Sunday, February 28, 2010

Total Books Read in January and February

I have a goal to read 100 books before 2011. This is my progress so far with links for reviews:

  1. The Best American Poetry 2009 (240 pages) Review is Here
  2. The Amazing Bone by William Steig (32 pages) Review is Here
  3. Nightlight- A Parody by Harvard Lampoon (160 pages) Review is Here
  4. Horace by Holly Keller (32 pages) Review is Here
  5. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (304 pages) Review is Here
  6. The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, David Shannon (32 pages) Review is Here
  7. Betsy Was a Junior by Maud Hart Lovelace (293 pages) Review is Here
  8. Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace (310 pages) Review is Here
  9. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (32 pages) Review is Here
  10. Becoming Jane Eyre: A Novel by Sheila Kohler (256 pages) Review is Here
  11. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (48 pages) Review is Here
  12. The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice (448 pages) Review is Here
  13. Things to Love by Richard Scarry (24 pages) Review is Here
  14. Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (224 pages) Review is Here
  15. The Complete Idiots Guide to Vegan Living by Beverly Lynn Bennett (360 pages)
  16. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (413 pages) Review is Here
  17. Tales of King Arthur: The Sword in the Stone by Hudson Talbott (48 pages) Review is Here
  18. You Are What You Eat by Dr. Gillian McKeith (224 pages)

Total Books Read: 18
Total Books with Chapters Read: 11
Total Pages Read: 3,067

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tales of King Arthur: The Sword in the Stone

Hudson Talbott, with beautiful illustrations and an easy to understand dialogue, tells the story of King Arthur in this first volume of the series "Tales of King Arthur". As a child I met Talbott at my elementary school and was able to take into my possession the series (plus all of his other books, see I've been a book nerd for years) and while I had my reasons for enjoying each book the Arthur series was my favorite because of the illustrations.

They're beautiful, detailed, and incredibly filled with color. I always, and still do, strive to make such beautiful paintings as he did for this series. As a child, and even now as an adult, I can sit with the book opened on my lap only to gaze at the pictures.

The story was also an easy to understand take on the famous tale. Some of the words my be a little advanced for a child if they are at the reading level that they need to be read to but it's not as if any of the words are so hard that it would be a struggle for the person reading it to describe the meaning of these words.

This book is only the first step in King Arthur's journey. It describes the initial back story of how Arthur was born and his families history then proceeds to find a young Arthur who is oblivious to his true destiny. The attempts to pull the well known sword from the stone are performed until Arthur, much to his surprise, pulls the sword from the stone with no effort.

All of the excitement is described through word and imagery. I feel that this story is just as important as the beautiful illustrations.

Hudson Talbott has a home near my old one in NY. One of his books were even produced into a movie which I grew up watching and loved. But that discussion is for another entry at another time.


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Last Song

Oh Nicholas Sparks, you predictable son of a gun. I don't read Nicholas Sparks books very often because I feel they are all predictable. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, someone dies. Rinse and repeat. But sometimes you just need a squishy love story. I find I need such stories, especially ones involving the beach, whenever I've reached my breaking point with winter. I'm done with winter, I hate the snow, every morning I wake up with the expectation of fresh air and breakfast on the back porch while birds chirp and flowers bloom. My expectations are always shot down by the cold air and two feet of snow that's covering my lawn and deck.

So that frustration I've been feeling is what led me to pick up The Last Song. It's also because after my experience with Dear John coming out in theaters and the countless people buying the book and asking me if it's any good... I thought it'd be better to get ahead of the game and read the book so I can answer peoples questions when they buy the book prior to seeing the Miley Cyrus movie.

Well, my expectations were the following: girl (Ronnie) meets boy (Will), they fall in love, someone dies. Ding*ding*ding! Guess whose expectations were very well founded? Of course, I won't give into the details as to who dies because then that ruins the suspense.

But this book had everything I was looking for in a book at this moment. As I've mentioned, I'm antsy for summer and it's hard for me to concentrate. This book was an easy read, nothing too hard to grasp or concentrate on. It flowed easily and was entertaining. You grew to be interested in all of the characters- good and bad- and you wanted to know what those characters would be doing next. The little details of life at the shore brought in the summers warmth that I've missed so much. The love story was somewhat predictable but it was enjoyable and sweet- again, something easy to grasp onto and definitely entertaining.

However, the book is much more then just a love story. It's about family. It follows the ups and downs of Ronnie's family and how close and far one can be with their loved ones. It displays the families of Will and a little insight to Blaze (another characters) family as well. It shows that families do have the capability of falling apart but also the ability to rebuild.

The book pulled at my own heartstrings. The tear-jerking part of the novel I have experienced first hand in the grim details which Sparks seemed to hound in on. It was the same exact issue and at the same time of the year. I do not know much about Nicholas Sparks but with the details he used that were so much like what does happen in that type of a situation I wonder if he has himself experienced it first hand.

I did enjoy the book. Is this a literary classic? I certainly don't think so. Is it something stupid and low class? No, I don't believe it is. It's something enjoyable that many people can relate to. Something to maybe give the reader pause to think of their own family and how their relationships are with their parents and siblings. I would think of this to be a great beach or vacation read. Whether it's in the pit of summer or during the winter holidays. But make sure you have tissues handy, you might need them.

In Addition:
The Last Song is being made into a movie and will be out in theaters by April 2nd. Seeing that Nicholas Sparks wrote the screenplay prior to writing the novel I have hopes that the directors didn't butcher it too much and the points of the novel which I loved will still be seen in the film. Here's the trailer incase you haven't seen it yet.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I've survived!

The blizzard of 2010.

We had our first snowstorm on Friday of this past week and the second one yesterday. It was epic and much like the snowstorms I'm used to from my childhood. We got nearly two feet of fresh snow added to the snow we already had previously from the first storm. This left my car looking like this:

Today we dug out the car. It took us four hours to do this and my body is screaming in pain from all of the shoveling. I'm sitting on the living room couch with aching muscles, pills at hand, and a heating pad on my back.

But on snowy days there is a certain list of things I enjoy doing and due to my being entirely incapable of moving right now (it took me 30 minutes to get out of my bed after I took a nap) I'm going to list those items.

1. I watch Lord of the Rings
I received my copies of each movie on each Christmas following their release. The first film (The Fellowship of the Ring) I received on a snowy Christmas. We got nearly three feet of snow during that day due to an epic storm and I sat watching my moving as it fell. So now, whenever we're hit with snow, I just have to watch The Lord of the Rings.

2. I go through bags of Homestyle popcorn.

Again, another snow related memory. During an interim in college we were snowed in and my classmate and I decided to get ahead with class by watching our required movie. She brought Homestyle popcorn with her and the memory has stuck. Therefore, I always go through a bag or two during snowstorms.

3. I read.
I picked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall off of my bookshelf for this particular storm. I'm enjoying it thus far! I love the Bronte sisters.

4. I do crafts.

I love to make magnets and signs but I haven't been out to buy the wood to make such things in a few weeks. However, I've been out and about to buy yarn and I'm working on two different blankets. The blue one in the photo is a bedspread I've been doing for three winters- the dark lagoon color is the last color of the blanket and I'm 14 rows away from being done. The light colored string is something new that I got. The yarn is called Simply Soft Eco. The polyester in the yarn is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Nothing like making something to keep me warm and helping the earth at the same time!

I hope you all are doing well and have enjoyed your snow days thus far (if you had snow days like I did!)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm being buried under snow.

Video footage.

With the snow pile I stand in front of... keep in mind that I am 5'9" and that the very fact that the snow is leveled with the camera shows HOW HIGH the pile is.

It's still snowing right now. I have never seen this type of a storm in Pennsylvania in the five years that I have been in the state (first for school then to live). This type of snowfall is something that is completely normal for NY but down here it's d00m. The governor has shut down all of the major roads so far and the snow is still coming down heavy. Right now we have over one foot of snow on the ground.

Persistence of Memory

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes has achieved a lot in her short life. With the publication of her first book In the Forest of the Night coming out when she was only 14 years old. I was 13 years old at that time and had big dreams of being a writer. She helped make those dreams develop. If a 14 year old could get a book published, why couldn't I?

But my personal story aside Amelia's first collection of books were entirely about vampires, witches, and shapeshifters. This was prior to the Twilight craze when being a fan of vampires was labeled you as strange.

For quite some time Amelia branched off and wrote the Kiesha'ra series but Persistence of Memory returns to her vampire roots. Compared to her earlier books this is advanced with more talk of psychology and mental disturbances. There are details of fencing (which I know nothing about). But past that I feel Amelia's writing style hasn't changed too much since she was a 14 year old (now in her mid-twenties).

The main character has a friend who somewhat vanishes by the middle of the book and is only brought up once more in the epilogue. To me this is a messy form of writing. If there is a character who appears to be tied into the plot and worth knowing then the character should follow through to the end of the book. Her main character, Erin, reminded me all too much of all of her other lead females in her Den of Shadows books. And much of the characters and how they would react to a situation was predictable if you have read her previous books in the series.

Was the book horrible? No. Could it have been written better? Yes. I think at her age and with the history she has of writing she should be more progressed then she is.

I took this book out from my store on Friday when we were having our first snow storm threatening the area. I figured it would be a nice simple read for a snowy night and I was right. It was entertaining and simple. Nothing too hard to grasp and an easy way to pass the cold snowy hours.

If you're looking for something to entertain you when the snow hits (which we're currently being hit by a second storm) this would be a great read. If you want to read something but you only have a few hours to spare- again, a great read. It's easy to pick this up and finish it quickly but if you're looking for something that you can think over and bring forth great thoughts... then this book isn't really what you want.


PS: This is currently what it looks like outside my front door. Mind you it's 10:30 in the morning. The sun is up and the reason it's so dark is from the thick clouds and snow. That fog? It's not fog. It's snow. There is a tree-line we can usually see behind that house. Usually it's so clear you could count the trees. Not today... and I'm supposed to go to work!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Tale of the Body Thief

Book four in The Vampire Chronicles raises an assortment of questions that seem to be a general topic amongst vampire characters. Picture you were forced to become a vampire. Now, you are given the chance to be a mortal again. Would you do it? Would you try?

That's the opportunity presented to the infamous Lestat. Of course, being the curious creature he is, he accepts the opportunity and then is lead into an adventure he had never foreseen. Faced with the reality of being human after two hundred years of living as a predator Lestat realizes that his new mortal form isn't going to make life as easy as he had previously assumed it would be.

I enjoy how Anne Rice elaborates on the beauty of the life around us. Many things that we, in our busy lives, fail to take notice of and appreciate. The sun appearing after a snowstorm and how it sparkles on the fallen snow. The heat of a house and the comfort of clean sheets on a bed. She eloquently brings all of this forth and with her writing style makes it perfectly easy to imagine just how the snow lay on the statues in Washington DC.

There are some portions of the book which might be unnerving and uncomfortable to some readers. An accidental rape (I paused when writing out 'accidental' but it is true, the character didn't intend to rape the other) and love of a nun. Anne Rice has never shyed away from topics that can cause a reader to question the sanity of a character. She doesn't take pause if something is uncomfortable or controversial. I think that's why I enjoy her so much. She writes what she writes and doesn't let anyone stop her.

Unlike the start of the Chronicles (Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat) this is only the second time I've read this book. And yet... I see it completely different then I did the first time I read it. I've noticed that lately all of the books I've had the opportunity to reread I see in a whole new light.

I feel that this book is not a tale of the thief who steals Lestat's body. I feel that it is a tale of what a vampire would do if given a chance to become a mortal again. What would that vampire do if they experienced mortality for the first time in years. And how would other vampires feel about this experience. Vampire literature seems to always display the vampire who never wanted to be a vampire. Well, this gives the vampire an option for mortality and that option is taken. The only question left is once the vampire is a mortal will he chose to continue his life as that of a mortal or will he try to return to the darkness?


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Photos of the EPIC SNOWSTORM!

Well, we certainly got the snowstorm they were predicting. How much snow did I get? I can't exactly tell you. See... it was a light fluffy snow, easy to blow around, and we had a lot of wind. So with that we have epic drifts of snow and then two feet away no snow at all, just dead grass. Here is a photo of one of the deepest snow drifts that I had to shovel through (I didn't adventure anywhere else, just through the path I was shoveling)

And this is the snow that built up on the side of my car... yes... side... I had to dig off snow on a vertical location. That's not cool. What's also not cool is that it was 5 inches deep! (or... five inches wide? Considering it's on the side of something...?)

This is the fancy snow work hanging off the house... this isn't from it sliding off or anything, it's just how the drifts were made. Yes, hanging off the house and piling up on our shed. It was also like this over the doors which is quite dangerous.

About five hours after it had stopped snowing my mother and I decided to go save my father who had been snowed in down by his job. This is the AWESOME road conditions (only... not)

To those of you hit by the storm I hope you're all safe!
Those without power... well I guess you won't be reading this.... but I hope you're safe and staying warm AND entertained!
Today is Super Bowl Sunday and you bet your buns that I am making some of the best dip in Pennsylvania.

And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Current Weather Predicament

Viewed with the help of lolcats:

My area is currently being hit by the BLIZZARD OF BLIZZARDS OMG!!!111!
Okay, not really.

I grew up in New York.
Not New York City.
The mountains.

I'm used to having over a foot of snow on the ground at a time.
I'm used to sitting through an entire days worth of school,
while it's been snowing,
while it's over 5 inches deep,
and never seeing an 'early dismissal'.

Having my bus slide down a hill was a common occurrence when I was a kid.

Pennsylvania... or rather, where I live in Pennsylvania... utterly freaks out and shuts down from the smallest form of a flurry.

They closed the schools by 1PM today... the storm wasn't scheduled to hit until (at the earliest) 4pm... after schools are out anyway.

There was no parking at grocery stores because everyone was getting their bread and milk...
... because apparently we'll be snowed in for an eternity, dontcha know.
When the snow actually began to fall in small happy little flakes just as I was getting out of work I was almost hit by an old man in a car who was flying through the parking lot-
-as were most other people-
and presented him with a personal gesture.

I don't take getting almost-hit as a funny thing.

Then I drove my way home, two balls of yarn in my possession, with full intention of burrowing in with my crochet kits, drinking tea, and watching the snow fly.

It seems that the further south you go the less capable road departments are with dealing with snow. I'm not that much further south then I was in NY and yet the road crews in this area don't seem to grasp the concepts of proper road management during a snow storm....

And I'm in a lucky area. They know a lot more here then they do south of me.

This is why I do feel for the people in Maryland, Virginia, the Carolina's.
They're getting hit by this storm.
And they haven't the means or knowledge of how to tend to snow... let alone 3 feet of it.

But for me... right now.. I'm going to sit back and take pleasure in silly lolcat snow photos.
I'm going to plan a sledding trip for Sunday.
I'm going to continue crocheting my blanket and cuddling with my cat.
And maybe even have so hot cocoa.

For those of you who are on the roads and in the storm area, please drive careful.
If you're intending on going out- don't. Stay home.
If it's a necessity, don't forget to pack extra clothes, blankets, flashlights, and food.
Delaware just declared a state of emergency.
Military bases are shut down.
It's dangerous out there, enjoy the fun of the snow but don't get hurt!

If you hate winter and snow... all I can say is that BBQ agrees with you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When I'm Stressed...

There are 2 things that make me feel better.


He sits on my head or on my lap. I discovered how I cling to Sheepy when stressed while in college. My roommate had walked into the dorm room one evening while I was working on a term paper and said "Uh-oh, what's wrong, you have Sheepy in your lap."


He's my cuddlebug!
And he totally didn't appreciate having his picture taken.
He just wanted to go to bed but instead I forced him to sit still.
Once the photo was taken he promptly left the room in annoyance.
(he'll forgive me when I offer him my warm blankets on my bed and a treat)

Other Items That Help:
Anne Rice books
Episodes of Criminal Minds
Coloring in a coloring book
"The Hills" (with LC in them)
Taking a walk (in the heat or cold)
A bottle of holiday wine with a box of chocolate covered cherries

And as if called Oliver is back in my room making little meows and purring loudly,
he's ready for bed.
And I am too! (if you couldn't tell by my less then fashionable pictures)
I have a busy 5 days ahead of me...
Tomorrow: Day off, lots of writing stuff to do.
Wednesday: Work and the gym.
Thursday: Meetings.
Friday: Work and the gym.
Saturday: getting my father a new car. (which means I'll be car-less so... mini vaca?)

The Runaway Bunny

Every child has a rebellious moment where they want to run away. Maybe it's just that adventurous streak every child has coming out to show it's face. Maybe it's because you're mad at your mother or father because they want you to do something you have no interest in. No matter the reason, children tend to always toy with the notion of running away.

My big run away moment when I was a child was when I decided to 'run away' and walked to the end of my street. By that point (the walk to the end of my street took me about a minute as a grown up to walk) I figured my mother was worried sick and I had been gone for hours so I turned around and walked home.

The little bunny in this story by Margaret Wise Brown has that adventurous streak and decides he wants to run away. With the imagination that only children, artists, and authors can have the bunny describes all of the things he could be to get away from his mother and in turn his mother points out how no matter what, she'll be able to find him and love him.

Eventually he figures he won't go to all the extremes of running away but remain where he's at.

Some people proclaim that this story is creepy, that it displays a way a mother shouldn't behave. "The little bunny wants space! He just needs some time to himself!" Really? Assuming the bunny is a child I'm sure he's just trying to be rebellious or annoyed at something very silly. I feel the true point of the story is that a mother, no matter what, will love you and be there for you. Whether you are a boat sailing away or a rock on a mountain your mother is always there.