Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm Sad Today...

One year ago we were trying to recover from a severe ice storm.

The sun was out and it was nice... but it was just too much for my dog, Tasha, who was 14 years old.

Tasha was a Norwegian Elkhound, the first dog I ever had (and the only one), and she was a couple years past her life expectancy.
When she went out for her morning walk she collapsed and never got up again. She was too weak. We were told by the vet that she had tumors in her stomach which were preventing her from ingesting food and she was more or less starving to death.

We had the option of taking her home from the vet and letting her starve until she died.. or putting her down.

I immediately called out to have her put down. Tasha was only the second of three pets we've ever had in my life time but the first pet in my memory- Nicki the cat- had gotten incredibly ill, suffered, and died. I didn't want Tasha to suffer anymore, I could already see how much she suffered and I knew it hurt her.

I couldn't stay with her when she was 'put to sleep' so I let my mother be the only one with her. She was more my mothers dog then anyones. It happened quickly, I've been told that if it's quick it means they were ready to go and just needed a little push, and soon enough I was back in the room by her side.

Today marks the one year that has passed since we put her do
wn and I miss having a dog. I miss the wag of her tail, having a friend to take walks with me, someone to bounce around and play with. She was my friend and incredibly dopey. We always suspected her silly ways to be because she ran head on into a tree while chasing a squirrel when she was younger. But still, despite her silly ways she knew how to be a good dog. She was friendly to everyone but the moment they showed any anomosity towards me she'd be protective. She would alert us to anything that might be going on. And when the world was crashing down around me and I would be hiding in my room crying (due to family and friends deaths, always deaths) Tasha would find her way in and just sit by my side.

I miss her so much and she's been on my mind a lot this week. N
eil Gaiman, author of books like Coraline and Stardust, had to put his cat 'to sleep' earlier this week and was very public with the process, and a neighbor of ours had to put their own dog 'to sleep' yesterday afternoon.
Some people don't understand the bond people have with their pets... well I think those people have never experienced the joy of having just the right pet. They can truly be your best friend and confidant. I've absolutely adored the pets I've ever had. Nicki, the first cat. Tasha, the first dog. And Oliver, my crazy cat whose currently cleaning himself on my bed. Even the turtle and fish I've had during my life I've cared for and felt sad when they died.

I've been urging my parents to get a new dog, preferably a Greyhound since they do need homes. See- all of our pets are rescued animals. Tasha was meant to be put down to make room in the kennel two days after we adopted her. In fact, we paid off the kennel to keep her alive until we made the proper arrangements to fully adopt her. I miss her and I feel guilty to have put her to sleep... but then I think if we had never gotten her when we did she never would have lived 4 years past her life expectancy.

But with all of this rambling what I really want to say is this:
I miss my dog.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Becoming Jane Eyre: A Novel

Are you a fan of the Bronte sisters? Do you enjoy Jane Eyre? And have you ever been curious about the life of Charlotte, Emily, and/or Anne Bronte? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you should check out Sheila Kohler's novel Becoming Jane Eyre.


It was an easy and entertaining read. But do not be swayed by my usage of 'entertaining'. I do not mean funny or amusing such as a television show might be entertaining but more as if it captures your interest and keeps you wanting more even after the end of the book.

The book is both fiction and biography. It generally follows the footsteps of Charlotte Bronte but switches perspective to those around her- her sisters, her father, etc. The story itself follows the literary creation of Jane Eyre. It's always one thing to read a book but something completely different to dive into an authors mind and see how the story is put together and what makes it turn into what it is.

The microscope is put against Charlotte's mind as she at times cannot put the words on paper quick enough and at others seems to suffer from writers block. Sometimes for writers it appears that when you are amongst a great amount of ideas the rest of the world ceases to exist, but Becoming Jane Eyre seems to point out that the world does continue to go on.

The Bronte family was plagued with a curse of illness. The mother died when the children were young, Charlotte's two older sisters both died when they were very young, and after publication of the remaining sisters books both Emily and Anna (and their brother) died. The ache of loss and longing for family is clearly portrayed in this book alongside the creative power of these sisters.

One thing that I found odd about this book was that 90% of it was lacking any spoken dialogue. Everything was written in the thoughts of the characters represented and there was only verbal exchange when it seemed entirely necessary. In some ways I was left wondering about the conversations that could've potentially been presented. But at the same time I feel with the lack of dialogue it left me able to submerge further into the inner ramblings of the Bronte's themselves.

I feel the book was a decent read that kept my attention from start to finish. Something that's perfect for the chilly days of January and February.


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J.D. Salinger Dies- RIP

J.D. Salinger, author of the well known novel The Catcher in the Rye has died at the age of 91. The Catcher in the Rye was the first book assigned to me in High School that I actually enjoyed. I still have my copy, bent and frayed, sitting on my bookshelf.

For a more complete look into the life of J.D. Salinger please follow the link to ABC News which has a wonderful article on this great literary man. (The Link)

Rest in Peace J.D. Salinger, you certainly had a part in my young adult life and have a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Here's My Life, Opened to You

Yesterday I had a meeting at my alma mater about graduate school. It was lovely to step back onto my campus but somewhat sad to discover that it no longer felt like home. I met with friends for about an hour then wandered over to the red brick building where I was to have me meeting.

We discussed graduate school for two hours and looked over what I needed to submit for the schools. Only one asks for a personal statement and I stared off, drawing a blank. Personal statements? How am I expected to display what a great candidate I am for this schools Literature program while also explaining why going to Scotland is so much more then just a vacation?

But last night I sat down, took out a writing pad, and after four separate starts (and cross outs) I had something: to compare my life's very existence and story to the books on my bookshelves. After I was finished with my personal statement and hid it away (I want to give myself a day to forget what I wrote then go back and reread it, probably discover I hate it, rip it up, and write something entirely new) I kept thinking about the memories I have of my life and how they correspond with books.

It goes like this (the fourth, the fifth..)
A Little Princess: It's a copy from when my mother was a child. The paper cover is ripped in spots and there is a crayon mark- done by yours truly- on the back cover. My mother had it as a child and then when I was little she read it to me. It was one of the first books I read on my own when I was little and I loved it- I still do.

The Sweep Series: silly little books on witches that I only own two copies of- book 2 and 3. The first book my best friend in High School had. We bought different books in the series then swapped them to read. We thought we were so cool having worked out a cheaper way to get access to the books.

A Tale of Two Cities: the spine is bent in a manner where it makes it clear that the book was opened to it's fullest capacity. That's true, it was. I had the book open while I was reading it in 10th grade. I was exhausted because I had been making daily trips to a hospital that was 45 minutes away to visit my aunt who was dying from lung cancer. I recall the night, it was in November- dark and cold- and I was laying on my little bed reading the book for school until I suddenly was waking up, hours later, with the book still open... but I had rolled on top of it. A Tale of Two Cities will forever remind me of my Aunt's final days.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: I bought this book on a whim in Maryland. I knew it was considered a classic but I had never actually read it. I brought the book back to my aunts house (where I was staying for two weeks) and crept up to my cousins room. She had moved out years before and now was happily married. As a child I had always loved her room with her canopied bed, pretty dolls, and collections of photos from Europe. My little cousin and I would sneak into the room and lay on the bed, just to be in there. Now, I was staying in that room for those two splendid weeks. I opened the book, sat on the cushioned window seat, and began to read while the soft calls of Canadian geese and mallards were being mixed with night time summer bugs.

Pride and Prejudice: Holds a long line of history for me. I recall reading it my senior year and not wanting to. It was my senior year of High School! I already knew what college I was going to so why force me to read this book? I hated it and I hated it more when during my sophomore year of college it was assigned to me. But after I graduated college I willingly read the book over for a third time and realized it's beauty. The book, bent and weathered, still sits on my bookshelf.

Wuthering Heights: was another book I was forced to read twice. Once in High School and again in college. But the memory for this book reaches back to High School. It was my summer reading and I had put it off for ages until it was a week before school started. And that week my family was driving from New York to Minnesota and back. We were going to my cousins wedding but taking the scenic tour along the way. Laying in the back seat of a pick up truck, my feet against the small back window, the sun on my face... I read the book. I'd stop reading it to look out over the fields of soy beans that continued as far as I could see or to look at my first Amish buggy as we passed it by. When I look at that book, despite the cold land of the moors it talks about, I can only see summer.

Twilight: as mentioned here... reminds me forever of the warm fall days and the loss of my friend Cathy. The books brought me a welcomed comfort and escape from her death. I don't believe I'll ever enjoy the books again because they remind me far too much of that time.

The point that I am trying to make is that all of my books hold a certain memory. I can't quite say to you, "I have this memory of when I was doing this and this." but if you were to pick a book off of my bookshelf I could easily tell you what was going on in my life when I read that book. My entire history could be written based on the memories I have of what occurred while this book or that book was being read. For that reason alone I strictly have seasonal books. If I want to reread a book that I had read in the summertime 8 years ago I more than likely won't be able to get into it unless it's summer.

This is how powerful books are to me. This is how important they are.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Goodnight Moon

A childhood classic that's been around for 60+ years that's loved by children and their parents both. Popular enough to be a book read to each generation of children this is a must have for parents.


With the bright colors of the young rabbits room the poem starts with a bright upbeat. Each detail of the room is pointed out- a great look and find for your child to do- and as the poem progresses the bright hue slowly begins to darken as one can assume the young rabbit who is heading the poem is beginning to drift off to sleep.

The poem also begins to change it's pitch from it's quick vibrance to a slower, calmer feel. Quieter in voice and more comforting as the book comes to an end and hopefully your children are stifling yawns as they too feel sleep come upon them.

A great companion to this book is also The Runaway Bunny (my personal favorite). I feel that these two books are a must have for any family that's just beginning. It would serve as a good source of comfort for anyone who is looking for a bit of childhood nostalgia.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Betsy and Joe


Continuing with my Betsy-Tacy books I quickly devoured Betsy and Joe. Betsy's senior year begins with great surprise and a not-so-new guy to go with and quickly snowballs into a series of events. It seems, as Betsy is growing older, that there are a few more bumps in the road that are more real life issues then petty ones which younger people seem to have.


Another death of someone Betsy knew, struggling to finish her classes just right, missing her sister Julia who is traveling overseas to become an opera singer, and the 'what comes after high school' decisions that not only Betsy has to make but so do all of her friends.

Again I am mesmerized by the utter accuracy of how it feels to be a senior in high school (the feelings are somewhat similar to being a senior in college). That sudden feeling that this is it, the last first day of school, the new year being the year you graduate. Knowing very well that your friends are all going to scatter in a matter of months and life as you know it is going to change dramatically.

Despite the different customs and beliefs the characters have, the language used and the clothing styles, if there is one thing that I learned from this book it's that teenagers and young adults in 1910 weren't much different in mind and spirit as the teenagers and young adults of this year-2010.

100 years ago the fictional character (based on the authors life) Betsy Ray graduated from High School and had the world at her feet. 100 years ago automobiles were just become popular and you still took a ship to go traveling abroad. 100 years ago you would 'go with' a boy and kissing was something quite advanced in a relationship. It's all so different, so much has changed in technology, and yet it's all the same.

Betsy over thinks too many things, she worries and daydreams. She likes boys, loves her family, and cares for her friends greatly. She wants to travel the world, wants to be a writer, wants to experience as much as life has to offer. 100 years sounds like a very long time but when you connect with a familiar character like Betsy it's very hard not to feel that those 100 years aren't quite so long. That 1910 isn't quite so far away.

I adored this book and was thrilled to finally have the adorable Joe step up and make his feelings known for Betsy. I was thrilled that the two of them were together at the end of the book and I'm eager to see what happens next. Two more books to go before the series is finished and I want to eat them up. Yet, I want to take my time, let the enjoyment and wonder of both books last if only for a little longer.


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Monday, January 18, 2010

Betsy Was A Junior


Continuing with the High School years of Betsy Ray's life I'm up to the second combination book of the bunch. In this book both novels Betsy Was a Junior and Betsy and Joe are comprised into one publication which makes it a great accessible way to devour the very addicting series in a quicker and more efficient way. Instead of my having to get up out of my comfy chair to get the next book off the shelf I can just go from Betsy Was a Junior straight to Betsy and Joe! In all seriousness, I love this when books in a series are published in pairs.


None the less, this post is about Betsy Was a Junior. I have never had the pleasure of reading Maud Hart Lovelace's earlier books (anything prior to Betsy's freshman year in High School) I truly do adore these books.

M.H.L. had a way to write her characters so clearly that you can relate to them perfectly and at times see yourself in those very same situations. In the three books that I have read I've seen Betsy grow and mature in ways that I realize I myself have done in my High School years. Ways in which I see people I know, cousins and neighbors, growing and maturing.

But thus far, I think this book has been my favorite. It labels a very time changing moment we all reach- that moment when we discover we're growing up. It's a little frightening and there is a touch of excitement but it happens to us all. Betsy is excited to be an upper classmen but doesn't truly realize all that entails until the very end of the novel.

It's with life changing events that one grows. Whether it's being given more responsibilities, having family members you know and love growing up to leave home... and you... behind, or a death of a parent who immediately shoves you into adulthood whether you were ready or not.

The book has it's silly points and many mistakes that teenagers typically face. Being shunned by classmates, putting off assignments to the last minute, and school pranks. But there is the more serious tone that usually filters into ones life as you're growing up.


I truly enjoyed this book... not that I had expected not to. I'm eager to start the next one and the rest of the series. All the books are fabulous and a great historical representation of a time which I don't know very much about. The characters are all someone you already know and it's so easy to place yourself in their shoes. Please pick up this book/series, it's a classic and is definitely worth the read.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Rough-Face Girl


The Rough-Face Girl is an Algonquin Indian Cinderella with beautiful full page pictures. As a child I adored this story because I thought the Rough-Face girl was so pretty and I still enjoy it today. Apparently, this childrens story is based on the Algonquin tail but in a much shorter form.


Like the typical Cinderella there are two older sisters (not step sisters, however) who are cruel and mean. They mistreat their younger sister and are very proud of themselves. When they attempt to marry the Invisible Being they are refused and loose their pride. The Rough-Face girl decides she will marry the Invisible Being and attempts to dress as beautifully as her sisters had. But now that the sisters had taken all of the beautiful cloth and shells she is left to make her dress out of tree bark and scraps. However, when she is to meet the Invisible Being a certain level of magic and good fortune happens.

Simple and beautiful with great detail to the artwork I adore this story just as much as I had as a child. Instead of the typical Cinderella who is forced to clean this character is scared from her work with the fire. She isn't just covered in cinders, it's a part of her being. For Americans, this might be the truest form of the Cinderella tale. It came from the natives of this land and still exists today despite so many years of it being passed from person to person.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Commited


Disclaimer: Please, before diving too far deep into this review read my other review for the prequel to Committed. Eat, Pray, Love was a book I read in 2009 and absolutely loved. It is the start to this personal account of Elizabeth Gilberts and is definitely one of my favorite books of all time. So go check out the original post and the book itself before you read Committed. Thank you.


I was ecstatic when I found out Elizabeth Gilbert was coming out with a book to follow Eat, Pray, Love. This might sound dramatic- but I don't care- I think Eat, Pray, Love was a life-changing read for me. Seriously. Months after I initially read it and it's still something I hold close to my heart. So when I walked into work on a cold January morning which happened to be a particular Tuesday I was happy to see Gilbert's newest book on display.

But let me get past the vain part of this entry right away... I don't like the cover. It's an ugly shade of orange with a really badly drawn ring on it. I was really disappointed with it! I do judge books by cover, at least initially, and I definitely will hold a form of judgement towards the cover art even if the book is good. Eat, Pray, Love had a beautiful cover depicting so clearly what the book was about. Despite it's simplicity it also brought in exactly what each word in the title was about. Eat- she learned to Eat in Italy and Eat is spelt out in pasta, Pray- she learned to Pray in India and that is displayed by prayer beads. And Love, love in Indonesia and the land is apparently very beautiful and depicted through the gorgeous flower petals.

But this new book has such a bland boring and badly done cover! At the very least if the orange was taken away I would've been more satisfied. None the less, I don't like the cover. MOVING ON!

First off- the book was still clearly in the voice of Gilbert. Sometimes, I've find, that if I read something an author wrote one year and then a book he or she wrote years later there is a difference in literary voice. Not so with Committed. Gilbert's voice is still strong and definitely hers. That's a plus in my book.

However, I had a mixture of feelings for it. I feel, very much, that this would be a good book for someone who is already married. Someone whose been married for many years and either is happy or looking for improvement or might just be curious about marriage as a whole.

I haven't been married. The way things are going, I don't have much intention of ever getting married. So a lot of this, I feel, was kind of over my head.

The story of Gilbert and her husband to be was interesting to read but broken up by very lengthy chapters which went on and on about different histories that involve marriage. I don't totally care, to be honest, I wanted the story of what happened between her and her husband.

Many people didn't like Gilberts first tell-all tale because she was so brutally honest about her opinion and what she more or less thinks is right. They never saw past the opinion and their own steadfast opinions so they disliked the book. It appears people are having the same reaction yet again. "Well, I got married in my early twenties and she thinks my marriage won't last!" And then they whine so more. Well, maybe it will last for you but obviously those marriages don't last for everyone- including Elizabeth Gilbert. That's how we got to this point, didn't we? Her marriage to someone in her early twenties didn't last and had it not last we wouldn't have had these two books.

You either love or hate her books and I feel the main hatred all is due to a conflict of opinions. But people are allowed their opinions as much as you are. If you disagree with her- then write your own book. But past that, the only issue I found with the book was that the deep digging of the roots of marriage didn't have much interest to me since I myself am not married. But, I would enjoy reading this book in the future if I ever do get married. Maybe then, after experiencing marriage for awhile, I'd have a better understanding.

Personally though, I liked Eat, Pray, Love much more than this book.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Horace


A Reading Rainbow book which immediate catches my attention and a beloved childrens book this is the perfect gift for a child being adopted into a family.


The story is simple but to the point. Horace has spots but his parents have stripes. His mother always tells him at bedtime that he needed a new family and they chose him because they liked his spots. But Horace always falls asleep before this key point of the story and begins to long to be near others like him.

He runs away in search for others with spots but begins to miss his family and returns home.

It's a cute way to display that even if you don't agree with everything your parents have you do (like brush your teeth!) love goes much further than what we might look like and our parents are always our parents- even if they didn't birth us.

As a small child this was my first understanding of adoption... seeing that my second cousin is adopted it was great to understand. I've met many people who've been adopted since my childhood and I always wonder if they were given this book as a child. I certainly will give it as a gift if ever I know of someone who is adopting and you should too. The author is Holly Keller and you should be able to find it at your local bookstore.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Nightlight- a parody

I've been eager to get my hands on this and have a good laugh. Finally I grabbed the book and read it in a day with much amusement but I'm left with a mixture of feelings.


I can't get enough of anything making fun of Twilight. It cracks me up to no end and my coworkers and I could spend hours making fun of it. It's just great for laughs in that way. So I figured a parody would be fun too.

Now, this was funny and it did certainly make fun of the Twilight series. A favorite part of the book is what the main character "Belle Goose" is saying to her girlfriends:
"I can't shop for more clothes, guys. I'm a role model to 1.3 million girls- I have to prove to them that there's more to life than clothes. There are novels out there. Romance novels, for every type of monster fetish."

I laughed... a lot. It was a great parody but it also struck me as a poorly written fan-fiction. I found so many misprints, spelling, and grammar mistakes in the book and that annoys me immediately when it comes to any book. (If I have mistakes in this blog it's because I'm throwing it together, just me, no one else. But if you're having a book published it should be going through groups of editors- THERE SHOULD BE NO MISTAKES. What are you editors being paid for!?!?!)

I formed a question out of all of this... Was this book not only a parody of Twilight but a parody of silly, poorly written fan-fictions across the board? Let's face it, every popular book gets destroyed by people who hate it and butchered by people who love it. They take a stab at writing something just as good and it's incredibly bad. Some people take all of this very, very seriously while others are innocent and doing it all just for fun.

Whether this was a jab in the ribs to Stephanie Meyer and fan-fiction or not... it was amusing. I am not sure if die-hard Twilight fans will enjoy the book or find more offense to it. But I, not being a huge Twilight fan, found it incredibly amusing. Although at times a little boring because it just kept going on and on with the silly banter.

Every time I'd think, "Okay, we get it, you're annoying!" then Belle Goose would do or say something funny. So who knows! I liked it more than I hated it.... someone definitely needs a better editor though... and Twilight fans might not find it too amusing.

If you like to laugh... or want an easy read... or hate Twilight then this book is worth checking out.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Amazing Bone

While this story is meant for children I decided to reread it today... as you may or may not know, I read a lot of childrens books that I've had since childhood or ones I come across at work. The Amazing Bone is a book I've had for many years and I recall my confusion as a child as to what the book was meant to be about. What was it's purpose and also, why did it have to feature a creepy bone?


Today, after rereading the book, I still find myself asking the same questions. Aside from appreciating the creative idea of the talking bone a little more I was still struck asking what was the point of the story?

It reminds me of Little Red Riding-hood in that the little girl (pig) named Pearl is captured by a mean fox who intends on eating her for supper. However, Pearl isn't alone in this. She has her new found friend- the bone- who can talk comforting words to her. (the bone was previously owned by a witch, something which had little meaning to me as a child, but now I understand a little more that typical fairy tale witches could very well have a random bone on them).

The illustrations depict the beauty of spring in ultimate simplicity and Pearl is a cute character that seems lovable and very well meaning for her new friend- the bone. The fox is a typical bad guy and the story is a bit more intense than expected for a children's book (knives, guns, robberies!) But I am still lost for the reason of this story. It's well known and has won awards but I'm still a bit perplexed about the purpose of this all.

It's worth a peek when you're at a library or bookstore simply because the bright and cheerful spring scenes are uplifting (especially if you're being hit by this terrible cold in the US!) but what is the point of the book? I don't know.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Best American Poetry 2009

A few years ago I partook in a lovely poetry class and one of our textbooks was The Best American Poetry 2007. I had thought at the time that it was simply something my professor knew of and not a book readily available to the public until this year when I was at work and discovered this is a yearly thing.


I bought the book and slowly made my way through the 75 poems that are featured. It's a wonderful way to read beautiful poetry but also see a sign of the times. Many of the poems were politically inclined and this past year was certainly a very political year.

Not only were poems featured to depict political interest but highly featured newsworthy stories (such as college and school shootings).

While some poems I truly loved others bored me. But that is to be expected when you're looking at a book of poems that feature the best of the year. Can I tell you what poems were good? I could. I could tell you how the words took me away and they found meaning in my gut. But poetry is a lot like wine, it's an acquired taste that is different for one person to another. This is simply a book you'll have to look into yourself.

If you're looking for a collaboration of current day poetry then consider picking up this book. I think I might try and pick up each years edition simply because it would be interesting to see how poetry grows and changes over the upcoming years. I wonder what influences in the world will be seen in each poem.

Go to your local bookstores to check these books out. There are also a slew of others much like this featuring travel logs, short stories, and essays that are all best of the year.
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