah DeWit Marchant
  36. Traveling Light by Deborah DeWit Marchant
  37. Will Work for Food by Diane Jacob
  38. Fables:  Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
  39. Life is a Verb by Patti Digh
  40. Writing True:  The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz
  41. How to Make a Journal of Your Life by Daniel Price
  42. Nature Journaling by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E Roth
  43. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
  44. Best of Taste of Home Recipes
  45. Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook by Paula Deen
  46. Lady and Sons Just Desserts by Paula Deen
  47. A Whole New Batch of Recipes from Savannah by Paula Deen
  48. Rachael Ray's Book of 10
  49. 365 No Repeats by Rachael Ray
  50. Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals
  51. Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten
  52. Martin Yan Chinese Cooking
  53. Cook Yourself Thin
  54. Cook Yourself Thin Faster
  55. If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
  56. The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier
  57. Life Studies by Susan Vreeland
  58. Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop
  59. Everyday Food:  Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart
  60. The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier
  61. If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
  62. Scout, Atticus, and Book by Mary McDonagh Murphy
  63. Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch
  64. Lift by Kelly Corrigan
  65. Ways of Seeing by John Berger
  66. Writing about Visual Art by David Carrier
  67. Trust the Process by Shaun McNiff
  68. How to Look at Everything by David Finn
  69. How to Look at Photographs by David Finn
  70. Criticizing Photographs by Terry Barrett
  71. Interpreting Art by Terry Barrett
  72. The Journal Junkies Workshop by Eric M Scott and David R Modler
  73. Heroes and Heroines by Tami D.  Cowden, Caro La Fever, and Sue Viders

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday




1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?

(I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for everyone?)

2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

One impetus that helped me "take the plunge" into blogging was the fact that there are so many of these wonderful daily prompts in which to participate. I was afraid that if I started a blog, I would run out of things to say in a very short period of time, but memes like this one should help keep me going.

In answer to the first part of the question, which will reiterate what most booklovers would say, NO --- I do not have enough time to read! Of course, I might elaborate and say that I do not have enough time period. How I wish we had about 36 hours in a day. But then I read a quote on Rob's blog, Rob Around Books, that caught my attention:

we all have have the same amount of time available to us; Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare etc. had the same amount of time available to them as we do, so the key is how you use that time.

So the question is --- how do I currently spend my time vs how do I want to spend my time? And truthfully, the answer is.....I probably spend my time the way I want to. Sure, there is the housework, chores, paperwork, etc. that I HAVE to do, rather than want to do.....but I do those activities because they are a necessary part of who I want to be: wife, mother, teacher, homemaker, etc.

The answer to question two is....I would want to spend time reading more of EVERYTHING! Well, more books, that is. I would probably want to spend more time reading more background information for the novels that I teach: author biographies, timeperiod in history that the novel was written, commentary on the novels, etc. I think this would enrich my appreciation of the works and help me to be a better teacher.

I would also want to spend more time reading the Bible. Not necessarily more of the Bible at one sitting, but rather more thoughtful, meditative reading of the scriptures.

I would also like to read more classics. There are SO many classics that I never read as a young adult and now I want to try to make up for lost time. Not only do I enjoy the timeless themes and rich literary qualitity of the classics, I take comfort in knowing that I can pick up one of the gems and not be bombarded with bad language or explicit sex and violence. It seems that many of the popular favorites today have good storylines and relatable characters, but it is so hard for me to get through the language.

Finally, I would like to find the time to read more books that I would consider pure pleasure - total escapism. I do not have to annotate the passages for diction or syntax; I do not have to analyze the work for rich symbolism or layers of meaning. I can just sit down, relax, and be drawn into the book for my entertainment.

One of my all time favorite ways to relax is to go to the bookstore and just browse. I always start at the sales area, then work my way to the literature area, meander to the mystery/thriller section, and usually end the trip with literary criticism. It is a good thing that I do not have enough money to buy all the books I want (seems to go hand in hand with not having enough time), but I do have a library. After I make my list in the bookstore, I then go to the library and search the stacks for these new finds. I never leave the library empty-handed, and usually come out with far more books than I can possibly read in the 3 week loan period. Which brings me full circle to where I started: is there ever enough time to read as much as I want?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My First Post

I am not quite sure what rock I have been hiding under lately, but I did not find the wonderful world of book blogs until about a month ago. I had been an infrequent lurker on the Barnes and Noble book club site for several years, but never knew how to venture outside that box. Somehow I found the Good Reads website in the early fall and enjoyed following some of the literary discussions there. I am not sure if it was at either one of these sites, or another random surfing incident that led me to my first "book blog." Since that fateful day, however, I have spent many joyous hours reading, musing, and contemplating several GREAT blogger sites. I have listed the blogs that I have been fortunate to find and follow on my homepage -- and at this point I want to publicly thank each and everyone of you for providing such inspiration to me. I am certainly not in your league of blogging experience, but I do hope that I might be able to pass on a little bit of my joy of reading to some of you.

My taste in reading tends to focus on the classics. I think it is because I missed reading so many of them in my youth and I feel I need to make up for lost time. I am particularly partial to the British authors of the mid-19th Century, but I plan to broaden my horizons as life goes on. I also enjoy a good, suspenseful thriller and have recently been introduced to such authors as Elizabeth George and Anne Perry. I know that as I read more and more of your wonderful sites and suggestions, my list of TBR will grow exponentially!

I never knew that reading challenges existed! I guess that would follow since I never visited the blogging world -- but I must say that I am very intrigued and quite anxious to join one. The problem is --- which one to choose!!! I teach several different classes of English at a very small, private school, and I have 4 different literature preps to do each week; therefore, much of my "free" time" is spent reading and re-reading those novels for class (I teach 7th grade - 8th grade - 9th grade and 12th grade English). With my type A personality I could easily join several challenges each year and then drive myself crazy trying to complete the goal. I want to really study over my Christmas break the challenges that are available starting January 1, 2009, and then sign up for those that I truly think will challenge me without causing me too much anxiety. (I suppose you can tell that along with my Type A personality I am also a very detailed, analytical individual).

Well, thus ends my first post in the book blog world. I look forward to getting to know more of you in this cyber world, and I would welcome any comments or feedback that you may have.

Thank you all so very much for introducing me to this wonderful community!
Molly

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Books Reviewed - Master List

This will be a running list of the books I have read and reviewed since I began this blog in January, 2009.
Books are loosely sorted by genre, and in alphabetical order by title.

General Fiction
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Alice I have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt
The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman
The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson

The Christmas List by Richard Evans
Crossing Washington Square by Joanne Rendell
Firmin by Sam Savage
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier
The Sister by Poppy Adams
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber
We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Historical Fiction
Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell
Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner
Life Studies by Susan Vreeland
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman


Mystery/Thriller
Boomarked for Death by Lorna Barrett
Dog Gone It by Spencer Quinn
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Goff
Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

Memoir
A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Columbine by Dave Cullen
Confections of a Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado
A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid
French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Young Adult
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigburg
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling (audio book)Writing
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

NonFiction - Books on Books/Writing
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Book by Book by Michael Dirda
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
Life is a Verb by Patti Digh
No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty
On Writing by Stephen King
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
Scout, Atticus and Boo  by Mary McDonagh Murphy
Time was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer

Travel Writing by L. Peat O'Neil (I actually skimmed several on this topic, but LOVED this one!)
Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara? by Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy
Writing about Art by Henry M. Sayre
Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Connor

NonFiction - Art and Photography
How to use Flickr by Richard Giles
Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson
Traveling Light by Deborah DeWit Marchant
In the Presence of Books by Deborah DeWit Marchant
Trust the Process by Shaun McNiff

NonFiction - Other
8 Minutes in the Morning by Jorge Cruise
Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch

Audio books
Related Posts with Thumbnails