Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Purchase

I'm completely failing at my attempt to not buy books and only stick to the unread ones I already own. At the very least I saved money on the book I bought today!

My friend Samantha has been teaching English in the Czech Republic for two years and she came home (for good) a little over a week ago. She and I graduated from the same college (she was class of '06 and I of '08). I drove up to the lovely town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania to meet up with her and wander the town while we caught up.

I highly suggest to all of my readers that if you're ever in the Eastern end of Pennsylvania you make a stop at Jim Thorpe. It's been dubbed The Switzerland of Pennsylvania with hundred+ year old homes and three streets of little antique and vintage shops to spend hours in. The small town once was home to six multi-millionaires all at one time and also the location for the local legends- The Molly Maguires.

The towns original name was Mauch Chunk which is derived from the Lenni Lenape (natives) words for "Sleeping Bear" but later was renamed Jim Thorpe to honor the Native American Olympian who had his early school days in Carlisle (which is about 2 hours south and home to a prominent Native American school way back in the day).

ANYWAY ENOUGH ABOUT THE HISTORY LESSON. Point is that the town is beautiful, the people nice, the stores plentiful and I landed myself in the used bookstore which has only opened this past year. It's not large, just two rooms with books scattered all over, but the prices are nearly unbeatable.

All books are half the price they are listed and this particular day they had an additional 10% off. My friend Samantha, a fellow book lover, pointed out a book to me which I ended up buying.

Has anyone read this book? If so, NO SPOILERS! But did you enjoy it???

I'm quite excited to read the book. It sounds like just what I need. Of course I am already reading two other books but I have a feeling I might eat this one up before I finish them. We shall see!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Books of 2009 Update

The awesome list of books that I have read since the beginning of this year....

Books Read in Order of Date Completed
The Last Summer (of you and me) by Ann Brashares MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Coraline by Neil Gaiman MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Poems of Emily Dickenson by Emily Dickenson
Mars Series 1-15 by Fuyumi Soryo MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Catwings by Urusla K. Le
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Apart from the Crowd by Anna McPartlin MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien MY PERSONAL REVIEW
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Lady Elizabeth: A Novel by Alison Weir MY PERSONAL REVIEW
At Gettysburg; or, What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle by Mrs. Tillie (Pierce) Alleman MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Chimes by Charles Dickens MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Girl with No Shadow: A Novel by Joanne Harris MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Meet Kirsten: An American Girl by Janet Beeler Shaw MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Kirsten Learns a Lesson: A School Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Kirsten's Surprise: A Christmas Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Happy Birthday, Kirsten: A Springtime Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Changes for Kirsten: A Winter Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Kirsten Saves the Day: A Summer Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling MY PERSONAL REVIEW

My goal is to read 50 books this year. Thus far I am down 46 and have only four more to read before I've reached my goal for the entire year!

Harry Potter

There are a couple of books in my life that have had a huge influence on me. Some of those books I hated, some I liked, and some I loved. Harry Potter- all of the novels- would be one of those books. Now before the haters start rolling their eyes hear me out, this is an opinion oriented blog site is it not?

Some people get very angsty when it comes to books that involve a huge following. They want to be different and not follow the crowd. They get snooty and think that any book that has a large following is probably not decent enough, they're so much better then to read something like that. And with some books that have cult followings that's true, but I feel that Harry Potter is not one of those series. I feel that this is, in fact, great writing.

When the first Harry Potter book was released I was 12 years old (I am currently 23). I didn't immediately hop into the books. Oh no, I had no interest in them and thought my friend who was obsessed with them was nuts. I thought I was far too mature to be reading some book about wizards. Every time my friend brought it up I just pictured multiple Merlin's running around. And who was this Dumbledore fellow? Another Merlin or Gandalf wanna be of course.

But then, somewhere along the lines I grabbed The Sorcerer's Stone from my friend and opened up to the first page. Reading it quickly I turned to the next, and then the next after that. Soon enough I was taking the book out of the library and I dove straight in. It quickly became a tradition for me to read each Harry Potter book within one day.

I recall how excited I was to find the first two books in a discounted book shop. I got each book for $3 each. I was so proud of my beautiful hard-covered books with their fabulous illustrated covers. I was even more excited that Dumbledore was not a Merlin or a Gandalf. He was a top wizard all on his own.

My favorite book, to this day, is book three- The Prisoner of Azkaban. Sirius Black is, and always will remain, my favorite character of the series.

It quickly became a summer tradition to wait with excited breath for each book to come out. Then, with my friends, we would go to see the films as they began to be released as each one was placed out in theaters.

I adored the books, they threw me into this other world that sounded so wonderful, so inspiring, so much more interesting then my own. But that's what books are good for, are they not? To be able to slink off into another world and forget all that's around you. Somehow, growing up along side Harry Potter (as each book was released I was just about the same age as Harry Potter would be) I felt like a had a group of companions that I could always visit when times in my real life got rough.

Granted I wasn't dealing with evil power hungry wizards or snotty sinister teachers. Granted I didn't have to deal with trees that would whomp me or werewolves. But I was growing into an age where many things seemed hard. Really, what teenager going through puberty and entering high school doesn't have a confusing awful time here and there?

I even learned the nickname of Hermione for my obsession with books. Funny, no?

Harry Potter didn't only open my eyes to the fact that yes, you can write a book directed to one age group- but it can attract all. Book five was the first book that I read which ever brought tears to my eyes. To be moved so strongly by a piece of written word is amazing. It shows it's strength and powers. It also shows how much effort Rowling placed in her characters, to make them be so real that you can actually have emotional connections with them.

Book 6 came out the summer after my freshman year of college. I recall running through a local Walmart to the display of freshly released Harry Potter books and grabbing one then jumping up and down in my own private little dance. People looked at me oddly and yet some seemed to have this glimmer in their eyes as if they understood how I felt. I would read the book whenever I had a chance during my job as a lifeguard that summer.

Book 7 took a little longer to be released and I still remember the release date clearly. I was so excited, like a child waiting for Christmas morning. I had just moved to Pennsylvania and was only in the state for a week when it was released so I managed to reserve a copy at a book store 45 minutes away but couldn't get myself there for the actual release at midnight. So early the next day my family and I drove all the way to the store and I was given the copy. I held it as if it was gold then plopped down (while my parents were looking around) and began to read it.

From 10 that morning until that night I read the book- with breaks to go to a fair, eat dinner, eat lunch, shower, and take a walk through my neighborhood- I read every other moment besides that and yet I finished it that night.

Tears had been shed and the book was done. I was left feeling a sense of loss because the series was over. This series which had followed me through middle school, high school, and into college was complete. Ten years of my life I had been a fan of it, excited to see what was next for each book character, and now it was finished.

I won't lie, I miss the new installments. But I can still just as easily pick up one of the books and dive back into the familiar territory. It's the magic of Harry Potter.

I was lucky enough to see the most recent movies premiere last week at midnight with a theatre full of fans and I adored every moment. My opinion of the movies are slightly different from the books. Do I enjoy them? Yes. Do I see every one of them? Yes. Do I think a number of very important characters, scenes, etc are missing from the films? Yes. Do I think someone should receive the 'idiot' label for taking out such important characters and scenes? Yes. But I keep in mind that really... when you're the best of the best it's hard to make something just as good. I really doubt there'd ever be a way to make Harry Potter the movie as good as the books. (Although I do think they could've been better, a few in particular especially, because really Lord of the Rings movies were fabulous!)

I really cannot wait until I have children and can read these books aloud to them. I have full intentions of doing so and I hope that all have the opportunity to read these books at some point in their lives. They're really that great, and I stand by that statement now and always. I'll always adore the world that J.K. Rowling created for us all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

American Girls: Kirsten

My family had a tradition of buying an American Girl doll for each of the granddaughters in the family when they got to an appropriate age. When I was very young, for my birthday, I was asked what type of doll I would like. At that point there were only three dolls available. Samantha, Molly, and Kirsten.

I chose Kirsten because she had blonde hair and was Swedish just like me. Usually I never found anything really pertaining to Sweden or Swedish people so for me, this was fascinating, a pretty doll and an entire series of books all about a Swedish girl!

I received the doll and for each holiday and birthday I received dresses for Kirsten. To me, she was one of my best friends. Countless days were spent with that doll. I recall throwing her a birthday party and laying with her under the trees in our yard on hot summer days.

I reread the books a few weeks ago. Once more, a moment to jump back into the past and have a stirring of my memories. The books are fantastic and not only entertaining for children. Reading the book I was able to see what life during the 1900's was like and not only for those living in America but fresh new immigrants of America.

The books also gave little history lessons on the lives of Swedish people and the lives of Americans in the 1900's. Schooling, Christmas, winter, birthday festivities. I have yet to find a book that gives me a brief history lesson in as much of an entertaining way as these books did.

I have not read all of the other books that American Girls now have but I fully intend on introducing the series to my daughter (shall I ever have one). They are great books with strong female characters who go on adventures and make tough decisions. The girls are real, experiencing real life issues that some children can relate to. It's a positive way to get children interested in reading but also introducing them to a positive way to play.

To Kill A Mockingbird

This novel I read when I was in High School. I recall all the assignments we used to receive in high school and how uninterested I was in each and every one of them. To be forced to read books that are predetermined by other people was like pulling teeth for me. I want to find a book and read it because of my own interest- not because someone else thinks I should. Even if the book was a decent read I would end up despising it and dragging my way through each chapter with very little interest. A number of these books I've begun to reread on my own since I've left school and to my surprise I've enjoyed them.

To Kill a Mockingbird is not one of these books... because I enjoyed it the very first time I read it in High School. After I graduated I found a copy of the book- with the same cover as the one I read in High School- on sale so I picked it up. I read the book and loved each moment of it.

Rereading it brought me back to hazy summer days and the scent of the south that I've experienced in past travels. The prejudices against African Americans is of course incredibly prominent in the book but there are also the more subtle prejudices in the book directed towards different social classes and women.

In the that particular time period this was common and sometimes it's easy to forget what life was like 80 years ago. How are we to remember when we did not live it ourselves?

But in many ways the prejudices still exist. There are still some people who look down their noses at black people, women, or people of a lower class. Many things have changed, such as schools and the way life was generally lived, but at times that old thought process is still evident in the world in large frightening very vibrant ways.

Sometimes, Boo Radley had the right idea in mind. To hide away from the world and all of the scary things it involves.