Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Salon: May 30, 2010.

The last half of this week has been extremely busy. On both Thursday and Friday I worked 15 hour shifts, and I am working straight through until next Friday. It has made me a little grumpy and tired and I sadly have not had a lot of time to browse blogs.

But, such is life and I know that working will be a better choice in the long run. I am also home alone this weekend. The rest of my family, and Matt, are down in Indiana going to the Indy 500. This is the first time in 17 years I haven't gone, but that's alright. They told me it is very warm and humid, so I'll take work over that any day. It has given me some time to relax after those long shifts and to cuddle with the cats.

Anyway, I ended up having a great reading week. Matt and I were up north at his parents' log cabin on Monday and Tuesday, so I flew through As I Lay Dying and The Return of Sherlock Holmes while I was up there. Matt was also reading, Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer, and we had a great time. Speaking of Matt, does anyone have any suggestions of things for him to read? He likes mostly non-fiction and things about mountain-climbing and the like. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

I also started Gone with the Wind, which I have never read and I have also never seen the movie. I am around page 630 or so in my edition right now (there are about 950 pages in my edition) and I just can't get enough of it. It is definitely a fast read for its size and I cannot wait to know what happens. I'll probably try and finish it in the next day or two.

Plans for this week are to finish Gone with the Wind, as well as read The Hound of the Baskervilles. I am also going to try and get through the first section of Gulliver's Travels for my read-along (by the way, there is still plenty of time to sign up for them! Links are above!).

I hope you all have a great reading week and I hope that I can be around a little more this week!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sherlock Holmes: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Like I said in my introduction to Sherlock Holmes, I am reading through all four novels, and all fifty-six short stories starring the famous detective. Rather than just skip around and read what I am feeling at the moment, I felt it was a better idea to read the novels and stories in order of publication. That way I can get to know Holmes and Watson as they develop.

I am also going to point out one more time that while I am reading all NINE books featuring Holmes, they are only counting as ONE title on my overall list. See my introduction for clarification.

After reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes I was wondering whether Doyle was going to be able to keep up with excellent storytelling in more short stories. However, the public wanted more Holmes stories, so Doyle delivered.

In The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, the reader gets more of the world's greatest detective. He is featured in another collection of stories, but as I read through them, there were a few things I noticed.

First, it seems as though Doyle was getting sick of Holmes and Watson. There were a few stories that while well-written, didn't capture me the way they could have. Since I know that Doyle was sick of writing about Holmes, I suppose I am not surprised that it came through in his writing.

However, there were still some gems that I loved. "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" was highly entertaining. It captured a lot of the clues and deduction techniques that I love about the Holmes stories. I also really loved "The Adventure of the Reigate Squire," which was quite violent and action packed! "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" was also a favorite, since it dealt a little more with political intrigue and mystery (and it was twice as long as the other stories).

I also noticed that it seemed harder and harder for Doyle to integrate Watson back into the stories. If you recall, at the end of The Sign of Four, Watson marries and moves out of Baker Street. Doyle brings him back by having him visit Holmes, or Holmes going to Watson, or having Watson "recall" stories and mysteries from when he had lived on Baker Street. His wife plays almost no role in any of the stories beyond a simple mentioning and I wonder whether Doyle was kicking himself for marrying off his narrator.

(Although, Doyle was aggravated with the public's obsession with Holmes anyway, so I imagine when he married Watson off he was doing it with no idea that he was going to have to keep weaving him into the stories).

With all of that being said, there is one large and redeeming quality about all of these stories: they continue to amaze me with cleverness. Doyle does a masterful job of creating new and intriguing characters for each mystery and Holmes continues to see things that would escape the normal eye.

I do have commend Doyle, however, for the fact that in certain cases Holmes does not report the solution of the case to the police. He takes on some of that moral weight in refusing to have justified people punished for their crimes. Whether or not you personally believe that justice is warranted is up to you.

There is one big mystery left at the end of the collection, and it came at a time when Doyle was frustrated with the success and popularity of his master sleuth. Doyle never expected Holmes to catch on, especially since he started writing stories about the sleuth as an experiment.

Doyle's biggest failure then, was "killing off" Holmes at the end of this collection. At the time of first publication, the public was outraged and Doyle was heavily criticized for killing off the most famous detective of all time. You can imagine I was anxious to get to that story, to see how Holmes died. In the final story of the collection, "The Adventure of the Final Problem," Holmes meets the biggest criminal in all of London-Professor Moriarty. In this final story, we see Holmes begin to question everything he has done. I think it is the first time that the reader sees Holmes sweat it out, and worry about his abilities. But, how Holmes is finished off I will not answer (you'll have to read for yourself!)

In all, it was a collection of stories that further develop the mind and character of Sherlock Holmes. Part of me wonders if Doyle was just out of ideas for stories when he decided to off Holmes, or if he just couldn't write about a character who was so unfeeling. With that said, I am curious to see how Holmes comes back, since there are still two novels and three more collections of short stories left in the Holmes universe!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book 42: Finished.

I think that I picked a great Hardy novel to begin with. I am always a little wary of picking up an author off my list that I haven't read before (or even heard of-again, my English education seems to have been not as extensive as it should have been). So far, I seem to have been lucky with the unknown authors I have read (Forster, Arnow, Dostoevsky, Morrison, Zola, and Emily Bronte).

Although, truth be told, I have only had one horrible experience in re-reading Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, and lukewarm experiences with Albert Camus' The Stranger and Chekov's The Cherry Orchard.

Anyway back to Hardy. Many of his other titles I have heard mixed things about. It seems like Hardy might be one of those writers you either love, or you hate. I could be wrong, but based on what I have seen, that seems to be the case. And after finishing this lovely novel, I may be in the "love" camp.

I love the ambition of what Hardy tried to accomplish in this exploration of one man's character. Taking Mayor Henchard from the drunken idiot who sold his wife in the first pages of the novel, to the end where he begins to regret the decisions he made...well, it was a wonderful journey of a man who could very well be the man next door. I loved the complications between Henchard and his daughter, as well as the people around him. He made a wonderful villain...and a person who really wanted to root for.

I also really liked his daughter. She began as a mostly uneducated woman, but she really made big strides to learn and better herself. That is a quality I truly admire in people. I mean, to work hard to learn new things and grow at any age is commendable. It is a trait I hope that I have.

In any case, The Mayor of Casterbridge was a wonderful novel about the way choices can impact your life, and at any stage of your life. It was a novel I fell in love with, but I am curious to see the depth in Hardy's other work before I can judge him.

"Her experience had been of a kind to teach her, rightly or wrongly, that the doubtful honor of a brief transit through a sorry world hardly called for effusiveness, even when the path was suddenly irradiated at some half-way point by daybeams rich as hers. But her strong sense that neither she nor any human being deserved less than was given, did not blind her to the fact that there were others receiving less who had deserved much more. And in being forced to class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to whom such unbroken tranquility had been accorded in the adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain," (292).

Thursday Treat #18: The Book of Joby by Mark Ferrari

I love browsing bookshelves and looking for books, titles, and covers that catch my eye. I have never been one to look at bestseller lists and since I am slightly new to the book-blogging world, I never thought that was an option in the past.

Visits to the bookstore have always been a huge ordeal for me. I generally walk into a bookstore knowing that I will spend the better part of an hour just wandering around and touching books. I like to ignore displays unless they are well done or a title catches my eye. Instead, I look up and down every shelf to see if something new jumps out at me and screams "read me!"

(I do have to admit that since starting my project, I have only been in a bookstore a handful of times. I really, really miss buying and collecting books, but I am trying to limit what I get that is not on my list, unless it is something I am really looking forward to).

A couple of years ago, I was on just such a trip. I had some extra money in my pocket and "nothing to read." So, I ran to the nearest B & N and spent a long time searching. I remember this trip because of the mammoth amount of things I bought. But I really member buying one book in particular: The Book of Joby by Mark Ferrari.

It was a huge brick of a book. I mean, unless I know the author I usually don't drop the big bucks on a book and author I have never heard of, but I was intrigued. I liked the simplicity of the cover, and the biblical reference. I took a chance and it ended up being one of my favorite books that year (2008).

Lucifer and God decide to make another wager, as is habit with them. Lucifer bets God that he can turn any mortal away from God by the time the mortal turns 40. God is not allowed to interfere, along with his angels, unless the mortal asks for their help specifically. Lucifer is allowed to use all of his demons and powers to harm the mortal. God, however, is allowed only to pick the mortal and then step back.

God settles on Joby, a 9-year-old boy with a promising future. He is active and loving, with great parents and friends. Joby loves stories about King Arthur and starts his own roundtable with his friends. Joby is a normal little boy with a zest for life and love.

Enter the wager.

Joby's life turns upside down as he begins to battle with demons (seen and unseen). As his life falls apart and he grows up, it seems as if Joby is beginning to lose faith. But this is where the power of Ferrari's writing kicks in. He explores the depths of faith and human nature in the context of so much evil.

At the end of this 640 page book, I was in love with the world Ferrari created. Joby was the perfect character in that he knew the limitations of his humanity and even when he hated himself the most, he still pushed forward. It was a book that stuck with me long after I closed the book cover and one that I do not recommend enough.

It is well-written and a beautifully composed fantasy epic that truly touches on the feelings we all have about ourselves and our lives. It is a book that I am sure I will read again and again when I feel down to remind myself about the hope of the human spirit and what we can all accomplish if we just believe.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book 42: Characters v. Plot.

I am new to Thomas Hardy, but one thing I have learned from researching him and his work, is that Hardy was very experimental in his writing. He completed a whole collection of novels to explore different aspects of novels. A large number of them focused more on the development of his characters and exploring human nature.

There are generally two main directions a novel is developed: focused on characters, or focused on plot. These appeal to a large amount of people and usually readers are really drawn to one or the other (I'm not saying that you would never read or enjoy the other, but we usually have a preference).

Personally, I would much rather read a story with highly developed characters. I like character development and I think it is one of the hardest things for writers to accomplish. Creating a three-dimensional, likable, appealing character is no easy feat. There are certain challenges to making a character realistic, and to truly capture all aspects of human emotion and motive.

So I am starting to like Hardy's style in The Mayor of Casterbridge. I feel like Hardy is exploring all different angles of human nature within all of his main characters. Their motives are explained and their lives are the story. It is not based on plot, but on the actions each character takes. Personally, I find this more realistic. I find that our lives are dictated by the choices we make, not by what happens around us. Circumstances do not change us, our actions and responses do.

Thus, I love what Hardy is trying to accomplish. His main character, the mayor Henchard, has made some horrible decisions to change the course of his life. In the first few pages, the reader watches as Henchard, his wife, and daughter stop in for food and drink in a rough tavern. There, Henchard gets carried away with his drinking and eventually becomes drunk. As he drinks more and more, Henchard rants about the uselessness and burden of his wife. In his drunken state, he auctions off his wife and daughter to the highest bidder. A seaman buys the two women and when Henchard wakes the next morning, he realizes what he has done.

He makes a vow not to drink for twenty years before moving south and starting over, in Casterbridge.

He makes a new life for himself and rises to prosperity. He is eventually elected mayor and seems to have everything going for him. Of course, his wife and daughter return to find him and Henchard has to come to terms with the decisions he made. The perfect life he built for himself begins to unravel.

It is an interesting premise and I am curious to see where Hardy's characters take themselves. I am curious to see how their actions shape the story around them and change the course of their lives.

I guess I shall see.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Last Book.

When I jumped into doing this project, the plan was simply to read the books on my list in any order that I so desired. I never planned anything out past the first couple of novels, since I figured it would be easier to simply grab what interested me off my shelf.

But, after starting out reading things I really wanted to read, I have come to a few realizations. I have to mix in things I don't like (Ahem....Charles Dickens) in the middle of the things I love. Otherwise I am going to come to the end and have a whole mess of things I have no interest in really reading left and then frustration will really kick in. So I have tried to mix in a lot of new with the old-a great mix of comfort and familiarity with new and awkward. It has been okay so far and I have managed to keep that balance.

However, now I am thinking about the end of this...what am I going to end up with?

So I want to decide now what the last book I read will be. And I was hoping someone would have a suggestion?

If you were in my shoes, and you were reading the books on my list, which one would you save until the very end?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book 42: The Mayor of Casterbridge and Book Stats.

Title: The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character
Author: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
First Published: 1886

My Edition: Amsco Literature Series (I bought this last September at my library book sale-the copyright date is 1971)
Pages: 292

Other Works Include: Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), The Return of the Native (1878), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of D'Urbervilles (1891), Jude the Obscure (1895), The Well-Beloved (1897)

Hardy was also well-known for a number of other novels and short stories. He was also a poet, but used his novel writing as experience and to pay the bills (must be nice, huh?).

For my personal challenge, I will be reading a number of Hardy's novels, including Far From the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, Tess of D'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. Unfortunately for me, I have NO experience reading any of Hardy's works, so I am going into this completely blind.

Again, I must mention how I feel like my English degree is somewhat of a joke. It never prepared me for this.

Anyway, from what I have gathered about this particular Hardy novel, is that it is an experiment in character development. Hardy liked to play around with characters to see what they would do, which is something I am rather fond of. I am a sucker for well-developed characters as opposed to new and interesting plots, so if this is true about Mr. Hardy, I think I might have a new best friend.

In any case, I know nothing about the content of the novel, except that it takes place in a fictionalized place in England, which Hardy calls Wessex, and it centers on the life and actions of one man.

Here's to hoping that this is a great first experience!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Salon: May 23, 2010.

Browsing through my blogroll earlier, I noticed quite a few posts about the end of the TV show Lost. I am glad to see that so many people love the show as much as I do.

I watched most of the first season as it came out on TV, but when it came time for the next few seasons, I always had a class during Lost time. So I stopped watching and never got back into it. Way, way back in November, Matt convinced me to watch through the series with him so I could watch the new (current) season with him as it came out. Needless to say, I couldn't get through it that quickly. But in the last few weeks, I have been hooked and some of my my most precious reading time has been spent watching episodes and falling love.

If you have never watched the series, you need to. It is extremely character driven, which my book nerd self absolutely loved. The characters are amazing and real, and I love so many of them. Now, I am going to come to the end when I watch the finale tonight, and I will think about how, like a great book, the series is coming to an end...but I can always revisit it.

I won't be watching it as it airs, so in a little while, I am banning myself from the computer. Matt won't be getting home from work till late, so I am waiting for him to start it. We also are going have some friends over to watch it with us. I even made "Dharma fish biscuits" with the characters' names on them to eat while we watch.

Anyway, in book news I had a fairly successful week. I started and finished Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Many people were surprised when I said I had never read it before. I also attempted to start Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (he also wrote Heart of Darkness), but I am 60 pages in and I am bored out of my mind. I have no idea what is going on and I am completely uninterested in the story. I decided to set it aside and I have turned to one of my favorite books for some comfort, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. It is a marvelous book and I can't wait to review it.

I also wanted to give a huge shout-out to everyone who is participating in one of my two read-alongs! I have been updating the main posts all week as people have expressed interest. If you are interested or plan on joining in, please sign up on the original posts. You can sign up for either Gulliver's Travels or Cranford. Those of you who are reading Cranford have totally left poor old Gulliver in the dust. But I have read Swift's work before, and it really is a great, quirky little book! Think about it hard!

This week I am planning on finishing As I Lay Dying, and maybe getting back into Lord Jim, if I can. There are also a few other things sitting on the shelf that I have a craving we'll have to see what else I grab!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I am posting to say that while not all of my reviews are up (I am a little back-logged on reviews still), I have completed the LOST books challenge!

To complete this challenge, I had to read 5 books that were featured on the TV show Lost before the series finale (which is tomorrow). If you are unfamiliar with the show, there is a lot of focus on literature and mythology.

I went to the Lostpedia to search for the books I wanted to read and came up with a list of seven books I was considering:
  1. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  3. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  5. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  7. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
However, plans changed and I managed to read and complete the following, all of which were featured on Lost at some point:
  1. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  4. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
All of my reviews are not complete (I just finished the Steinbeck this week), but I managed to read 6! Woot!

One of the best parts about this challenge is that knowing the literature really made more click within the show. I think that in the future (a couple years from now), I will definitely need to go and read more of the books featured in the show.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book 39: Finished.

I can see it now-why all you Austen lovers out there absolutely adore Persuasion, Austen's last complete novel. It is a simply breathtaking piece of work and I am sad now that I can't look forward to it any longer as the unknown.

While I still have a hard time deciding which Austen is my favorite, I think this one is definitely at the top. It is far more meaningful and lovelier than any of her other novels. It is more mature, more realistic.

As someone who has been in a relationship for almost eight years, but only married for 5 months, this novel exemplifies how love has to grow and endure time.

And as someone who does have a partner, and who has gone through the stages of love, I can appreciate this deeper version of love. You can only be in the "falling in love" stage for so long before life happens. Life influences your love and your relationship.

Perhaps that is why I can relate to Anne and Frederick. They fell in love and waited, and waited. Life happened and they were apart. But the strength of their love eventually pulled them back together. Through everything, they still loved each other.

And the married part of me loves that and wishes that more novels really showcased the passion of a long love. There is something endearing and wonderful about couples who do end up together after years of uncertainty and trial. It is also wonderful to see those couples still loving each other, and still making efforts to show their love.

So yes, Persuasion was lovely. I think it is a novel that is not known enough. More people need to read this little work by Austen to appreciate her genius, and where she was headed in the maturity of her writing towards the end of her life. So if you love Austen, like I do, but haven't read this gem, you NEED to go get a copy and read it now. It will complete your love of Austen and show you something new to cherish and marvel over.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday Treat #17: A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

There have been times when I have a bought a book on a whim. Something drew it to me and I felt like I just needed to read it. A Man Without a Country was one such book. It was not like anything I had read before and to this day, I find myself recommending it often.

A Man Without a Country is the closest thing to an autobiography that Vonnegut ever wrote. It is a collection is his thoughts on a world that is drastically different than the one he grew up in. His trademark humor and sarcasm drips throughout his words and creates some pretty memorable moments.

While I picked up the book on night in a fit of having "nothing to read" the book has become a companion in times when I need comfort. It is a little weird to say that about Vonnegut. I ended up staying up a little later than usual to finish the volume (it is 145 pages). It was worth every moment and I have numerous passages bookmarked.

To give you a little taste of what is in store for you:

"I think that novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex."

"Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."

"Humor is a way of holding off how awful life can be."

"If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."

Throughout all of this volume, you get to see inside the head of a great man who had a lot to say, and who felt, at times, very isolated from the people around him and country he called home. Whether or not you agree with his strong religious views, you cannot doubt that the man makes points, in a sarcastic way, that also make you question your own views.

I have carried this little novel with me many places. In moments where I feel weak, I like to read Vonnegut's words and see him wagging his finger at me, especially in rough moments where I feel like nothing is going my way.

If you love Vonnegut, this will only deepen your love, but if you hate his writing, this may not be the book for you. Either way, it is a book I will always hold on to, and re-read as much as I can.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book 39: Swoon-Worthy.

If you haven't had a chance to read Persuasion yet, please don't read this post because I will most likely ruin the best part of the book for you, but I must write about it.

Now that you have been significantly warned...

There is something so beautiful about a well-written love letter. It makes the romantic in me yearn for my own love letter and the passion those letters can hold.

Austen uses letters in a few of her novels to help form that relationship between the dashing man and the heroine. The letters serve as a way of romancing in a society that would frown upon our version of dating.

I used to love the letter Darcy wrote to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. I thought nothing could beat the passion he had for her in those words.

Well, that letter is nothing compared to the love letter that comes near the end of Persuasion. Like I said in an earlier post, this novel is different. It does not focus on the beginnings of love and the infatuation that may occur. Instead, it focuses on a love that has struggled. Anne and Wentworth are not together and are struggling to see if they are meant to be together. So when this letter comes, it is the solution the reader was waiting for...

"Dearest Anne,

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never unconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in. I must go uncertain of my fate but I shall return to follow your party as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never."

Is that not the most beautiful, meaningful love letter you have ever read? I am simply swooning over here, but I have a little farther to go to finish off the novel and I cannot wait to write about everything else I love about it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book 39: A Different Kind of Heroine.

I think I am beginning to understand why so many Austen lovers consider Persuasion to be their favorite. Although, I personally cannot see how anyone can pick a favorite Austen since each one is wonderful in its own delightful kind of way.

But Persuasion seems to be something completely separate. Maybe it is because Austen wrote it shortly before her death and after she found a niche with her other novels, but Persuasion seems to hold a more mature voice. It does not seem as complicated, or as focused on young love as the other Austen novels do. Instead, the novel begins after the great love story, with the focus on Anne Elliot.

Seven years before the novel begins, Anne fell in love with a navy man, Frederick Wentworth. Instead of allowing herself to be swept off her feet, she was persuaded by a wise friend to reject Frederick (who was poor). When he re-enters the picture shortly after the beginning of the novel, we realize that we have missed much of the beginning part of the romance.

That is certainly different than some other Austen novels. We don't get to see Anne fall in love and he with her. Instead, it has already happened and we see the consequences of the actions she took seven years prior.

It seems to be a more realistic form of love story. Things do not always work out, even in Austen-land, and Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth are a great example of the complications of love.

While I haven't finished it yet, I am assuming that Anne and Fred get things together and realize they are meant to marry, but I could be wrong (don't think I am though!).

But I am sure that on the way to that beautiful ending, Austen will deliver the complex and inspiring story she always does.

I always wonder, if Austen hadn't died so young, what other great things would she have written? Although, I guess you could say that about every deceased author, but I really think we missed out on a great deal by her premature end. I imagine that she would have written many more beautiful and awe inspiring novels that we would cherish as much as her present tomes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

25 Things About Me.

I had to shift some posts around today, so this is a great time to post this!

If there were ever a book written about me, this is the list you would find at the front. Come join in the fun and share yours as well!

1. Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?
They have to be closed. I am a huge chicken and I can scare myself pretty easily, so they must be closed or I cannot fall asleep.

2. Do you take the shampoos and conditioner bottles from hotels?
Nope. My hair is a pain in the you know what, so I have to stick to my normal shampoo and conditioner or it revolts.

3. Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?
Well, I prefer for them to be tucked in at the bottom, but my husband hates feeling like his "feet are being strangled" so they are now untucked. And since I cannot fall asleep if my feet or hot, it works for me now. I am sure in the winter it won't.

4. Would you rather be attacked by a bear or a swarm of bees?
Well, I have actually never been stung by a bee and I am a little wary of having that happen...but, compared to a bear, I would probably rather have the bees!

5. Do you have freckles?
Oh yes. And since I work outside they become a little more prominent during the summer.

6. What is your biggest pet peeve?
People who are blatantly disrespectful in public. I mean, please be courteous to the people around you!

7. Have you ever peed in the woods?
No, but there was a time when I really, really needed to go but found a bathroom just in time!

8. Do you ever dance if there’s no music playing?
Yes. Especially when I am trying to irritate the husband.

9. Do you chew your pens and pencils?
Normally I don't. Unless I know it is MY pen and I am working on a project that requires thinking.

10. Is it okay for guys to wear pink?
I know Matt would never, ever wear pink, but I personally don't care.

11. What do you dip a chicken nugget in?
If I am being bad ranch, but I also love some BBQ sauce as well.

12. What is your favorite food?
I LOVE macaroni and cheese. It is my ultimate comfort food for sure!

13. What movies could you watch over and over and still love?
Forest Gump, Beauty and the Beast, The Piano, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Tombstone, My Best Friend's Wedding...and lots more! But those are my favorites and most loved!

14. Were you ever a boy/girl scout?
I was a girl scout (brownie)!

15. Would you ever strip or pose nude in a magazine? When I was at college and lived in a house full of girls I couldn't even change in the same room as them, so I highly doubt I'll be exposing myself any time soon.

16. Can you change the oil on a car?
I know how to go and get it change, if that counts. I suppose that should be something that I should learn eventually.

17. Ever gotten a speeding ticket?
Once. I was 16 and running late for school. My younger sister missed her bus so I drove her to school. As I pulled out of her school's parking lot to get to school, I accelerated really hard the cop clocked me going over in a school zone. Luckily the magistrate was really nice and since it was my first ticket I went to traffic school and didn't get any points. I haven't been pulled over since and I am a super cautious driver.

18. Ever ran out of gas?
Yep! It was about two weeks ago. We had been really busy and figured I had enough gas to get to work and to the gas station. Luckily I ran out right in front of the station and one of the workers helped me push the car in. I thought it was hilarious to be honest.

19. Are you lazy?
Oh I can be. I enjoy laying around and vegging out as much as anyone else, but I still like to be busy and have things to do.

20. When you were a kid, what did you dress up as for Halloween?
All kinds of things. My mom made me a lot of costumes. I can remember being a princess, a girl from the 50's, and a black cat!

21. How many languages can you speak?
I can speak a little bit of Spanish, which is the lingering result of 3 years of high school Spanish and 4 semesters of college Spanish.

22. Who is better…Leno or Letterman?
I don't watch either.

23. Do you sing in the car?
Yes. And since I am tone-deaf, my husband hates it.

24. Ever eat a pierogi?
Yes! I love pierogis and I would love to learn how to make them from scratch!

25. First concert?
My first was Savage Garden in the 8th grade. I also have seen Tim McGraw and Faith Hill a couple of times, the Dixie Chicks, Guster, The Ataris, Vendetta Red, Muse (twice! Once in 2002 and back in February of this year), Evanescense, Seether, Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, The Backstreet Boys, and Josh Groban (I don't think I am missing anyone....)

That was fun! I hope some of you answer as well! I would love to see your answers!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gulliver's Travels Read-Along Sign-ups.

I am happy to announce that in June I will be hosting a Gulliver's Travels read-along, as voted on by my readers!

If you unsure if Gulliver's Travels is the book for you, here is the synopsis taken from

"Thus, gentle Reader, I have given thee a faithful History of my Travels for Sixteen Years, and above Seven Months; wherein I have not been so studious of Ornament as of Truth.' In these words Gulliver represents himself as a reliable reporter of the fantastic adventures he has just set down; but how far can we rely on a narrator whose identity is elusive and whoses inventiveness is self-evident? Gulliver's Travels purports to be a travel book, and describes Gulliver's encounters with the inhabitants of four extraordinary places: Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, and the country of the Houyhnhnms. A consummately skilful blend of fantasy and realism makes Gulliver's Travels by turns hilarious, frightening, and profound. Swift plays tricks on us, and delivers one of the world's most disturbing satires of the human condition. This new edition includes the changing frontispiece portraits of Gulliver that appeared in successive early editions."

If you are interested, you can leave a comment here and I will link you to the post to show that your are participating. I would also appreciate it if you could spread the word on your own blogs so that we can get more participants. I have found that the more participants in a read-along, the more fun it is!

For those of you who have not read Gulliver's Travels, it is a novel in four parts. Each part focuses on one of the places Gulliver travels to. With this in mind, I am planning on four posts:
  • June 9: Part 1 "A Voyage to Lilliput"
  • June 16: Part 2 "A Voyage to Brobdingnag"
  • June 23: Part 3 "A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan"
  • June 30: Part 4 "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms"
On each of those days, I will be be making a post about the part I just finished. If you decide that you are also going to write a post that day, comment here and I will link it, so that every participant may go and visit everyone else's posts. If you decide you just want to write one post, you can do so at the end of the month, link it here, and I will add it to my own post so that everyone may see it.

Again, leave a comment here saying you are interested and I will add you to the participant list.

I hope you will join us!


My mom (she doesn't have a blog, but I'll probably put her post up on my blog).

Sunday Salon: May 16, 2010.

I finally feel like I have a chance to breathe this weekend! I have been on the go at work for a while and I thankfully am enjoying a 4-day weekend that started yesterday. The break is much needed and I have a lot of plans for what I want and need to accomplish.

We went to a wedding yesterday for a good friend I went to college with. We really are at that age where everyone we know is starting to settle down a bit.

Today I am going to relax with my little sister, bake some goodies, and have a Disney movie marathon. It will be a great time to relax and chill out, and cuddle with the kitties.

Yesterday I made a post giving the details of the Cranford Read-Along. If you haven't already, go and visit (and perhaps sign up) to participate! Later on today, you're going to see the sign-up for Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift if Cranford is not your cup of tea. Either way I hope you will consider reading at least one of these with me.

I went to my library's used book sale on Friday, which I had been looking forward to for weeks. Imagine my disappointment when I went in to find that there were not nearly as many books as in past sales. I made it a point to ask a volunteer if donations were down, but she told me that on Thursday a man and a woman came and loaded up 35 boxes of books. When they were asked about the quantity they were buying, they said they were buying them to sell on Ebay.

I was really upset with this. I understand that the sales are open to the public and anyone can come in and buy the books, but I was always under the impression that the sales were also for the community, not for someone to make a profit. I said as much to the volunteer, but she told me the library still made money off what the couple bought, so it was all the same to them.

When I went to the sale in September, I went armed with the list of books I am planning to read. I found a great selection and ended up bring home something like 40 books. I even left a great number there that I wanted so I wasn't going overboard. However, by the time I made it to the literature and classics section, I was lucky to find a grand total of 30 or so books there (there were hundreds at the previous sale). I picked through and found a few that I wanted, but it is obvious that the couple who purchased so many really picked out everything.

So, that was a huge bust and I am sorely disappointed, but I ended up with a couple of great finds, including a beautiful green hardcover collection of some of Mark Twain's novels. I also found a great teaching resource book, as well as 4 more books off of my list. I also bought a couple of fun things for the future, including a two book collection of D.H. Lawrence short stories, and another Willa Cather novel.

I managed to finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy yesterday, and I rather enjoyed it. I was worried I wouldn't like it, since I have quite a number of Hardy novels on my list, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a wonderful novel.

I think I am going to dive into Of Mice and Men to finish off the LOST books challenge, and try to get through some more of Holmes.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cranford Read-Along Sign-ups.

I am happy to announce that in June I will be hosting a Cranford read-along, as voted on by my readers!

If you unsure if Cranford is the book for you, here is the synopsis taken from

"A gently comic picture of life in an English country town in the mid-nineteenth century, Cranford describes the small adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle- aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Rich with humor and filled with vividly memorable characters—including the dignified Lady Glenmire and the duplicitous showman Signor Brunoni—Cranford is a portrait of kindness, compassion, and hope. "

If you are interested, you can leave a comment here and I will link you to the post to show that your are participating. I would also appreciate it if you could spread the word on your own blogs so that we can get more participants. I have found that the more participants in a read-along, the more fun it is!

Since Cranford is a relatively short book, I decided to have two days for posting. There are 16 chapters, so a post on chapters 1-8 can be made on June 15th (a Tuesday). I will have a post up with my own thoughts. You can write your post and I will link to everyone's reviews here on my blog.

The second and final posting can be done on June 30th (a Wednesday). Again, I will have a post up and will link to everyone's reviews so that you may go and visit other people's blogs to see their own thoughts as well!

Again, leave a comment here saying you are interested and I will add you to the participant list.

I hope you will join us!

My mom (I think I will have her post on my blog as well, since she doesn't have her own blog). :)
Avid Reader

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book 39: Persuasion and Book Stats.

Title: Persuasion
Author: Jane Austen (1775-1817)
First Published: 1818

My Edition: Barnes and Noble Classic Edition (I own a few other editions of Austen's works, but I read from these)
Pages: 246

Other Works Include: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Emma (1816), Mansfield Park (1814), and Northanger Abbey (1818).

She also started another novel, Sandition, but never finished it. You can buy what was written of the novel today.

Austen is one of the most recognizable authors. Her work is widely read and loved and there are countless editions of her work. I own her completed novels in three different editions: the Barnes and Noble Classics, a large collection volume, as well as an old edition I found in a used book store that dates from the early 1900s (I will have to take pictures at some point).

I have read all of Austen's works numerous times with the exception of Sandition and Persuasion. I'm not sure why I never got around to this title, especially since it seems to be well-loved in the blogging community. Perhaps I was just saving it for the right time and moment? In any case, I love Austen's work, but I don't have a favorite. It is just too hard to pick!

I am reading most of Austen's works in this little project, with the exception of Sandition and Northanger Abbey.

I have already reviewed Pride and Prejudice, as it was the 4th book I read for this project (that seems so long ago!). You can see my favorite post about that experience here.

I do have to say, before I stop writing, that I am a little nervous about diving into the last completed Austen novel. I have very high expectations and I am worried that the book will not be everything I want it to be!

Mini-Read-Along Giveaway WINNERS!

Well, it seems as if most of the books in the poll had no chance of winning. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift seemed to run away with the win from the beginning! I did feel bad for poor Cyrnao de Bergerac with only one vote, but perhaps in the future he will get some attention too!

For those of you who entered the giveaway, odds were in your favor! Even though 35 people voted, only 11 people entered the contest. I used to generate 2 numbers and the winners are...

#5: dkm1981


#7: Irisonbooks

I will be e-mailing you both in a few minutes to get shipping information from you, as well as to figure who will be getting which book.

Thank you everyone for entering and stay tuned for another giveaway coming up soon!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poll is Going to Close!!!

Just wanted to remind you that the poll and giveaway are going to end soon! It looks like Gulliver's Travels and Cranford are going tow in by a landslide, but you if you want to vote, make sure you do!

Also, if you want to enter for a chance to WIN one of the two books I'll be having a read-along with, enter here to do so before the poll closes!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reading Habits.

I have seen this floating around so I decided to take part. I snagged it officially from Jenn at Book Crazy, so visit her to see her answers!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack:
Every once in awhile. I generally read in bed, so I don't bring food with me, but if I am curled up on the couch I might eat popcorn or something if the mood strikes!

What is your favourite drink while reading?
I have an addiction to Diet Coke, so that is always by my side, but I also like a cup of hot tea (English Breakfast) as well.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I don't write in them now, but I used to in college. I always have a little pad of small post-its with me to mark favorite passages and lines to refer to later.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I always, always use bookmarks. I collect them and I probably have around 60 or 70 of them. I switch them up so they all get used, but I definitely have favorites!

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
I really love fiction, but I do love memoirs, autobiographies, and historical books. They can make my skirt fly up too!

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
I don't like stopping anywhere other than a natural break in the story, or at a chapter. I like having a little closure before setting my book aside!

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
I have done it a few times, but not recently. A book has to really bother me for me to get angry at it.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
No. I usually just figure it out with context clues.

What are you currently reading?
I am in the middle of The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Mayor of Casterbridge (which I wasn't so sure of, but I kind of love it!).

What is the last book you bought?
Nothing recently. My library is having their book sale this weekend, so I think I am going to stop by on Saturday morning (we have a wedding to go to that evening) and see what I can find. It is usually hit or miss at the sale. Sometimes I get great things and other times I walk away with nothing.

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?
I usually only read one book at a time, but recently I have had two or three on my nightstand. With all of the Holmes short stories, it is fairly easy to keep that on deck. Read-alongs have also helped me get better at doing this! Although, I am going to try to keep it to 2 at most from now on. Reading Sherlock Holmes, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Brothers Karamazov was way too much last month.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?
I usually read before bed for an hour or two every night. It is part of my nightly routine and one that Matt has gotten used to. I also read in the morning for an hour before work, as well as on my lunch break (sometimes).

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
I really enjoy series if they are done well, but stand alones are easier to get through!

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Oh yes. Many times when I am reading a book I immediately think of who I need to tell to read it, but I have some favorites I recommend to everyone.

How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author's last name, etc.)
I only have my classics on display now, but they are all by author's last name, then alphabetical by title. It works for me. I am sure that when we eventually have the space, all of my books will be on display and I will need a better system!

Let me know if you fill this out!

Book 38: Finished.

There are a lot of reasons to love London's The Call of the Wild. It is full of action and adventure, history, and a small amount of deep mythology. I know I read this as a child, since the story is simple enough that a child can understand it, but reading it now as an adult has shown me some of the deeper meanings within the same story.

Buck, a large domesticated dog (I think he is a St. Bernard mix), is stolen away from his home and sold to traders. He is taken up north to the wilderness, otherwise known as Alaska to work as a sled dog as the area booms with speculation and people from the lower states.

Once there, Buck is purchased and begins to learn the life of a sled dog. He learns to fight and survive. He learns all of those internal fighting instincts he once had and begins to thrive.

Even through good and bad masters, Buck learns to hear and understand the "call of the wild" and what it means to be a dog.

So while it seems like a simple story, there are plenty of layers. I remember that when I read the story back as a kid, I didn't really pick up on the person-aspect of the novel. Since the story is told from Buck's point of view, I only really focused on his story.

The people in the novel are an interesting part of the story. You have the people using Buck and the others dogs to deliver mail across the wilderness. There are also the naive, stupid owners who hurt the dogs from not understanding the wilderness around them, or what they should be doing in the north. You also have the wise wilderness man, who understands the value of a good dog. It is an interesting mix of many of the kinds of people who struck north during the boom of Alaska-due to gold and curiosity-back in the late 1800s.

The dogs are also a great mix. You have the old veterans, and the new pups trying to prove themselves. They are very much like a part of human society-those with more experience edging out the stupid and young.

The story also has a lot of mythology, especially when the dogs become more wild. This is something I found really grabbed me on this reading-the idea that all dogs, even your cute little chihuahua, was once a part of the wild. All of our "domesticated" animals are still animals and not like us at all. Even as I cuddle with the kitten currently curled up on my lap, I have to know that he follows his own instincts and wants, not mine (although, I think he knows how much I love to cuddle with him as well).

I definitely recommend this quick read of a book. It is valuable and entertaining and something I am sure my own future children will love.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Classic Interview: Amanda and The Color Purple.

Today is the first post of a new feature I am installing on my blog. Last week I asked if anyone was interested in being interviewed for their own guest post here! I was happy to see that I got a great response and with that in mind, I am hoping to make this a weekly feature here on A Literary Odyssey.

One of my goals that I wanted to accomplish by creating and maintaining this blog was to really learn to relate classic novels and literature to teaching. As an English teacher, it can sometimes be hard to make connections between these "old, outdated" pieces of fiction to the modern teenager.

So I was happy to see that my friend Amanda (who I have known for a few years) jumped on this opportunity to talk about an amazing project she did on The Color Purple. So, without further ado, here is her take on The Color Purple and connecting classics to teens!

Your Name: Amanda

Favorite Book of All Time:
Hmmm... Pride and Prejudice is a big one, although I'm very partial to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Looking for Alaska by John Green, and Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Tell me a little about where you are in your life (career, school, etc):
Right now I'm a senior, going on super-senior, in college. My major is English Education, and I have a creative writing minor and just recently added on an ESL (English as a Second Language) minor. I student teach next spring, and I'm crazy-excited for it, especially since it'll be a nice break from being a waitress at Perkins.

Do you consider yourself to be an avid reader?
Most definitely. I don't usually have a lot of time during the school year, since reading a novel a week per class is typically the norm then, but during breaks and weeks where I finished the book for class early I love to pick up books my friends or favorite authors suggest to read. I've also discovered the joys of audio books, and since I tend to do a lot of driving I get even more reading done :)

Are you and avid reader of the "classics?"
I'll have to give this one a resounding "sort of." Similar to you, Allie, I'm kind of shocked at how little I had to read the "classics" in high school and college. In high school, I mostly took speech/writing classes, and a couple of drama classes, so I didn't read very much, and in college I had to take the basic survey courses because I have to pass my PRAXIS (teacher certification) exam and it'll cover more than I'll have time to read in the next few years even. However, I do try to read some of the "classics" on my own during those joyous breaks from school. Some of them I haven't gotten to yet, but I try to read at least one "classic" for every couple of non-classics I read.

Sometimes books that are called "classics" get a bad rap, why do you think this might be?
I think a lot of people associate the "classics" with one bad high school English class; they feel that the book will be over their head or that whatever their interpretation of it is, it'll be wrong. I think that sucks, and I wish more people could have the ambition and the time to read "classics" outside of school, because literature is what you make of it, and a lot of people don't get that.

If you could recommend one "classic" novel for everyone to read, what would it be and why?
Probably To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It was the first "classic" I read on my own, and I think it did a really great job of teaching me without preaching to me. There are tons of others I could recommend, of course, but if I have to pick one, I think that has to be it.

I understand you just finished teaching the novel, The Color Purple to a group of students online. Can you tell me a little bit about what you did?
Well, for one of my English Ed classes this semester, our class of 21 students was split up into groups of 2 (and one group of 3) to teach the novels The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Meyers, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. All of these novels deal with ideas of race, identity and discrimination in some way.

In pairs, each group taught its novel to students we "borrowed" from two very different, but both very impoverished, schools from around the state of Wisconsin. One school was in a mostly white rural town, while the other was a school in inner-city Milwaukee that was mostly Afri
can-American. Through our online classroom database called Desire 2 Learn (D2L), the students responded to our weekly questions and follow ups about the novel, as well as had discussions amongst themselves about their lives, their interests, and even about the novel.

This went on for 8 weeks before last Friday when the students came here to our campus to spend the day with us, meet each other face-to-face, and give their final projects on their novels. When they were here, they were grouped with
all of the students that had read their book, so there were many different kinds of projects, since there were two different pairs of teachers for each book. It made for a really fun experience.

I just read a bunch of their anonymous feedback forms yesterday, and for the most part their favorite
part of the day was eating in our buffet-style dining center, but a lot of these students used to feel as though they wouldn't be welcome in a college atmosphere, or that they weren't capable of going, and most of them seemed to change their minds through the day. They universally loved meeting the students from the other school and learning how much they really had in common, and even the students who didn't do so well on the online discussions really did a great job with the projects and presentations.

My favorite part was seeing the way these students connected our novel,
The Color Purple, to their own lives, especially the white students and the boys. When I started this project, I was terrified that my boys wouldn't find anything worth enjoying in this book - the main character is abused by every man she comes into contact with for the first half of the novel, and she's a lesbian. Not a whole lot of good role models for the boys. However, they seemed to still really enjoy the book and I'm incredibly grateful for that.

Had you read The Color Purple before? If so, did this experience change your perspective on the book?
I actually hadn't (which shocked most of my classmates, as I have a really pathetic obsession with the color purple - the literal, physical color), but two of the other ladies teaching the book had, and they said it made a huge difference. They had both kind of hated the book before, but really learned to love it now that they were older, and were looking for interesting parts to teach to our students. I loved it, too, but I didn't have a past experience to compare it to.

I noticed that another group in your class had to teach Fallen Angels, which is more of a contemporary YA kind of book than The Color Purple. Do you think your students benefited more from a teaching of a "classic" in place of something more modern?
Yes and no. Yes because it made it really easy for us as teachers to find resources to help them when they were lost, and also because it was something that had a lot of really timeless themes. However, those many wonderful resources were used to plagiarize a couple of final projects (I just graded those today, it hurt to have to give such low grades to students who did so well on the discussions). Also, I do think Fallen Angels has potential to be a "classic" sometime soon. It's worth noting that these students clearly needed help with the subject - one of the students reading Fallen Angels actually commented that Vietnam was "like the first war we were really in."

What did your students think of the book when they were finished? What were parts that were really significant to them?
We got some mixed reviews at the end of the novel. Almost all of the students said they really enjoyed the book, and that it was much more fun to read than the kinds of novels they usually read in English classes. They were also all really excited about the ending, because they weren't expecting anything happy at all to come from this book right from the beginning. However, a couple of them were still a bit iffy about it. The lesbianism in particular seemed to give a few students a hard time, and they tried to explain it away a bit.
I was surprised by how many of them cited the scene where Celie finally stands up for herself to Mr. ____ as their favorite scene, and the scene near the end where they seem to be like friends as their next favorite. I was really excited about the first, because many of these students have been through harder times than I ever have even, and it's good to know that they won't let themselves get walked all over the way Celie did. However, I was surprised by their happiness over the blossoming friendship, because many of them truly despised Mr. ___ for most of the project. Mind you, many of them truly believed that Celie was a slave, and that her Pa sold her to Mr. ___. That took more than a few weeks to remedy.

When I was teaching English, I was always amazed at the insights my students had about what we were reading compared to what I thought!
It is always pretty amazing. One student mentioned that Celie and Shug started being friends because they had both been with the same man, and that girls tend to band together when they have that kind of shared experience. While I've experienced that firsthand, it didn't cross my mind in the slightest. Sometimes, I think it just helps to step out of our academic, grown up minds and remember what things were like when we were teenagers.

Would you like to teach the novel again to a different group of students (perhaps a group that couldn't relate as well)?
I think it would be really helpful to see how other students react to this novel. I couldn't relate as well as some of my students this time, which was almost weird for me. At the same time, I think it'd be really interesting to see the insights a student who has less in common with the main characters could make. I'm always really impressed with the connections my students make.

Since you're a soon-to-be, if not already educator, what do you think the value is of teaching books like The Color Purple in schools today? Are these "older" titles still relevant?
Oh, incredibly relevant. Like I've said, my students found a ton of connections to their own lives, which helped them to connect with each other as well. It's also helpful to teach this novel, and other "classics," to show students that the pains, the tortures, the insufferable horrors that they've been going through in their adolescence have happened before, happened to all of us, and we all survived - and some survived worse things too. The human condition is something that we need to teach our youth, and nothing more adequately shows us the human condition than the literary classics we teach.

Any last thoughts?

This project taught me a LOT about teaching literature to high schoolers, most importantly that I need to remember not to underestimate them. It also taught me a lot about reading the classics - they can speak to anyone at any age, even after all these years. My students (after they realized that this
DIDN'T take place during slavery) learned a lot about themselves and literature from this novel, and I think they really grew as people - and really, what more can a teacher ask for?

Amanda also pr
ovided me with a link to the article that was written about this project. If you are interested in learning more about what she and her classmates did, go here to read all the details.

This was a great project and was such a great way to highlight a wonderful book.

If you are interested in being interviewed and having your own guest post on the classic piece of your choice, please e-mail me
(my e-mail is on my profile page). I would be happy to have you!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mini-Read-Along Giveaway.

If you look on the right hand side, you will see that I am holding a poll for the first read-along I am going to host.

At the time of writing this, it appears as if Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift is going to win, followed closely by Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.

To spur a little more excitement, I am going to extend the poll another 4 days and host a giveaway to coincide.

Since I am going to do 2 read-alongs at the same time, I am going to give away the top 2 winning titles to 2 different winners. Make sense?

Winner number 1 will get to pick the book of their choice from the top 2 in the poll. Once I have their selection, winner number 2 will win the other book.

The contest will end Thursday at midnight, and I will announce winners on Friday.

You are eligible to enter by commenting here and leaving your e-mail address. Both books will be sent out through The Book Depository, so you must live in a country they deliver to.

You don't have to be a follower and every person who enters will get one entry.

Good luck!

Sunday Salon: May 9, 2010.

I am glad that another week is done, but it seems like time has been moving fairly quickly recently. You agree?

I had a very full and busy week, with some subbing jobs and some others things going on with my summer job at the park. Things are starting to pick up, which is wonderful. We have a lot more going on so there is more to do. People are starting to come back on staff, which is always a good thing, as those of us who have been working can get a little sick of each other after a while.

In regards to reading, I have had an off couple of weeks, but it picked up over the last couple of nights. I honestly think my brain needed a rest, so I took a break. It seems like I am back on, however, as I flew through the next book of Sherlock Holmes stories, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, in only a day. I also started The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, which I am enjoying immensely.

I haven't had a chance to dive into Milton's Paradise Lost yet, and to be honest, I don't think now is the right time to get into something that requires my full focus. So perhaps in another month or two I'll be up to the challenge.

I have some great things planned for the coming month. Tomorrow will debut the first of what will hopefully be many "Classic Interviews." I hope you all tune in and think about participating. I would love to have you!

The vote for the first read-along I am hosting also ends today, so I hope you voted for the book of your choice! Either way, I'll definitely go with the top 2 choices and host two at the same time. It offers a little more variety and if one book doesn't suit your fancy, I hope the other one will.

I am hoping to get through the next Sherlock Holmes book of short stories this week (The Return of Sherlock Holmes), as well as finishing The Mayor of Casterbridge. I also have a week or two to finish up the LOST books challenge. Technically I could count The Brothers Karamazov towards it, but I feel like I need to read one more book solely for that purpose. We'll see what happens though.

Anyway, stay tuned for details about read-alongs on Tuesday, as well as other posts during the week. Happy Reading!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book 38: The Call of the Wild and Book Stats.

Title: The Call of the Wild
Author: Jack London (1876-1916)
First Published: 1903

My Edition: Watermill Classic
Pages: 137

Other Works Include: "To Build a Fire" (1902), White Fang (1906)

London is well-known for not only his novels, but his short stories. Many of his novels and short stories are written about the wilderness and survival in the elements. His two best known works are The Call of the Wild and White-Fang, both of which are on my list.

London's short stories are also staples in class literature. His story, "To Build a Fire" is most well-known. When I was a senior in college, my partner in teaching at a local middle school developed an entire unit around the story.

I have read The Call of the Wild before, as well as many of London's stories, but I can't recall details. The premise of the novel is simple: a domesticated dog is taken into the northern regions (Alaska) and feels the call of the wild and returns to the wilderness. I remember it being a powerful story, but also very condensed. At 137 pages, this is easily a book I can finish in one sitting!