TSS – The Dog-Ear Manifesto

I always get a lot of flack for being an unapologetic dog-earer of book pages, library and personal copies alike.  (I can hear you all gasping right now, as I type.)  But please, hear me out.  I have here for you today, The Dog-Ear Manifesto.  The top six reasons that dog-earing a book should not only be accepted, but embraced!

1) You have a bookmark wherever you are!  No more tearing up old receipts or your child’s school art project.

2) When you dog-ear a page, there’s never any fear that you will lose your place!  Your bookmark can’t fall out when it’s part of the page.  Even if the page becomes un-dog-eared, you can still usually tell where you dog-eared a page.

3) It does little to no real damage to a book.  So the page is bent a little, it’s not the end of the world, but usually you can’t even tell!

4) Instead of writing in a library book, or using up a ton of paper, I can mark a page with a fabulous quote without hurting the book.

5) It saves the environment! You don’t have to make extra bookmarks, there’s one built right in to your book!

6) Whenever I see a library book that has been dog-eared, I immediately begin thinking about that other reader.  Are they a kindred spirit?  What did they think about this page, why did they stop here?  Was it just a good place to stop or did something interrupt their reading?  Did they find something particularly moving on this page?

A dog-eared book is a well-loved book.  Pass it on.

TSS – A little meme for your morning

Most recently seen at: I was a teenage book geek & Bart’s Bookshelf.  Answer the questions with book titles you’ve read this year!

In high school I was: Waiting (Ha Jin)

People might be surprised I’m: Born Round (Frank Bruni)

I will never be: The Maze Runner (James Dashner)

My fantasy job is: Flight (Sherman Alexie)

At the end of a long day I need: Love is the Higher Law (David Levithan)

I hate it when: Flyaway (Suzie Gilbert)
I have lots of flyaways. 

Wish I had: A Year By the Sea (Joan Anderson)

My family reunions are: Remarkable Creatures (Tracy Chevalier)

At a party you’d find me: Runaways (Brian Vaughn)

I’ve never been to: Palestine (Joe Sacco)

A happy day includes: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)

Motto I live by: A Good and Happy Child (Justin Evans)

On my bucket list: Mendoza in Hollywood (Kage Baker)

In my next life I want to be: The Great Perhaps (Joe Meno)

TSS – 22 August 2010

Isn’t it always just perfect when two books you are reading speak to one another?  This week I’ve been reading On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (which I adored – review to come tomorrow) and Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875-1945.  One of the things that I know I have taken for granted over my lifetime is that the concept of youth and being a teenager is something that it is a relatively new contribution of Western society.  How fitting that the two books I randomly chose to read this week dealt with this concept.  I love the combination of a non-fiction history book and a novel about the same topic.

In On Chesil Beach, there are several quotes that so perfectly address this state of in-between that had yet to be named.  Here are a few examples:

Almost strangers, they stood, strangely together, on a new pinnacle of existence, gleeful that their new status promised to promote them out of their endless youth – Edward and Florence, free at last!

The term “teenager” had not long been invented, and it never occurred to him that the separateness he felt, which was both painful and delicious, could be shared by anyone else.

It was in theory open to them to abandon their plates, seize the wine bottle by the neck and run down to the shore and kick their shoes off and exult in their liberty.  There was no one in the hotel who would have wanted to stop them.  They were adults at last, on holiday, free to do as they chose.  In just a few years’ time, that would be the kind of thing quite ordinary young people would do.  But for now, the times held them.  Even when Edward and Florence were alone, a thousand unacknowledged rules still applied.  It was precisely because they were adults that they did not do childish things like walk away from a meal that others had taken pains to prepare.  It was dinnertime, after all.  And being childlike as not yet honorable, or in fashion.

As someone who grew up when being young is known as the best time of your life, this idea is wholly alien to me, but not entirely repellent.  Now that I’m leaving being a teenager behind, I find that my friends are dreading what comes next, that each year brings us closer to something resembling responsibility and adulthood.  I wish there was something in between that both exalted our youth, relished in middle age, and respected old age.  In any case, I’m excited to continue reading Teenage, a book that discusses this transformation of youth from something you grew out of into something desirable.

As Savage claims in his introduction:

This book, therefore, tells the history of the quest, pursued over two different continents and over half a century, to conceptualize, define and control adolescence.  Apart from the dialogue between American, Britain, France and Germany, it contains several different elements that encapsulate the tension between the fantasy and the reality of adolescence, and between the many varied attempts to exalt or to capture this fugitive and transitory state. (xviii)

Teenage is already adding books to my TBR, like the diaries of Marie Bashkirtseff.  I might have to keep On Chesil Beach out from the library just a little bit longer to see if I can understand the lives of Florence and Edward even more after finishing Teenage.

Any happy book connections in your reading lately?

TSS – A big disappointment

I’ve mentioned a couple of times the Color Trilogy by Kim Dong Hwa and usually along with a mention of how much I was enjoying it.  Unfortunately, since I’ve finished the third one in the series I’ve become completely disillusioned with the coming of age story about a young girl,  Ehwa, a hundred years ago or so.  What’s interesting is that I only started feeling this way after I found out that the author is a man.

Forgive me for my uncertainty – Kim is a name that, at least in the US, can be female or male, and the author photograph is a little ambiguous.  So while there were some things about the manwha (Korean comic) that bothered me, the fact that they were coming from the perspective of a woman and it took place in a time where focusing on your marriage prospects was really what you had to look forward to, let me give The Color of Earth a favorable review.  I still don’t necessarily fault the trilogy for the focus on marriage – that probably was the focus of young girls during this time period.  However, now that I know the author is a man, I’m much more uncertain about the way he portrayed the female characters in the Color Trilogy and disagree completely that he writes beautifully from the perspective of a woman.

Eventually,  the little things that bothered me in the first book got worse and worse.  What seemed charming in The Color of Earth, like the overly poetic language, seemed overdone and unrealistic.  But most of all, there were parts that were downright offensive, that no amount of historical setting could correct.  If I sat down with Kim Dong Hwa and told him my concerns, if he defended himself with the setting and difference in time period and culture, I would remind him that even if your setting isn’t modern, your readers are.   There are certain things that are inappropriate, and honestly were probably inappropriate by any standard, not just modern ones.  Also, there should be consistency.  I don’t understand how Ehwa and her mother could be so forward thinking in many ways and yet so backwards in others.  Ehwa seems to understand sex and certainly how her body works, but then is mysteriously naive at other times.

Was this comic realistic?  No, I don’t think so.  It seemed like the author was confused about whether he wanted to be faithful to the time period or if he wanted the setting simply for aesthetic purposes.  And let’s take a break to talk about aesthetics: the Color Trilogy is beautiful and well drawn.

What really intrigues me about this whole experience is the fact that I wasn’t upset by these aspects when I thought they came from a woman.  Why?  Should I have been?  Was there less offensive language and situations in The Color of Earth, so maybe I only noticed it more after I realized the gender of the author?  If the author was a woman, would that make any of what was so disappointing about the Color Trilogy less disappointing? I don’t know.  It’s impossible to say, but I know that I won’t be recommending these books anymore.  There’s just a lot here that I wouldn’t want younger girls reading.  I know that there are a lot of people out there who enjoyed these books, so give them a try and form your own opinion, but I’m going to be returning these to the library without looking back.

TSS – 8 August 2010

Books  read this week – reviews pending:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier & The Color of Heaven by Kim Dong Hwa

Posts this week:

Fat Cat and Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Currently reading:

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Happy Sunday!

TSS – 1 August 2010

Okay, nothing is going right this morning.

WordPress was down.  Now the Sunday Salon badge is NOT working.  But you guys know what it looks like.

Nothing is going right in the reading department either, unfortunately.  I was definitely digging Her Fearful Symmetry and then… I left my book at work.  I forgot to get it again on Friday and now I have spent the whole weekend without it.  But I am seriously loving it, so I can’t wait to get back to it on Monday.

So instead, I started reading Fire Study.  Now please, step in here and say, “But Lu!  You never posted a review of Magic Study!  Why are you holding out on us like that?”

Because I never read it.  I thought Fire Study was the second book in the series, but it is not.  It is the third.  The whole time I was reading it I kept thinking, “Wow!  That’s a weird decision to just start the book after so much time has passed. Why would Snyder decide to do that.”  Um, unfortunately it didn’t click until 100 pages into the book.  Now I don’t even want to continue reading the series.  I’m so bummed out.  Dear publishers: PLEASE make it clear the order of a series.  Nothing is worse than reading books out of order.

I did read the graphic novel The Color of Water today and I liked it, but not as much as The Color of Earth.  It definitely suffered from second book syndrome.  It really just felt like a connector between The Color of Earth and The Color of Heaven. I’m looking forward to reading the third and final book in the series.  Fortunately I read them in order.

I hope your reading goes a bit smoother than mine did.  Happy Sunday and Happy August 1st!

TSS – 25 July 2010

Currently reading:

Am I picking books based solely on their cover colors?  Possibly.  How about setting?  Also possible.  It’s been unbelievably hot and both of these books have quite chilly atmospheres, plus their cool blue covers.  I’m dreaming of cooler times.

Books reviewed this week:

I think I liked this one?  But I really have no idea.  I can’t tell if I have no feelings about it or ambivalent ones.  But other folks have loved it.  Click the photo to read my full review (if you can call that list a review…).

Things posted at At the Bridges this week:

Going somewhere?:

Welcome to Parismina!  We save the turtles.
We conserve nature… it is our future.

I might be going here in October.  I originally thought I would be going to Spain, but I’m beginning to lean toward a volunteer experience in Costa Rica, Peru or the Galapagos Islands!

Happy Sunday!

Sunday Salon – Back ups.

There used to be a time in my life when I read only one book at a time and I finished every single book I read.  There were no DNFs, ever.  Unless I lost the book or had to return it to the library before I finished it, I was determined to read a whole book no matter how long it took me or how much I hated it.  I have since changed my ways.  Now I might be reading several books at once and if a book doesn’t keep my interest, I will gladly put it away and try again later (or get rid of it for good!).  I love having options when I’m reading.  If a book just isn’t doing it for me, but I think it’s something I’ll want to return to, I put it in a pile and it becomes a back up.

Sometimes I go straight back to the back up after a short break, but I have a small collection of books that are good, but don’t always keep my interest for long.  I don’t want to quit them, but I don’t seem to want to read them for extended periods of time.  When the mood strikes me, I pick them up right where I left off and haven’t had too much trouble remembering what’s going on. I  have two back ups that I’ve been reading for over six months in one case, and closer to 8 months in another.  One is The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and the other is Looking for Alaska by John Green.  Both are fine books and I like reading them, but I also like having them in progress.  I like having them there to read when I need them and I don’t really feel the need to  finish them anytime soon.

What about you?  Do you keep a couple back up books around?

______________________________________________________________________

Quick question!  I really want a great fantasy or science fiction series to read.  All kinds of fantasy and science fiction series, but I’ve really been in the mood for one and haven’t found a great one.  I appreciate it!

TSS – I love school, right?

Hello, everyone!  I think this post will eventually be about books, so bear with me.  Or skip to the part about books and call it a Sunday morning.  I’m sure everyone is plenty exhausted from yesterday’s Readathon and while I’m sad that I didn’t get to participate this year, it’s probably best for my brain that I didn’t.  As quiet as things have been at Regular Rumination the past few weeks, they’re only going to get quieter because there are only about four weeks of school left, which means finals.

I don’t talk about graduate school here very often, I’m not sure why.  It has to do with books, right?  You guys like books, I like books, but I never have very much to tell you about what I’m doing.  You know I’m writing my thesis on 2666, you might know that I’m currently rereading it for class (posts on that to follow).  Probably most people go into graduate school with some kind of idea of what they’re doing; I went to graduate school because I had (have) no idea what else to do.  When people ask my parents what I’m doing, they tell them I’m a professional student and I’m really not all that disappointed to be one.

I’ve thought of a lot of professional careers and I’ve had all the majors to prove it.  Once in my life I wanted to be a novelist, so I was an English major.  Then I decided to be an English professor, novelist on the side.  Then I wanted to be a linguist.  Then an English as a Second Language teacher.  Non-profit director!  High school Spanish teacher!  Librarian! Then I just wanted to read books in Spanish and be a poet on the side.  But no one pays you to do that.   I wish I had some direction right now, but all I’m trying to do is get through this semester.  There is a point in every semester when I sit down and am panicked at how much I have to do and how little time I have to do it and this is it.

Why can’t someone just pay me to have a book blog?

I’m actually very excited about my finals this semester.  I’m going to try and balance out the work, so I don’t end up running completely up to the last minute like I did in the fall.  I’m writing two linguistics finals and one literature final.  One of my linguistics finals is about the subjunctive tense and the other is sociolinguistics and it’s the use of accents in comedy in Spanish speaking countries.  My lit paper is on 2666 and will hopefully be part of a chapter for my thesis.

For that paper, I’m rereading 2666 right now and what is it about reading a book for school that makes it seem like such a chore?  I loved 2666, but rereading the first two parts was not fun.  Fortunately, things picked up during the third part.  I think because the first time around I really hated reading it and this time I actually see the point of it.  Thinking of it in the context of the border really helped me understand its purpose and I enjoyed reading it, unlike last time where I was so repulsed by it.  I’m still disgusted by a lot of what happens in the Part About Fate, but at least it feels integral to the novel.  I have so many questions and not a lot of answers.  I have a lot of thoughts, but not a lot of concrete ideas or any ways to prove them.  I’ve been slowly formulating ideas.

So thanks for listening to me whine a little about having no direction in life and having to write papers!  I know it’s silly and there are much bigger things to worry about in the world, but at least you know why things have been pretty quiet around here!

I didn’t get a chance to finish any of my Octavio Paz books for March (go figure), but I’m still working on them slowly.  Maybe you did better than me!  Did you read any Ocatvio Paz books?  Leave a link to your post in the comments section and I will add them here.

TSS – In which I get much too philosophical about book reviews

I just finished (and loved) A Reliable  Wife this morning and I’ve been sitting down and thinking about why I chose to read it.  A few months ago, this book was all over the blogs and most people were giving it rave reviews.  Everyone loved it (including me!) and talked about how engrossing it is (it is!) and how intense it is (it is!).  But when I was thinking about what eventually caused me to remember this book, when usually I forget books unless I write them down on my list, was not necessarily all of its rave reviews, but instead the impassioned negative reviews that eventually pushed me towards this excellent novel.

Sometimes, when there is nothing but praise about a book, it doesn’t necessarily make me want to read it.  No matter how  many people tell me The Help is awesome, I can’t bring myself to sit down and read it.  I really have zero idea why this is.  I’ve purchased the book, but every time I start it, I get bored and put it down.  The same thing happened with A Reliable Wife, five star after five star review did not get me interested, but those three or four negative reviews did.

I have two theories about this.  The first one is that, in my mind, a book that only gets good reviews is boring — there’s nothing in it to stir people to up, to make them question its greatness, no risks were taken.  I’m not saying that this is necessarily true, especially not of The Help (since obviously I can’t make a judgement about a book I haven’t read yet), but I would say that is generally a direction that my thoughts go in.  If there is no one that can question any single part of the book that has been written, then the author just didn’t do enough to make it worth reading.  Let me reiterate!  That’s not necessarily true with every book, but it’s something to consider.  Eventually, if a book has been universally loved, I get to it and I either love it or I don’t.

And that brings me to my second theory.  If I do begin that book that everyone loves, what happens if I am the sole curmudgeon on the planet who didn’t like it?  What if I am the one that has to do all the questioning and in the process step on many toes to get there?  What if it is just some flaw in me as a reader that I don’t love a book that has been so universally praised?  I begin to question not what is wrong with the book, but instead what is wrong with me. Now, I realize that that kind of makes me a coward, unafraid to step forward and have a different opinion than the masses, but I’m trying to be perfectly honest here.   If there are other people who have disliked a book, then I am in the free and the clear to dislike it as well.

The whole purpose of a book review is to influence people.  It’s to say, “Hello, I loved this book, I hope you will too!”  Or, “Please don’t waste your time on this one like I did.”  Hopefully, to be successful, both reviews are filled with the whys and the why nots.  But it is a nerve-wracking process, this influencing people.  What if I recommend a book that you end up hating?  What if I tell you not to read a book that would have been your favorite book of all time?  I worry about this!  Regularly!

But I keep reviewing books and obviously I’m not losing too much sleep over it since I slept a total of 10 hours last night.  In the end, I don’t think a negative review is a bad thing.  I think a mediocre review is much worse.  Strong emotion and passion, a prevalent theme in A Reliable Wife, whether that passion is positive or negative are much more powerful.  Sometimes, the truth of the matter is, that a negative review might just get me to read a book more than a positive review will.

Often, as reviewers, I think we feel bad about writing overly impassioned reviews.  Too much passion means that we can’t look objectively at something.  There are books that I am passionately in love with and books that passionately despise.  I love Time Traveler’s Wife, and even if it is flawed, that love is unconditional.  I despise Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying with such an intense hatred that trying to convince me of its merits will do little to change my opinion of it.  I’d be lying if I said that I wished every book created such passion in me, because I think it would get exhausting.   But we shouldn’t be afraid of that passion; a passionate book review, filled with love or hatred, should be our favorite kinds of book reviews, because it means there’s something in the book worth reading.

Maybe none of this  is exactly revolutionary, but my basic point is that it’s not always going to be the positive after the positive that gets a book talked about, that gets a book read.  It’s not always going to be the talking points that matter.  Sometimes it is our gut reaction to a book, those things that make us question the very purpose of a book, that lead to greatness.  I really disliked the novel Disgrace by JM Coetzee, and by disliked I mean hated, but at the same time, I do not deny that is powerful, haunting and disturbing.  Two years later, I have difficulty putting into words why I reacted so strongly against this book.  But, I think I’ve realized sometimes you don’t have to like a book to admit that it is great, you don’t have to enjoy a book to think that it is important or worthwhile.   I don’t think I would tell someone not to read Disgrace, but I would certainly try to prepare them for the intense emotion it gives its readers.

And then that just opens a whole other can of worms about the purpose of reading, but I think I’m going to leave that for another Sunday.