January Round-Up

I used to do a round up each month of my reading and blogging, but I gave up on it probably two years ago. There was some debate about whether this was a useful kind of post. Did it really provide your readers with any information that they didn’t already have? Was it productive? Was it spam? Also, I am lazy. Pulling that commitment left me time to do other things with the blog. While getting rid of the monthly round ups was, at the time, the right decision, I’ve realized that I missed the posts. I like seeing everything that was accomplished in one month and I like having all the books I’ve read in one place. It gives you a big picture glimpse into my reading and what I’ve liked. Plus, then at the end of the year it’s easier to go back and see what I’ve done for all the year-end lists we all love so much.

I’m sure that’s way more information than you needed about why I stopped writing a monthly review post. And, now, look at me, it’s almost March and I’m just now getting up the January one. It doesn’t bode well for a new start, does it? Oh well, there’s always next month.

Books Read

1. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
3. Proust Was  A Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer
4. How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by Chris Boucher
5. So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman
6. On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad

I think my favorite book this month was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, though it wasn’t my favorite novel by Green. The strangest book I read was most certainly How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive. None of the books were disappointing. I liked all of them.

The only disappointing thing about this list is the fact that I spent most of the month reading one book that didn’t make this list because I finished it on February 1st: Moby Dick. I also spent most of the month posting about Moby Dick, so I didn’t get a chance to do a lot of reviewing this month. Is there a book on this list that you’re dying to see a review of? Otherwise I will probably just do mini-reviews.

On the Blog

January was an excellent month for blogging. First, there was the Moby Dick readalong, which went swimmingly, hosted by The Blue Bookcase. I loved participating and I’m so glad I read this classic. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The first month of The Read More/Blog More Poetry Event was a hit. I’m so proud of how well this went and I sincerely hope we see it happen again this month.

Finally, I participated in the 50 Years, 50 Blogs book tour for A Wrinkle in Time, an event I was thrilled to be a part of.

In My Life

Things were pretty quiet after the holidays. Just a lot of work and freelancing and a lot of Friday Night Lights. I am working on two big crochet projects that January-Leslie will be disappointed to learn I’m still working on. The weather really got to me in January, but now that it is almost March, we can accurately say that spring is around the corner… right?

Next month (read: in nine days), I’d like to also include my favorite links from around the community, though I was much too disorganized to make that happen in January.


“Lights and Shadows” by Delaney Hall

While looking for poems to read over at the Poetry Foundation, I came across this article by Delaney Hall about the Chicago Defender column “Lights and Shadows,” a column devoted to poetry and culture. It’s a beautiful piece about a culture, a community, and, mostly, a man: Dewey R. Jones.

“Few are clamoring over Jones now. He’s one of history’s bit players, and time may slowly bury him. But until that time, his son—who shares his father’s name—will keep wading through the old photographs, letters, and writings that he left behind.”

I love that this one article has brought this one man to my attention. I wish someone would write a book about his life, the Chicago Defender. Maybe someone has. Can you recommend a good one? Gwendolyn Brooks was one of “Lights and Shadows” contributors when she was only a teenager. This line gave me chills:

There’s never enough of what I want,
Never enough sky.

You can read the full article here.


January and February were busy!

Oh, hey there!

I feel like I always start off my first post after a break with these words, like we’ve just randomly bumped into each other on the street. Totally random, right? Fancy you here! How’ve you been?

Me? Oh, I’ve been doing this kind of ridiculous freelance project. I’ve been fact checking, which is a fine side job, but is also one that has taken up the bulk of my time that I wasn’t at work.  I finished the project on Friday, though, and after two days of sleeping in and doing a whole lotta nothin, I”m ready to get back into the swing of things. Things being watching Friday Night Lights, crocheting, and blogging. Oh, and reading.

Since I have the subway rides still, I’ve been reading. I finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which was great. I’m also in the middle of The Book Thief, which is not so great, but it’s for book club, so I will power through. There is also The Weird Sisters, which I’m finding completely charming.

I have a lot of books to review, since January was taken up mostly by reading Moby Dick. Now that I’m participating in Tasha’s The Project Gutenberg Project, I see a lot more classics in my life. I’d like to do a more thorough write up of this blog in the future, but you should definitely go check it out. I’m so excited to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, I don’t really have any reviews written up to post right away, but thankfully there are bloggers like the wonderful Chris from Stuff as Dreams are Made On, who tagged me for this meme, which is just what I needed! Basically, Chris asked me 11 questions and I have to ask 11 other people 11 questions. Fun, yes?

1. What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2012?

I feel like I’ve read a lot of middle of the road books. They’re good, not bad, but just almost great. Nothing I’ve read stands out immediately, but I guess if I had to pick I would say it is a tie between The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. If I’m honest with myself, though, neither of those will probably grow to be lifelong favorites. They were great, don’t get me wrong, but not personal favorites.

2. What’s your most anticipated book of 2012 so far?

These are the books I currently have on pre-order, so I’m very much anticipating them:

The Chameleon Couch: Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa
Secure the Shadow: Poems by Claudia Emerson
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

3. What’s your favorite song or album of 2012 so song (doesn’t have to be from this year)?

Lately, I’ve been picking a song of the week and listening it on repeat until I’ve totally killed the song. So far this year I’ve fallen in love with Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye, Half-Acre by Hem, Bloodstream by Stateless, I Want to Break Free by Queen, Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit, Naive by The Kooks. Wait, was I only supposed to pick one?

4. What’s the best thing to happen to you so far this year?

Pilates! I’m in love with my pilates class. It’s a very difficult class, but I always miss it when I don’t take it.

5. What’s the worst thing to happen to you so far this year?

This winter has been so dreary. No, it’s not all that cold and there hasn’t been a lot of snow, but I feel like I’m always in my rain coat, wishing for just a bit of sun.

6. What’s the best piece of news you’ve heard not concerning you so far this year? This could be a political event, a news item that made you smile, something that happened to a friend, etc.

A friend of mine is making a huge change in her life and I’m so proud of her for doing it. I am going to miss her, but she is so brave and wonderful. I know it’s going to be amazing for her.

7. What’s the best thing you’ve cooked/eaten/best recipe you’ve saved so far this year?

I haven’t felt very inspired by cooking lately, but I think one of the best meals we’ve eaten that I’ve cooked this year was a spare rib ragu.

8. What’s your biggest goal for this year and how’s it working for you so far?

To find one small thing that makes me happy each day. I haven’t always been successful, but it’s good to have that reminder.

9. Have you discovered any new to you blogs yet this year that you’re loving?

I haven’t really made any new discoveries yet this year! But that’s something I’d really like to do this year. If you’re a new-to-me blogger, stop lurking!  I promise I”ll visit your blog.

10. What’s your favorite thing you’ve seen on the screen so far this year? This could be a tv show/music video/movie/documentary, etc.

I am currently obsessed with Friday Night Lights and The Vampire Diaries!

11. Do you plan on doing any gardening in 2012? Come on it’s me…you knew there’d be some gardening in here :p

Actually, yes! We have a balcony that actually gets decent sun. We’re going to start planning out what/when/in what to plant this week or next. I’m pretty excited! I don’t have much of  a green thumb, so it will be nice to see how it goes and if I can successfully grow things!

Now for my questions!

1. Tell us one thing that we don’t know about you!
2. Is there one book you’re always recommending? Which book is it and why.
3. Have you convinced anyone to read said book? Did they like it?
4. What do you do besides read?
5. Are you crafty?
6. Whom do you miss right now?
7. What are you going to eat for dinner?
8. What is the one book you’ve been dying to read but you haven’t yet?
9. I need some new music recommendations! What have you been listening to lately?
10. If you could go back to any time in your life and live through it all again, when would you return to?
11. What’s one goal you have for this year?

Now, who shall I tag? No pressure! Do this if you like, but my feelings won’t be hurt if this isn’t your thing. I understand.

1. Jenny at Jenny’s Books
2, Teresa and Jenny at Shelf Love
3. Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness
4. Ash at English Major’s Narrative
5. Debi at Still With Nothing of Importance
6. Meg at Write Meg!
7. Sara at Wordy Evidence of the Fact
8. Clare at The Literary Omnivore
9. Jenn at The Picky Girl
10. Memory at Stella Matutina
11. Bettina at Liburauk 

I apologize if you’ve already been tagged! Otherwise, have fun. Have a great week! Hopefully you’ll be seeing some reviews up soon.


Moby Dick — Conquered! Chapters 94-Epilogue

One day last week, while riding the subway home from work, I finished Moby Dick. I wanted to turn to the stranger next to me and say, “Look! I finished this book! I read it!” I was proud and excited and, if I’m honest, a little relieved.

What a strange thing to be so pleased that a book is finished. Is it strange to feel like a better person for having read a classic like this? A classic that is so important to contemporary literature? American literature? I feel more complete, like I’m one step closer to understanding the beast that is American literature.

As I mentioned, my only hope was to finish Moby Dick feeling like I had read a book that, for the most part, I enjoyed. That did happen. The last twenty chapters or so were enthralling. My heart was racing and I couldn’t read fast enough. I had to know what happened to Ahab and his crew.

I thought finishing Moby Dick would provide me with some sort of insight into everything I highlighted, but I’m not sure it did. I’m still left with a lot of the same questions that I had at the end of the first section. Why is religion so important? Why are the details so important? Why are there hundreds of pages in the middle of this book with little to no plot development? Why is Ahab so obsessed with finding the White Whale?

I think that word is key: obsessed. Obsession is the heart of Moby Dick. There is, of course, Ahab’s obsession with finding and exacting his revenge on Moby Dick, but there is also Ishmael’s obsession with the details, with the need to know and explain everything about whales and whaling. Ahab is emotionally exhausted of trying to defeat the whale, but he is inseparable from the fight. He knows nothing other than whaling and eventually he even, literally, becomes one with his ship when the carpenter makes him a leg out of his wrecked whaling boat. There is no turning back at that point. Starbuck asks him to stay, but he knows his fate.

“For the third time my soul’s ship starts upon this voyage, Starbuck.”
“Aye, Sir, thou wilt have it so.”
“Some ships sail from their ports, and ever afterwards are missing, Starbuck!”
“Truth, sir: saddest truth.”
” Some men die at ebb tide; some at low water; some at the full of the flood: — and I feel now like a billow that’s all one crested comb, Starbuck. I am old; — shake hands with me, man.”
Their hands met; their eyes fastened; Starbuck’s tears the glue.
” Oh, my captain, my captain! — noble heart — go not — go not! — see, it’s a brave man that weeps; how great the agony of the persuasion then!” (543)

As much as Ahab would like to listen to Starbuck and simply give up the chase and return home to his family, he cannot. Starbuck tells him it is not really his destiny, it is his choice. Ahab always had the choice to turn around, but he is never stronger than his obsession.

I’m not sure Moby Dick is something I’ll be obsessed with any time soon, but I’m so glad I read it. I kept finding things within Moby Dick that I had seen elsewhere: lines or phrases or images that had really been in allusion to Moby Dick. Now Moby Dick seems to be everywhere. I opened a book of poetry and read Robert Lowell’s “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket,” a poem all about The Great White Whale. This is why we read classics, to know a little bit more about ourselves and our world.

Thank you to the women over at The Blue Bookcase for hosting this readalong! I don’t know that I would have finished without someone else reading along with me.


January Roundup — Read More/Blog More Poetry Event

I’m thrilled to announce that we had an excellent turn out for the first month of the Read More/Blog More Poetry Event! I’m so glad that everyone took the time to participate in this month’s event and it was amazing to see so many people posting about poetry on their blogs. I just can’t stop smiling! Part of the goal of this event is to make the blogs that are posting about poetry more visible, so my lovely co-host Kelly and I decided to do a detailed roundup of all the participating blogs each month!

Hosts

Kelly went through some of the poems on the list that started it all and talked about each one. I loved reading her reactions!

I chose the first month of the event to talk about why poetry is so important to me.

Participants

Lizzy Siddal @ Lizzy’s Literary Life shared the poem ‘The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered’ by Clive James. He is an Australian author that also tied in with Australia Literature Month.

Serena @ Saavy Verse & Wit shared the Naked Muse 2012 Calendar. It is a great way to see poets for who they really are.

Jeanne @ Necromancy Never Pays shared the poem ‘The Idea of Order at Key West’ by Wallace Stevens.

Jillian @ A Room of One’s Own wrote all about Emily Dickinson. She considers Emily her favorite poet to-date and shares a biography and a list of poems she has read by her.

Julie @ Read Handed decided to share her favourite poetry books in her post.

The Parrish Lantern shared the book The Best British Poetry 2011 and the poem ‘Three Wishes’ by Kate Potts.

Unfinished Person shared a poem she wrote herself, simply titled ‘Poem.’

Care @ Care’s Online Book Club shared a poem that she wrote herself that is about her day and bread baking.

Gavin @ Page247 posted the poem “A Note” by Wislawa Szymborska, who passed away on February 1, 2012.

Snowball @ Come, Sit By the Hearth shared some of her experiences taking poetry classes in graduate school.

Carrie @ Books and Movies reposted a review of Wendell Berry’s Collected Poems.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity responded to all my prompts. Impressive!

Debbie @ ExUrbanis posted about Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

kaye @ The Road Goes Ever Ever On posted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride.

Sara C @ Wordy Evidence of the Fact wrote a review of Kingdom of the Instant by Rodney Jones.

Josh’s Mom/Sue @ Grief Journey to Reading Journey wrote about how poetry helps her process her grief. She shared a poem she wrote called “No Answer.”

Thank you so much, everyone, for participating! See you in February! The Mr. Linky will be hosted by Kelly and we will be posting on February 28th.


On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad

The TBR Double Dare and the TBR Challenge are making me dig deep into my bookshelves to find something to read. I didn’t even know I owned this book until I pulled it out of the pile a couple weeks ago. I don’t know where I bought it, or why. I had never even heard of it before I started reading it on Tuesday. How does this happen? I guess at some point I must have picked it up and read the synopsis and thought it sounded interesting, which, fortunately, it was.

Adele Pietra has grown up in Stoney Creek her entire life, surrounded by the reality of the granite quarry, the place where her father has always worked and her brother has spent his summers since he was old enough. She assumes that her destiny is as set in stone as her father’s: to marry a quarryman and watch him die slowly from the dangers of working with granite. Her mother was once a wealthy socialite who fell in love with Adele’s father during a summer vacation to Stoney Creek. She has never truly been satisfied with the life her husband has given her and wants desperately that Adele’s brother, Charles, attend Yale, but when a horrible accident kills both Adele’s father and brother, her destiny is irrevocably changed when she decides to enroll as a Freshman at Yale in her brother’s place.

I really enjoyed On Borrowed Wings. It’s nicely written, the story is interesting, and it takes place in a time period (1930s US) that I’m fascinated with. The tension between Adele and her mother is palpable throughout the entire novel and you never really come to sympathize with Adele’s mother. She made a choice about her life and was never satisfied with it, but instead blamed everyone else around her. Adele finds that she actually fits in well at Yale, even though she is constantly terrified that she will be discovered.

It was clear that Prasad had done a lot of research to make On Borrowed Wings feel authentic. I rarely questioned that this could have happened in the way she described it, even though I found Adele to be a little bit unbelievable at times. The first half of this book was so strong for me, so I was a little disappointed when On Borrowed Wings seemed to lose a little focus. It just fizzled out at the end, with somewhat of a dramatic climax, but not necessarily the one I was hoping for. Prasad is a lovely writer and her characterization was excellent with her main characters, though I would have liked to see more done with Adele’s friends at Yale. I think Prasad got a little bogged down with Issues, instead of just telling what was already an interesting story.

I enjoyed this novel, despite its imperfections. It is a little disappointing, because I think it could have been a great novel, but instead it was just good. Still, it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple afternoons.


50 Years, 50 Days: A Wrinkle in Time 50th Anniversary Blog Tour

I have talked about how much A Wrinkle In Time has meant to me as a reader here, here, and here, but I have only talked about Meg Murry once, during a Top Ten Tuesday when I declared her one of my literary best friends. In a lot of ways, Meg was everything I was and wanted to be.

When I was approached to participate in this blog post, I was told to write about my favorite character from the book. I thought, surely, Meg had already been taken, but to my surprise, she was still available. Reading A Wrinkle in Time, for me, as a ten-year-old, could accurately be described as a rapturous occasion. I know, it’s heavy language, but it’s a book I remember reading so clearly for the first time. I remember where I was and what I was wearing and what I was doing. I remember feeling as though the entire universe had shifted and changed because this book had been written and I had read it. I know, I know, that’s dramatic. But I was a ten-year-old avid reader with a flair for the dramatic.

The reality was that I didn’t find a lot of characters I could relate to when I was reading, but there was just something about Meg that I understood. She wasn’t popular, she wasn’t considered beautiful, she was smart, but she sometimes still had trouble in school. Her family was brilliant and strange and she loved them. She met a boy who loved her for who she was. She went on intergalactic adventures. She grew up and was beautiful, had a lovely family, eventually went on to get a PhD.

To ten-year-old Lu, Meg was the friend I desperately needed in my real life. Slightly older, who could tell me that even if things are hard, right now, they will eventually turn out okay. You may have to fight evil itself, travel through the planets, be nursed back to health by Aunt Beast, but it will, eventually, work out. Being a child, for me, was an awkward, frustrating experience, and it seemed like it was for Meg, too. Meg and I understood each other.

I went on to read other books in the Murry-O’Keefe storyline, and even though Meg didn’t have as much of a presence, I loved seeing her as an adult, confident and sure of herself, so different from the Meg of A Wrinkle in Time. I wish I could have met Madeleine L’Engle and told her how much her books and her characters, especially Meg, meant to me as a child and teenager. Now, as an adult, L’Engle’s own memoirs have been pure comfort reads, like talking to my family or friends. Though it’s impossible to know for sure, one way or another, I think I would have been a completely different person if A Wrinkle in Time hadn’t found its way into my hands. I’m just so grateful that young-Lu had Meg Murry in her life.

To learn more and see the full list of participants in the 50 Years 50 Days blog tour, please see the official Facebook page, here. It turns out I’m not the only one who looked up to Meg: the New York Times ran a piece yesterday called “‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and its Sci-Fi Heroine.” It is definitely worth a read!

A note about the 50th Anniversary Edition:

The 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition features:

Frontispiece photo*
Photo scrapbook with approximately 10 photos*†
Manuscript pages*†
Letter from 1963 Caldecott winner, Ezra Jack Keats*†
New introduction by Katherine Paterson, US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature  †
New afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Voiklis including six never-before-seen photos †
Murry-O’Keefe family tree with new artwork †
Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery acceptance speech

* Unique to this edition                † never previously published


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