Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vanity Fair Readalong.

I really did fail at hosting this readalong this month. To be quite honest, there were many times this month that I forgot this was going on.

I am only halfway through the novel at the moment, but I still wanted to touch base with those of you reading this and participating.

From what I have read so far, I am thoroughly enjoying the novel. I love the snark, the description, and Becky. I am curious to see where things go and how we get there.

Please leave a comment and link below if you've finished this one (need to give you credit). I'll post sometime in the next week with my final thoughts!

The Idiot Readalong Post 3 and 4: Parts 3 and 4.

I want to welcome you all to the second of two posts on Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot. Originally, there was supposed to be 4 posts, but with school and a busy schedule, I moved it down to 2. If you still wrote two posts on each of the separate sections, please leave links to both below.

This was my third experience with Dostoevsky and by far the easiest to get through. Don't interpret that as "Dostoevsky is an easy afternoon read," but rather that "The Idiot is not as deeply complex as the other two (The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment)."

I have found in my small explorations into Russian literature, that the more you soak yourself into the story, the easier it is to understand and appreciate. My first exposure was Crime and Punishment, and I think that while I really loved it, I would find far more in it than I did in my reading of it a year and a half ago. I think it is common to think far too much about Russian literature. As a native English speaker and reader, I am too used to my phrasing, my names and commonalities. I need to just accept the depth and richness of the Russian style.

I finally think I succeeded in that with The Idiot. I seemed to understand Dostoevsky's point of view much more clearly this go around and I am wondering if that has to do with my own growth as a reader, or the fact that the theme and message of this one seemed far easier to grasp hold of.

Speaking of that theme...

From my interpretation of Dostoevsky's words and story, it seems that all of us have a little selfishness and greed in us. I think we wouldn't be human if we didn't. Presented with his wholesome character, I seemed to acknowledge the fact that Myshkin's goodness isn't something that is a reality for many. I mean, I know many good, faithful, innocent people, but none can compare to Myshkin's thoughts and actions. Here is a man who tries so hard to please, honor, and support those around him, even at cost to himself.

I admire that. And I admire the fact that Dostoevsky uses Myshkin to show us all that we succumb to greed, desire, and money far too often. I am sure this is even more true today than in 1868/1869 when the novel was published. How many times do we see news stories where the crime centers around greed, sex, power, and money (because it is close to home, I think of ex-mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick and his crimes while in office)? It has become a state of being for many, not that honorable idea of protecting other people first.

But beyond people's morals, I think Dostoevsky is also making a connection to the Russian people. From the little history I know, Russia was always an outsider to "the west" until the mid-1800s. When Russia started to adopt Western ideas, it transformed the country. This is where you get that big transformation between the old and the new (something I saw in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons last year as well). I think Dostoevsky really plays with this idea. That the new are becoming corrupted by progress and change from the West, and those who stick with the "old," like Myshkin, cannot survive in such a cutthroat kind of environment. Again, these are my guesses and assumptions, and I could be completely wrong. But I see evidence of all of that in Dostoevsky's words.

What did you make of The Idiot? Harder or easier than other Russian literature? Your first foray? Leave links to your posts below so I may link them here, and thank you for participating!

Summer Reading and Bookish Plans.

I am incredibly fond of organization when it comes to certain things. While I may leave my dirty laundry two feet away from the hamper, I am incredibly organized when it comes to things like school, writing, and blogging. Matt thinks it is hysterical that I make list after list, but my method works for me. I keep small notebooks filled with "to-do" lists all neatly written and checked off. That was how I managed to take 20 credits a semester in college and survive.

It was also how I managed working two jobs for three months.

Anyway, all of my lists, post-its, calendars, and planners keep me on track. I go insane without them from having too many options. That is why my book list has worked for so long and why I am still chugging along almost two full years into the project.

However, all my methods of organization are sometimes too much for me to keep up with, so I am making some goals of bookish things that need to get done over the course of this summer. I don't know what the fall will bring (a job? I hope?), so I am going to use August 31 as my cut-off date. Here are the things I am hoping to accomplish:


At the moment of writing this, I am currently in the middle of books 93 and 94 off my list. I would love to hit book 120 by the end of the summer. Considering that would mean reading 25ish books in two month where I have only read 40 in six months seems like a tall order, but it is a perfectly doable goal if I stop slacking. :) I have plenty of free time now and I should be taking advantage of it! So, in more detail...
  • Read 25 books from the Book list by August 31.
  • 5 books must be from Adam's TBR Challenge (since I have only read ONE title. I STINK at challenges btw).
  • 1 or 2 titles must be a Shakespeare play. I have neglected the bard.
  • Make further progress in my Bible Reading Project (this has also been neglected recently due to my busy schedule)

Vacation Reading:

The only exception to the above guidelines are for the vacation I am taking on July 10 to the 17th. Since this is my first vacation since our honeymoon, I am going to take a long some "fun" reads for sitting poolside (and a classic or two). I am taking The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, as well as The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (I have refused to watch the mini-series until I read the book).

Book Organization:

I shared with you my book database not too long ago, and I mentioned that I was struggling with it. I lost the most updated version of the file last year with a slew of computer problems, and I have been slowly trying to bring it up to date. The biggest issue with that is that most of my massive collection is boxed up, so hauling out boxes and checking them in is a pia. I kind of "gave up" back in April with the intensity of school, so this is a big project that needs to be fixed. More specifically, this is what I want to accomplish by August 31:
  • Update book database by relogging in EVERY title I own
  • Cull duplicates and books I no longer want. Either donate or ship to bloggers who want them
  • Re-organize bookshelves in the living room. I have three-two big bookcases and one narrow case. Currently the narrow bookcase is home to some hardcover collections and newer YA titles. One big bookcase is full of classics, as well as two and a half shelves on the other. And, with recent acquisitions, some of the shelves are being double-stacked...that needs to be fixed.

Blog Issues:

For the most part, I am happy with how things were running. I know I need to get back into the groove, so I am working on that. There is really only one thing that I think I need, and that is a single list of all the reviews I have written since starting my blog. I'm not sure how to organize it given my reviewing style, but I really think I need to get this done at some point. This one is a massive undertaking, but I want to make progress on it so I can launch it at the end of August....but it may take longer.

I'm perfectly okay with the fact that I may come off as crazy to all of you, but it works for me. :) I need organization and structure, and I will do what I must to achieve that.

But I do have something I need your help with...

I have been in a bit of a reading slump in regards to getting into books off my list. I have picked up a few things in last two weeks where I have read a couple pages, set it down, and moved on. And while I do have a few things I know I want to get to (Daisy Miller and To Kill a Mockingbird), I am at a loss as to what to read next. So yes, I am looking for recommendations. Here is a link to my Book List, which has my 250 on it, as well as my Books Finished list. Please recommend something for me, even if YOU haven't read it, and I will try to get to it!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book 91: A Room of One's Own and Book Stats.

Title: A Room of One's Own
Author: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

First Published: 1929
My Edition: Harcourt (pictured at left)
Pages: 114

Other Works Include: The Voyage Out (1915), Night and Day (1919), Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), The Waves (1931), The Years (1937), Between the Acts (1941)

I quite adore Virginia Woolf. She is an interesting woman who wrote many different things. She is complex and wonderful, and I am happy that I still have many things left by her to explore and read.

I have read a number of her novels, including Mrs. Dalloway (book 34 on my list), The Waves, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. She does take some getting used to, but I have come to truly love her writing style.

This one is quite different. A Room of One's Own is based on a series of lectures she gave at a few colleges. I am looking forward to her thoughts on writing and women. As someone who has toyed around with writing at various points in my life, I am sure I will find a lot of inspiration in Woolf's words. Plus, the non-fiction will be a good change from all the fiction pieces I've been reading recently.

Like I said earlier, I have already read Mrs. Dalloway for this project. I still have Night and Day, To the Lighthouse, and The Voyage Out to look forward to. And if you are interested, here are the links to my posts on Mrs. Dalloway:

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Brief Note on Upcoming Readalongs, etc.

I have been running monthly readalongs since January of this year. I love hosting them and reading these books with the bigger book blogger community. It has been a great way to meet some new bloggers and see others' thoughts on a book I am currently reading.

But (you knew there was a "but," right?)...readalongs are a great deal of work, at least the way I am running them. The year started out strong, but I have been struggling to keep up with the posting schedules I have set and the logistics. Like I said, they are a LOT of work, but I love hosting them.

You may have noticed no sign-up post going up for July. Frankly, I need a break from my readalongs. And, since I will be on vacation for a week in July, it is the perfect time to step back from hosting. There will also be no sign-ups for another two-monther (meaning, no "big" book for July and August).

I hope this doesn't bum anyone out too much. I have every intention of picking them back up in another month or so. There will be some changes for my own sanity (be on the lookout), but readalongs are something I really love doing, so they will most likely be a permanent fixture here. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Where I've Been.

Sometimes life can really be a struggle. Things never seem to go the way we plan, and we never get what we think we deserve.

The last couple of weeks have shown me that even with forward progress, I can still take steps backwards.

I finished school on the 17th. It was a very bittersweet day for me, since I had begun to feel like such a part of the school. With finishing my position, I was hit with a kind of depression. I mean, here I am, again, searching for a job. And this year seems even more unlikely. I'm frustrated and upset.

I know I have said this many times before, but it is incredibly frustrating to have the ability to do a great job in a school, but have no position available. I KNOW that I do a wonderful job with my students. I love teaching. There just isn't anything available.

Realizing that I am entering my fourth summer of job hunting is scary. What will make this go around any different? How much longer can I, and should I, keep looking for a job that might not be there?

It is an incredibly rough situation and one that I don't know how to deal with anymore.

Over the last two weeks, I have done a lot of thinking about what my whole purpose is. Why am I continuing to pursue a field that grows even more chaotic? Why am I continuing to do this-read a bunch of books to "prove" something to myself and to those around me?

I don't have answers for any of that, but every day that goes by without a phone call offering an interview, with no new job postings, with more anti-teacher stories in the media, I grow more and more disheartened with what I chose to do.

I am looking into other avenues, other places I can share my knowledge. I have some ideas I am mulling over, and obviously as they develop I will share them. But what I have realized that even when what I want isn't working out, I am still doing something of value here.

And I will continue on my journey. I had a little hiccup (if we want to make the connection, this would be when Odysseus stayed with Calypso for seven years-thankfully I was only gone for two weeks).

I finally feel renewed and ready to continue on. Sorry for my absence and now that I am more committed than ever to share my literary journey with all of you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up for June 12, 2011: The Week Ahead.

I have ONE WEEK left. And then I am done. The finish line is here people! I can see it!

I know that I am going to be incredibly busy this week, so I'm going to assume that other than the read-a-longs posts I have scheduled for this week, I won't be around. In addition to the finals I will be grading this week, I also have a pile of projects only partially graded as well. I will be back in FULL FORCE next week, and since I have three glorious days off (the last time I had that much time off was the first week of April), I will be having a mini-readathon/blogathon. I have quite a few things that need to go up.

There is also a lot of outside stress going on. One friend in a nearby district was pink-slipped, along with a whole slew in many other districts (for anyone who doesn't know, getting a pink-slip means that you don't have a job for the next year, but you can be called back-if a position opens up and you can fill it, the district WILL call you back). A person I graduated with from MSU was told this week that his contract wasn't being renewed for next year. And there is a lot of switching and moving around going on in my current district. It is all chaos.

I am trying to find my way in the middle of it, and keep from panicking. My confidence is still high, but with how things look in Michigan, it will be a miracle if I even get an interview this summer. The atmosphere in the education world is as dismal as ever and things are the worst I've seen them (last year there were MANY jobs posted at this time that I was eligible for, so far this year I have been eligible for 2-in the entire state).

Please keep your fingers crossed, say some prayers, and hope that something turns up.

In reading news, I managed to get through some of Vanity Fair this week, as well as more of The Idiot. I also went through and made a huge stack of books to read over the weekend and during my little readathon next week. I can't wait to have some free time!

If you missed any posts this week, here they are:
Have a great reading week!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book 90: The Character of Silas Marner.

I really love the character of Silas Marner. There is something about his transformation from the beginning of the novel until the end that I truly love.

At the beginning of the novel, Eliot begins to describe how Silas came to live in Raveloe. In his hometown, he was accused of a theft and escaped, becoming a recluse from society. He refuses to befriend people in the the new village, and instead spends all his time in his cottage weaving. It is all he has. I love this passage about his loneliness in particular,

"He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life. Silas's hand satisfied itself with throwing the shuttle, and his eye with seeing the little squares in the cloth complete themselves under his effort. Then there were the calls of hunger; and Silas, in his solitude, had to provide his own breakfast, dinner, and supper to fetch his own water from the well, and put his own kettle on the fire; and all these immediate promptings helped, along with the weaving, to reduce his life to the unquestioning activity of a spinning insect. He hated the thought of the past; there was nothing that out his love and fellowship toward the strangers he had come amongst; and the future was all dark, for there was no Unseen Love that cared for him," (14).

He is such a lonely old man that I really just want to reach in an give him a hug. Hurt by people he considered friends, he has no choice but to retreat into himself to protect himself from hurt. I can't say that I really blame him. If your best friend framed you, took your girl, wouldn't you feel like you had no one to turn to? I can't blame Silas for escaping and hiding, protecting himself from ever making that kind of connection again.

What I think adds to the strength of Silas' character is how the others in the village view him. He is the center of the town's gossip for a bit, with the townspeople wondering how he came to Raveloe, and why he chooses to remain so silent and removed.

Then Silas begins to hoard his gold. As a weaver, he makes little money from what he makes and sells as he stashes away whatever he can. He collects it, counts it, and it soon becomes his obsession.

One of my close friends who has read this always says that it doesn't make sense for Silas to become a money hoarding fiend. I think it makes perfect sense. For a man who has nothing but his work, doesn't it fit that he would become obsessed with the product of what he makes? He has no one else to speak to, no one else to rely on, so his money becomes his life and his ultimate downfall (but I'm not there yet).

In any case, I am spending more time on this reread soaking in his character, taking in Eliot's little nuances. While Middlemarch seems to overshadow this slim little volume, I think I much prefer this.

What do you think of Silas if you've read this one? love him? hate him? Do you think that someone who is completely alone would justifiably turn to the one thing they can control (in this case, money)? I'm interested to see what you all think. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book 90: Silas Marner and Book Stats.

Title: Silas Marner
Author: George Eliot (1819-1880)

First Published: 1861
My Edition: Signet Classic (pictured at left)
Pages: 208

Other Works Include: Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Romola (1863), Felix Holt, the Radical (1866), How Lisa Loved the King (1869), Middlemarch (1871-72), and Daniel Deronda (1876)

I am a HUGE fan of George Eliot and have read all of her novels except Daniel Deronda. I think she is simply marvelous.

This will be my third time reading Silas Marner. I had to read it for a class in college, and I read it on my own a couple years after that (fairly recently I think). It was the first novel I read by Eliot and it wasn't until I finished that I realized Eliot was a female. :) While not my favorite of her books, I still love this story. It is so hopeful and uplifting-just what I need as I wind down the semester.

I have already read one Eliot for my challenge. The Mill on the Floss was book 22 (my favorite number, btw), and it was one of my favorites reads last year-I would probably say it booted Middlemarch as my favorite! Here are the links to TMOTF posts if you are curious (I recommend the "Passages" post if you are unfamiliar with her writing style-it'll give you a glimpse....gosh I love her writing!):
I've heard that a lot of schools have this one as required reading, but my high school didn't. Did yours? Anyone else read this one? Love Eliot? Just want to say hello?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch.

"My reading, sometimes painful and often exhausting, was pulling me out of the shadows and into the light," (147).

I firmly believe that there is a time and a place for most of the books we read. We make conscious decisions to pick one title over another, an author we love over an unknown, and whether to take a chance on a random book sitting on a shelf at the bookstore. Books have a way of finding us when we need them most, offering us comfort and advice.

I have been amazed over the course of the last year and a half by how these books I am reading are truly reflecting the issues going on in my life. I have found constant comfort in reading these classics and understanding their importance to my own life.

I started this journey in a very dark place. Unemployed, frustrated, and depressed, I had nothing of purpose to keep me going. That is when I came up with the idea to read 250 classics. It was an act of desperation, an act of healing. I knew that I needed something to push myself, something to inspire, and something to give me hope that things would get better.

The main constant in my life has always been books. I always remember reading. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t reading. There were countless vacations where I would bag as many books as possible into the biggest bag I could get away with just so I could read. I can remember lying on the end of the dock at my grandparents’ cottage in the Northern part of Michigan just reading. I was the only person who took a book to read at night while at camp. Matt continues to make fun of me when I shove a book in my purse to take with me when we go out. I even bring books to parties.

It isn’t that I think I will read all these places (because wouldn’t you think I was a total nerd to be reading in the midst of a fiesta?). I bring a book with me because it comforts me. And knowing that I have words waiting for me calms me.

When I decided to read finally pick this one up off the shelf, I knew it was the right choice for me at the time. From the first page, I felt like someone got it, someone understood. While her route to reading and setting her own reading project is different than my own, we both approached it with many of the same purposes.

Her pain in the first few chapters as she begins took a strong hold of me and never let go. She begins to explain how her year of reading one book per day began, with the death of her elder sister. She explains how her world fell apart in a short period of time, and how books became the way she would piece it back together.

While I didn’t have the amount of pain Sankovitch did, I can relate to the depths of depression she described. I started my own journey out of frustration and the need to have a purpose. She says it this way,

“I was ready—ready to sit down in my purple chair and read. For years, books had offered to me a window into how other people deal with life, its sorrows and joys and monotonies and frustrations. I would look there again for empathy, guidance, fellowship, and experience. Books would give me all that, and more. After three years carrying the truth of my sister’s death around with me, I knew I would never be relieved of my sorrow. I was not hoping for relief. I was hoping for answers. I was trusting in books to answer the relentless questions of why I deserved to live. And how I should live. My year of reading would be my escape back into life,” (31).

I wrote in my very first post here that, “I want to find a greater purpose for myself. I want to be more than myself. This is probably the hardest thing to explain, but perhaps in time I can make it clearer.”

Now I know what I meant by that because Sankovitch said it so much better than I ever could. Throughout her entire reading experience in that one year, she knew that she was healing herself through literature. It is an experience that is hard to explain, but I understood. I knew she was speaking to me and I found so much wisdom and hope in what she had to say.

It wasn't about reading to forget what happened to her sister. She used reading to come to terms with the events life had thrown at her, as a chance to understand why things happen the way they do,

"We cannot control events around us, but we are responsible for our reactions to those events," (191).

Her message is one of hope and of the healing power of literature. If we fully immerse ourselves in our reading, accepting and giving our own experiences into it, we can learn how to go about healing our hurts. She winds bit and pieces from the 365 books she read into her discussions, explaining how that particular title helped her, inspired her.

"During my yearlong respite filled with books, I recuperated. even more, I learned how to move beyond recuperation to living," (218).

It is as if Sankovitch has been inside my head since I started this process. This book, her thoughts, her reactions to the literature she read, it all clicked and made perfect sense. For me, this book was an incredibly personal and moving experience. As she counted the memories brought up by the books she was reading, the themes she was exploring, I would have to stop to think about the countless memories I have reflected on in my own reading process. She took the time to build her readers her back-story, connecting the books she was reading to the people in her life. I do the same here, and I see my own family in what I read.

But her skill comes in the straight-forward style she uses. Sankovitch set a goal to read one book per day, no matter the circumstances, and she succeeded. While some might think that reading a book a day is a pointless exercise and might make reading a chore, I can understand why she did it. She needed the time to heal herself, to give her the opportunity to remember happiness, and to have faith in herself.

It was inspiring. I marked so many passages that I cannot share them all. But know this...if you have ever felt the healing power of words, the feeling that an author truly understood you in the moment you were sitting down to read their book, then Sankovitch's story will touch you deeply. It is full of hope, of power, and of healing. It brought me to tears because it reminded me of the things I love most, the dreams I used to have, and who I used to be. More importantly, it showed me that I am doing the right thing, that I will continue my own literary odyssey through literature, and that there is some level of purpose in what I do. I never want to feel without purpose again, and this has given me the resurgence in hope I so needed.

"Lucky people, to dream all their lives. A certain profound optimism is required: the belief that dreams can come true. And I realized there was yet another reason for me to be on my reading quest. To get back to that place where I was sure of all my dreams," (182).

Book 85: Mary Barton Finished.

Regular readers know the format to my posts, but anyone who is newer to my blog should continue reading this first little paragraph (you can skip down if you know the spiel). I am never up-to-date with what I am currently reading, since I usually stop at random points to jot down thoughts. I make multiple posts per book and that usually means that I fall way, way behind. This is really no exception.

I read Mary Barton back at the beginning of April. Usually this is not a problem when it comes time to writing posts since I am usually finalizing them a couple weeks after, but somehow Gaskell's work kept getting pushed to the side as other commitments kept popping up everywhere. I feel bad about this. Especially when I sat down to hammer out my posts on Gaskell's work to find that my notes are especially sparse. Whoops. But then I remembered that I read the bulk of this in my pneumonia stupor and during Dewey's readathon, when I was overtired and coughing every 3.4567 seconds.

But, I need to have something here, right? So this is my attempt at a short and sweet post to wrap this baby up and get on to the next books on my list (don't be surprised when it jumps to number 90. All the books in the middle were readalong books-they already HAVE posts).

This is the second work by Gaskell I've read. I read North and South ages ago and truly loved it. I even own the BBC adaptation and watch it regularly. The second Gaskell I read was Cranford, which I ran as one of the first readalongs last summer (in June I believe!). I really enjoyed that one as well, so I had really high hopes for this one.

What my notes tell me, and what I can clearly remember, is that I was slightly disappointed by this one. It WAS Gaskell's first novel, and I think that it clearly shows she was still honing in her craft. The story meandered a bit, and lacked some of the spunk and fire that I loved in the other two titles I've read. The main character of Mary Barton seemed to flesh out about halfway through. The first half, while enjoyable, left me wanting something.

There was also too much...silly romance going on that distracted me in the first half. It seemed almost too simple for Gaskell and not what I expected.

However, the novel changed about midway and from that point forward, I did enjoy its simplicity. Mary was fleshed out further and I came to understand Gaskell's goal. She was trying to capture the struggle between the classes in a new way for her time period. She does a much better job of this in North and South, but I understood where she was trying to go. I also came to love some of the other characters, including Mary's neighbors and friends. A look inside their homelife gave the novel a lift and optimism.

I also loved the scandal surrounding the "major event" and the events that took place after. I think Gaskell did a great job finding a solution to the issues she raised.

I just think she improved with age. :)

Anyone else read this one? How do you think it compared to her other work?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Iliad Readalong Post 2: Books 13-24.

Welcome to post 2 of the readalong for Homer's The Iliad! I was really excited about this one, and I am glad I got to share in the fun with all of you.

I was expecting great things for this one, since The Odyssey is one of my all-time favorites. Where The Odyssey seems a little more intimate, this one seemed so in my face from the beginning. The names, the gods, the was all over the place and people were appearing left and was a little overwhelming at the beginning, especially getting through book 2, but I persevered and finished it.

I enjoyed learning more about the history that is referenced in The Odyssey and other Greek works. It was interesting to see Achilles as he was intended, as well as the other Greek heroes. I was enthralled with the descriptions of war, of Troy, and of those pesky gods who continually interfered and influenced the fighting.

I felt that we saw much more of the gods than I thought they would. They certainly added to the drama, and every time they popped up, I almost felt they were there for comic relief. ;) I jest, but I truly did enjoy their antics and pestering of the mortals.

My biggest annoyance with it was all of the battle scenes and the length. There were times when I wanted something else to happen-some more depth to the characters beyond their fantastic sword skills. Don't get me wrong, I love a good battle scene, but let's be honest, their war was slightly ridiculous and lasted far too long. :)

My favorite aspect of reading this was seeing Odysseus before he is a broken man in The Odyssey. Here, he seemed so much more youthful and carefree. He is a man away from home and ready to fight. In pieces of The Odyssey, you truly feel for him as he struggles to get home to his wife and son. It was an interesting transformation for me to accept, and I wonder how I would have viewed the two had I read them opposite the way I did.

Once again, I enjoyed and loved Fagles' translation. He has a way of catching the cadence of reading aloud that I simply love. I read many portions of this out loud to myself and my cats, just to "feel" the story as it was intended. I would love to listen to this (as well as The Odyssey) on audio, just to have the full experience of being read to by a bard. ;) I will say that I could only read to myself when Matt was gone, since it irritated him to no end!

Overall, this was an incredible reading experience. I was excited to read more about the Greeks, and this only made me anxious to read more of the Greek pieces left on my list (I do have quite a few left!). That being said, The Odyssey still trumps this one as my favorite. There is something about Odysseus' passion that I really love, as well as Telemachus' growth into manhood. If you haven't read The Odyssey yet, please go do so as soon as possible.

Please leave a comment and a link to your post below so I may link them here! Thank you for joining in on the fun!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up for June 5, 2011: Reading Spurts.

I am counting down the days until I have my life back. Only TEN more school days and then I can refocus!

That being said, things have slowed down at school, and I have been able to read a lot more than I have been. I'm in one of those big "reading spurts" where all I want to do in my free time is read (this is not a bad thing). I am taking advantage of this mood and plowing through books.

I read FOUR books this week, and while they may be mostly small little things, I feel incredibly accomplished. First up this week was finishing Silas Marner. I was only about 30 or 40 pages into it, and then I sat down and finished it one night this week. Next, I picked up Alice Ozma's The Reading Promise, which I already posted my thoughts on. After that was Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which you all must go and read as soon as possible. It was WONDERFUL. Then, I came home Friday night in the mood to read something fun and youthful, so I grabbed the copy of Veronica Roth's Divergent with the goal of getting a few chapters in. Needless to say, I read it in one 3 1/2 hour sitting. It was just what I needed, and it has been so long since I have stayed up late reading like that...I missed it.

I also started in on Vanity Fair, which is an absolute riot. I am already in love-let's hope the love affair continues.

A small part of me feels bad for not keeping up on posts, but for right now, I just want to enjoy my reading and free time. :) These little spurts only last so long, so I want to hold on tight and enjoy it!

What are you currently reading?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review: The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma.

There seems to be a slew of reading/memoirish type books hitting the shelves, and since I view my blog as a journal of my reading experiences, I have been itching to get my hands on a couple of the titles. I am curious to read about others' journeys through literature, so I am always on the hunt for titles that accomplish this (please leave recommendations if you have any. I DO have an ARC of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair waiting to be read, so older suggestions are welcome as well).

I was excited to pick up Ozma's debut and learn about the Reading Streak she participated in with her father for 3, 218 days (something like nine years straight-every day with no misses). It seemed like an inspiring tale and I was interested in learning about the things they read together and what they took from it.

Going into reading it, I assumed there would be a lot of discussion about the books they read (I mean, that IS the subtitle, isn't it?).

I assumed wrong. While there is passing mention of the current book in each little chapter of Ozma's story, there was little to no reflection on the impact of the literature. Perhaps I read too much into what I thought this would be than what it actually was. And I don't want to say that there was no mention or connection to the literature-her chapter on reading Dicey's Song with her father had me cracking up-I just think there needed to be more.

Instead, the focus was placed heavily on her relationship with her father (which seemed awkward to me at times), and on their goal of continuing the streak. There were moments when I wanted to ask her, "But what did you learn from that book?" She never seemed to answer that question for me.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that this book was a waste of time, because it certainly wasn't. Once I realized that the literature was there in the background, I could still enjoy the story of Ozma's childhood-from choosing her own name, to her relationship with her mother (her parents divorced when she was younger), to her relationship with her sister, to moving on and going to college. A lot of her experiences reminded me of some of my own growing up. She told her story bravely and seemed to represent the relationship she had with her father well. And reading WAS an important part of their relationship (there is a partial list of what they read in the back, and quite a few of the titles I have never even heard of).

There were two little chapters that struck me the most. The first focused on a fight she had with her father. The resulting feelings of having their relationship changed by what was said really got to me. I can remember significant moments from my own youth when my relationships significantly altered with both of my parents. I truly felt for her as I read that portion.

The other chapter that truly struck a chord was near the end of her memoir. Her father was a librarian who read aloud to his classes, and changes were made in his school district that placed limits on how long he could read aloud before moving his classes to the computers. His pain at being told NOT to read aloud and the ultimate destruction of the library broke my heart. Libraries everywhere are being cut, and I worry in thinking about how this will impact children in school. Libraries and reading an crucial to learning. We need them.

I think the most important message in this book is one Ozma hits us over the head with at the end-that reading aloud with a child is important. I can remember my mom reading to me until I was old enough to read on my own. I read to my students (most recently I read Dr. Seuss to my seniors), and it it truly one of the greatest things that we can do for children. It is amazing how enthralled kids get with a story when it is being read to them. High school students EAT IT UP when their teachers read to them. Add in an attempt to have voices for the characters and you are golden. They LOVE it.

I cannot wait to read to my own kids, but I doubt I will read to them for as long as Ozma's father did for her. Don't get me wrong, I would love to, but I just don't think it'll happen.

But her message is one that we can all embrace, and for that, I am grateful that I read her thoughts and learned from her own experiences.

Reading truly is a journey and one that we should share with as many as possible.