Thursday, March 30, 2006

 

#13: Wicked


I finally finished to book Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I've been trying to finish the book for quite sometime now and I'm happy to report I'm done with it. It was a tiresome and often times confusing read. I know several people who have read this book and loved it. Unfortunately, I don't think I can even say I really liked it. I tried to like it everytime I turned the page, and I tried to ignore the weirdness of it, but until the very end I was ready for it to end. For those who don't know what this book is about, it is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West's life and death told from a point of view that is fairly sympathetic to the Witch. Maguire did an excellent job making the story believable and working in the details we all remember from the classic Wizard of Oz story. Wicked was also packed full of political, social and religious ponderings. It was just so dark and depressing and weird (did I say that already) that I couldn't really enjoy it. I will say this though, the story told in Wicked has been made into a very popular musical and before I started the book I enjoyed the music from the musical. I still really want to see the musical someday. I just hope its not quite as strange as the book.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 

Book 13: Ella Enchanted


This needs to be a quick post, as i must leave the library in time to get home for Lost. i missed last week and still haven't seen it, and i'm not about to miss two in a row. the horror. anyhoo, i read "Ella Enchanted" because when i was living at home my youngest sister, who is only now 13, and i would go to the movies once a week. we liked this one; it's kind of like a live-action Shrek. so i read the book today. actually, started last night but it only took two sittings. it was cute. not exactly like the movie; the book more closely resembled the actual cinderella story. it's amazing how many times we can rewrite it. i read "The Ugly Stepsister" in college, another twist on cinderella. so this was cute, i'd recommend it as a quick and un-taxing read. it's written for children and yet intriguing enough for adults. at least i like to think so. i can be quite juvenile at times, i'll admit. ella received a smiley face on my book list. now, off to lost. drat, the library won't let me put in a picture. there are downsides to the akron library. will do so from somewhere else tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 

Book 12: Eaters of The Dead


Cable tv is wicked. i grew up in a house without cable. it always seemed so exotic and mysterious and we always wanted our parents to break down and subscribe. but they never did, and so with the exception of one semester in college, i have never lived in a house with cable. until...now. recently some work was done to our townhouse complex, resulting in new cleaner siding, and weirdly enough, cable tv. at first we watched it avidly, afraid that it would disappear when we turned off the set. but it's been a couple of months now. so, the point of all this babble is that sometimes i am totally and uncontrollably drawn in by the nothing that is on tv. i waste endless amounts of time flipping channels and watching everything. my two new favorite channels are fitTV, with documentaries about fitness and a reality show called The Gym, and the SciFi channel. i don't even like science fiction, but i like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the strange movies they show. So, this past weekend the movie "the 13th warrior" was playing on endless loop. i watched more of it more times than i care to admit. it's not a great movie, but it made me want to run around in the mountains. i decided to read the book.

this is my first michael crichton book. i really enjoyed it. i loved that it was a retelling of the beowulf story, another piece of literature i would recommend. one thing i found refreshing was his characters' matter of fact outlook and to-the-point-ness. guess i've been reading a lot lately that's by SNAGs, meaning Sensitive New Age Guys. not new age like yanni, or meditation, but just very in touch with their emotions and listening to a lot of john mayer and the like. not that that's all bad, but as a woman whose favorite response to be people is "suck it up" i can only stand so much male melodrama. so this was nice; they just hack people up and are finished doing their job. makes me think people had to be much more practical in the past. so, good book, now must go and continue reading. it's spring break and am attempting to read a book a day to catch up.

Monday, March 27, 2006

 

Book 11: Sin City #2: A Dame to Kill For


So i saw the movie "Sin City" a few months back. Gory, graphic, violent, yuck. I loved it. Am not sure why, but I did. So I decided to start reading the graphic novels upon which they are based. Like the movie, they are fairly harsh. Frank Miller only uses black and white, barely even any gray. On his covers and title pages there is a touch of red, drawing the reader's eyes to only a few details. the effect is like the content: somber in tone and somewhat visually jarring. This is the second installment of six or seven, and i just checked out number three last night.

i don't why i enjoyed this but i did. the frames are large, often only one or two per page. they aren't like what i imagined comics to be, with little tiny pictures and lots happening on every single page. i like miller's terse style. his characters say very little and yet each sentence is packed with emotion. his stories are about desperate people in desperate situations, brought on by their own sin and greed. and yet i find myself cheering for the hero of this installment, dwight, a typical anti-hero who does less thinking with his head than with other parts of his body, thereby getting himself into all sorts of messes. i feel kind of guilty for liking this series, as it seems sensationalist in the extreme. i do, however, think that we are seeing authors and artists more and more make their social commentary in more dramatic and violent ways. i gave this one another smiley. am not sure that i would recommend it....definitely good but not for everyone.

 

Book 10: Call of the Mall


So, super anne and i were hanging out at my favorite library, and this little number jumped out at me. think because it was shaped like a shopping bag. we were in the history and humanities section, sociology division, one of my favorite dives. man, i'm such a geek. anyhoo, i started to read this there and was instantly enamored of paco underhill's witty observations on our consumer society. underhill owns a consulting firm that works with retailers and lots and lots of malls.

I found his premise fascinating: our society is fleeing the cities for the cushy suburbs. without the cities, there are no meeting places, no shopping districts, no places for families to spend the day, no place for teens to do whatever it is they do all the time, play in traffic for all i care. what the city was for older generations is being replaced by the mall...it's where we can walk and talk, meet up with friends, do serious or light shopping, find imported goods as well as a smattering of ethnic cuisine (he gives the food court as an example with it's italian, chinese, mexican, cajun, greek and south philadelphian fare, a staple at every mall.) i was eager and ready to read on into this dissection of our cultural psyche and avidly awaited the answers to all my questions, such as why am i unable to resist lancome lip gloss? well, after the first couple of chapters, he goes into what i imagine most of his consulting files detail: how the mall and retailers in general could get more money out of unsuspecting americans by changing this or that. it didn't really give much insight into how we spend money or grand economic trends. rather it was a how-to manual for merchants. still, somewhat interesting.

i did learn a thing or two about retailing schemes, which the normal shopper probably figured out years ago. i however, am a born consumer. within in 3 minutes of seeing a cool commercial for shampoo i hop in my car to buy it, foolishly believing my life will be more interesting with properly conditioned tresses. did you know that supermarkets put milk in the back corner so you have to walk through the whole store to get to it? and you almost always have to walk through the cosmetics aisle. cosmetics, underhill writes, are consistently an impulse buy for women. oh yeah. so you just need milk but come home with stuff for your skin and lips. also, the makeup counters are always across from ladies' shoes, because no matter how much of a rush we're in, we always look at shoes. i believe that one too; might only need q-tips but i always check out target's shoes. so all in all, a good read. i gave it a smiley face. and it has given me an insatiable desire in the past few days to shop. uncontrollably.

Friday, March 24, 2006

 

#12: Don't Waste Your Life



I picked up Don't Waste Your Life at the library because the title was somehow funny to me. Also, I noticed the book was by John Piper and I always appreciate what he has to say about life. I did come up with a great idea though while I was talking about this book with someone. I accidentally called it Don't Waste My Life. Wouldn't it be funny if we all had our own book with that title and just handed it out to everyone we knew.

I was not disappointed in Piper's writing. The book was nicely organized and continued to challenge me more as I got more into it. Piper began discussing the idea that we need to be passionate about something, then challenged readers that it better be the cross that Christ died on. Only when we remember the cross will we be able to glorify Christ through all of our pain and suffering. Piper used the example of Paul's life and letters to argue we need to help others glorify God by taking risks, working, and seeing missions as the key places where we must boast in Christ and glorify God.

While I was reading this book I couldn't help but realize how much I stink at glorifying God in my daily life. I loved the chapter called "Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5" because it offered 6 ways to glorify God at work. I think I do some of these things some of the time, but I can't help but think how radically different my workday would be if I applied all of them all of the time.

The last chapter in Piper's book was about missions. I love missions. It is often hard for me because I'm not out in the front lines of missions to realize what an impact I can have on the lost people of this world. I know that I am doing what God wants me to do right now in my life and career but I am open to the idea of going overseas. I know that missions is a very real possibility in my life; just not right now. What can I be doing right now? Right now I can be praying for the lost people that need to be reached. I can love the people that God loves and allow God to break my heart for them. I will wrap things up here because this post is getting rather long. I hope that I can live a life that is glorifying to God. I hope that I can have the same attitude about life that Paul had (Philippians 1:20-30) so that when my life is over others will have seen the love of Christ in my life and I can say I didn't waste it, to live was Christ, and to die was Christ.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

#11: In a Sunburned Country

Sorry I don't have a picture to offer because I'm not posting this from my own computer. I am actually at Venus the Reader's favorite library. I have been enjoying my visit with my good friend Venus and I have been anticipating posting from her library for the past several days. Unfortunately I have not completely finished the book that I am posting about. I am only about 50 pages from the end so I promise not to go to bed without finishing the book. I will never do this again but this is a special circumstance.

Before I discuss the book, I would like to take a moment to discuss the library. I would imagine the library is about 500 billion square feet with about 300 trillion books on 3 different floors. It is very modern and pleasant. When I walked in I almost pooped my pants. But who's to say if it is this library or the fact that every time I go to a library the smell of the books stimulates my bowels in such a way that I almost always have to visit the restroom. What is wrong with me!?!?

Alright review time! As I said before I am almost finished reading In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. This book has done nothing but amaze me from the very first page. Bill Bryson is a popular travel writer with great wit, sarcasm, and a wealth of knowledge. In a Sunburned Country documents Bill Bryson's travels around the great island, country, and continent known as Australia. I will make a couple comments about the book and then I will leave you with a thought from Bill himself.

Much of Bill's travels are slightly mundane but I find myself laughing out loud often as I'm reading. He spends a great deal of time driving around the giant island of Australia and seemingly an equal amount of time in local bars. What is so fascinating about this book is Bryson's knowledge of the history, culture, wildlife, and whatever else you ever wanted to know about Australia. He presents this information in such a way that I want to fly to Australia right now to experience the people and the land. I have learned about the Australian Gold Rush, the prime minister who vanished in the ocean, the many breeds of poisonous snakes and spiders, box jellyfish, Australian politics, the crazy people from Queensland, patterns of immigration to Australia, the infamous Ned Kelly, Aborigines, and much much more. As I sit and watch Jeopardy! everyday at 4:30, I find myself hoping for a category or even a question about Australia because I am certain that I have obtained a wealth of knowledge from this book that will not fail me in a gameshow even as difficult as Jeopardy!. The most important thing I have to say about this book (and anything by Bill Bryson for that matter) is check it out and read it. I will leave you with a one his thoughts from the book.

Writing about a small town in the outback: "The permanent population is about 80. They exist in a listless world of heat and dust. If you were looking for people with the tolerance and fortitude to colonize Mars, this would be the place to come."

Friday, March 17, 2006

 

Book 9: Frankenstein


Another classic i assume i should have read...so i did. Have been into the gothic novel as of late. Maybe next i'll attempt "the turn of the screw" for the third time. anyhoo, frankenstein was a bit dull. i didn't particularly care for any of the characters, i wasn't enthralled by the plot; i did enjoy the scenery and description of victor's native switzerland, however. mary shelley has a writing style particular to the 19th century that i love: everything is always in superlative! oh, how my heart was anguished within my breast upon discovering this book wasn't as enrapturing as my heart had hoped! although i am heartliy glad i read it, i am forced to allot is simply a squiggle in my somewhat goofy rating system, as unkind and cruel as that should seem to a constant classic! surely i quest in vain for thrilling tome, one volume which i will ceaselessly read! okay, i'm not going to knock mary shelley for that anymore. it's hard to write sentences always ending in exclamation points and constantly on the verge of tragedy. boring little blog today...must go and watch some march madness. go golden flashes! do not disappoint my feeble hopes, my childish dreams of kent state advancing in the current athletic contest!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

 

#10: Monster

I'm changing the way I format my title. I keep forgetting what book # I'm on and it's a pain to go back and read my previous posts. Hopefully you can still tell the difference between when I post and when Venus posts because our titles are still a little different.

I just finished reading the book Monster by Walter Dean Myers because one of my students recommended it to me. The author is an African American who grew up in Harlem. Because of his upbringing, many of his books address the issues that teens face in that setting. He writes young adult literature which I find very interesting because I spend so many hours with young adults at work. Much of this genre of literature is written to helps teens connect their world to an adult world. The award winning books often address the questions of morality, self-worth, and understanding yourself in a unique and creative manner.

Monster is a book about an African American 16-year-old male on trial for murder. The book is written from the 16-year-old Steve's perspective combining his journals and movie script, written by him, detailing his trial. The book challenges readers to wrestle with questions about guilt and innocence, individual decisions, and racial prejudices. The author skillfully draws the reader into the courtroom, the thoughts going through Steve's head and the pressures of his community. In the end I didn't know what verdict I was rooting for but I better understood the desire that all people, specifically teens, have to be known and to know themselves as who they really are. (This book doesn't touch the spiritual but from the Christian perspective, although not often realized or acknowledged, people ultimately want to know the One who made them and can make them who they really are. Ephesians 1-3.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

 

Book 8: Dracula: A Biography of Vlad the Impaler


So I'm a total geek. I think I've shared that with you, my enthusiastic readership, in a previous post. I have a degree in history and never tired of the subject. So i rekindled my interest in Dracula, the original flame being started by Francis Ford Coppola's movie out when I was in junior high. See book number whatever, the Historian, about Dracula. I saw a history channel program about a month ago that interviewed one of the authors of this book, Radu Florescu, and decided to try his book. Very interesting. The authors, one Romanian, the other American, both professors somewhere in Boston, examine Dracula's early years, his foreign policy and three reigns as prince of Wallachia (actually not Transylvania) and of course, the journey from simply sadistic medieval prince to infamous vampire. I learned quite a bit about him, sadly it's less sensational than Bram Stoker would have us believe. I still would very much enjoy one day traveling to Romania and seeing these mysterious places. I say mysterious because Dracula isn't really in his grave; maybe the author of the Historian was correct, and he really is still walking among us. Cool. Did I mention before that I have always had a taste for the macabre?

One thing, slightly serious, that reading this book did make me think, was about our own culture of violence. Vlad Dracula was a cruel dude. He impaled lots of people, not leaving out women, children, or the elderly. We in our more civilized frames of mind are appalled by his use of terror and punishment as an instrument of government. The authors point out that such violence against subjects wasn't all that uncommon, and to the Romanian people Dracula is a national hero rather than an evil spirit. But is our culture really any different? Sure, we don't impale people, but look at the ways violence has crept into our entertainment and our mindsets. I just had a conversation with a guy about M-16's and AK-47's. Why do I know about machine guns? Quentin Tarantino films constantly draw huge audiences and rake in tons of money at the box office. Why are his movies so popular? The last couple (Hostel, the Kill Bills) are pretty much people getting hacked up into gross bits. This isn't a form of government, it's not punishing our national enemies who threaten our safety, it's social commentary, it's fun, it's entertainment. Somehow I think that's not so great, not so civilized. So that's what I think.

Want to know something weird? I'm not really into vampires, but there are a lot of crazy people out there who are. I was looking for a picture of this book, unsuccessfully I might add, and only found one of Radu Florescu. I did find lots of vampire sites, most of which I'm scared to explore. But the main point of this book is that DRACULA, THE HISTORICAL FIGURE, WASN'T REALLY A VAMPIRE. I think I like Gary Oldman better than the real guy.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

 

Honeymoon

Book #9: I'm back! It has been quite a while since I've posted. I've had a lot of other stuff going on; one of them being moving. I am in the middle of two books so hopefully I will finish them and get some more posts up soon. I recently (tonight) read the book Honeymoon by James Patterson. It took 3.5 hours and was a one sitting book. I enjoyed the story but it wasn't the best book I've read by Patterson. The element of mystery and suspense was enjoyable but there wasn't enough to make me want to read ahead. Surprisingly, this book received the award "International Thriller of the Year." The award motivated me to read the book but I was kind of disappointed in the thrills. Maybe it's just a testament to the lack of good thrillers this year. Critics called the book "sexy" which in my opinion makes the book a little worse. I'd rather stick to a non-sexy Mary Higgins Clark mystery! Patterson did incorporate quite a few plot twists that make the book if not scary slightly amusing. I think if I used Venus' system I'd give the book a squiggle. I don't even know what a squiggle means but it sounds good. I would recommend Honeymoon as a 100% beach read.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

 

Book 7: The Three Musketeers


Oh my word! It took me f..o..r..e..v..e..r to finish this book and get another lousy post up. Oh well. I liked "The Three Musketeers." I gave it a smiley face. After reading "The Club Dumas" by Arturo Perez-Reverte, I thought I should give this classic a shot. It's not quite like the Gene Kelly movie I enjoyed as a kid, nor is it exactly like the Charlie Sheen version. I found the book a little tedious, and am not sure what the whole over-arching plot was, because so much happens. The characters are the classic virtuous heroes of much 19th century literature: they are honorable, brave and highly skilled at swordplay. They love adventure and fighting for king and country, therefore they never do anything too scandalous (sadly). I was a little surprised though at how much sex was in this book. Dumas was a Frenchman, so perhaps that explains it. So anyhoo, I'm not saying much that's interesting or productive. Am glad I read this book, it was a fairly easy read, however not as engaging as I would have liked. A classic that's good to have under your belt, I would recommend.

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