I’ve been sick for the past few days and I’ll probably be sick through the weekend. I come home from work, pass out, then get up for a couple of hours, pass out again, get up, go to work… a lot of sleeping involved. I get sick a lot so I can’t take time off from work for something like this (sore throat, runny nose, worn out) but I sure wish I could. So I’ve not been reading a whole lot, although I am doing some reading at work. I’ve got a couple of books I want to review that I’ve read, but for now, I thought I’d list the books that I reviewed for Paperspine this month.
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville – does it make me a bad reader that I kept thinking “This would make a delightful animated movie?”
Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner – Helen of Troy’s younger years
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin – I liked this one a lot better than I thought I would. Nearly brought me to tears.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I think that I might be the last book blogger to read this book. Very good. Did you know I lived in Germany for a few years?
If you’ve reviewed any of these books, please comment on the post reviewing it. Let me know where your review is and I’ll link back to it.
I’m having mixed feelings about this book. In some way, I liked it. It seemed like a nice, casual read – chick lit for teens, if you will (it is young adult fiction). The story is about sixteen year old Hayley. She lives in Santa Monica, near the beach, but she feels she doesn’t really fit in with most of the girls there. Hayley is a little – not a lot – overweight, which is a bigger problem where she lives than it might be in other places. Hayley’s mother was once was overweight but has now “seen the light” and lives a life full of fiber. She’s mean. Very mean. I don’t think she means to be cruel, but she is. For instance, she buys Hayley a talking scale “So you can’t lie to yourself,” which is something I can picture my grandmother doing (the woman gave me Richard Simmons’s Deal-A-Meal for my birthday one year). I mention this only because I can understand Hayley’s situtation – she’s tired of people telling her that she “has a pretty face”. (This is code for “You’re fat”.) It seems to Hayley like everything happens because of her weight – even, Drew, the boy that she likes seems to only think of her as a friend – just when Hayley thinks that Drew might be interested in her, he asks her if her best friend, Jackie, likes him. One day, after a particularly bad fight between Hayley and her mother, when Hayley’s mom takes her to a “Waist Watcher” meeting, Hayley’s mom and dad tell her that she’ll be spending the summer in Italy – because the therapist that they’ve been seeing about Hayley seems to think that she’s under too much “body image pressure”. So Hayley goes off to Italy to live with her mom’s friend, Patty, and her family for the summer. The book is all about Hayley learning to be more comfortable in her own skin and learning to enjoy life.
I would have really enjoyed the book, I think, except for one thing. There are times in the book when Hayley, at an internet cafe in Italy (her host family doesn’t have internet), is exchanging instant messages with Jackie (this actually happens once in California, as well). This ruins the whole book for me because the author actually uses netspeak. These include “WHT HAPPND???!!!!!!” and “GRN w NV”. I spent the next chapter or two (these chapters were super-short) being annoyed at the netspeak. In my mind, that was totally unnecessary. I don’t think as many teens use that as the author seems to think – though I may be confused because I had to be quite firm with my MOTHER about her not doing that when I first got a cell phone (although I have had internet access since before most people even knew what email was, let alone had one themselves, I refused to get a cell phone until last summer when I was often in a seedy area late at night/early morning because of work). At any rate, maybe once would have been enough.
All in all, though, the book wasn’t bad. If the netspeak doesn’t bother you and you like chick lit – especially if you enjoy YA fiction – I think you’d enjoy it.
This week’s theme: Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.
I immediately knew what issue I wanted to use, but I was somewhat hesitant to post about it. It seems more “controversial” than any of the issues I’ve seen posted so far. While some of them are controversial, they at least all have a LOT of people behind them. My issue might alienate some of my readers. I really hope not, but because it is so important to me, I’m going to post about it anyway. Please understand that I’m not judging anybody here. All I am hoping for is a little understanding. And maybe when you meet somebody like me in the future, you’ll be a little bit nicer about their point of view. So, here goes.
My husband and I have made a decision in our lives that is surprisingly controversial. I have to defend my position over and over again, even within my own family. My grandmother chides me about it. My mother was disappointed in me over it. I’m sure my father, who is Mormon, thinks it’s a huge sin, though he hasn’t actually said as such. I even have friends who think I’m “weird” for living this way. The “big issue” that’s so controversial?
I am child-free by choice.
That’s right. The thing I take so much flak over? Deciding not to have a baby. I’m continually surprised – and frankly angered – by the way people treat me when they hear this. Suddenly, I become a pariah. It’s as if I said “I eat babies for breakfast and torture little kids in my basement.” This is ridiculous. I don’t even have a basement. (Ha ha…) But seriously, I don’t understand the problem here. I don’t begrudge anybody else having a child, as long as it’s for the right reasons. I will admit that I don’t think that you should have several children as it isn’t socially or ecologically responsible. One or two is fine, provided you care for them well and teach them some manners. (Kids these days…)
But here’s a list of questions I get:
“What are you going to do when you’re old?” Frankly, having a kid doesn’t mean they’ll care for you when you’re old. And even if it did, I’m trying to make it so that I can care for myself when I’m older. I don’t think “I want somebody to sponge off of when I get old” is a legitimate reason to have children.
“Well, what do you do with yourself?” What did you do with yourself BEFORE you had children? Surely you had a life of your own, no? Let’s see… I work. I read. I do crafts. I watch TV. I hang out with friends. I cook. I go to the movies. I play with my pets. I surf the net. I blog. I immerse myself in various projects. I go places. I do stuff. Theoretically, you probably do some of these things, too – I just have more time in which to do them. I also have more money to do them than a parent who makes the same income we do.
“Don’t you want to leave a piece of yourself behind?” I actually don’t really care about this. I’ll be dead. If I leave something behind, some way for people to remember me, that’s great. If I don’t, it won’t affect me much.
This next one is probably my least favorite: “But, don’t you want your life to be fulfilling?” This also manifests itself as “Don’t you want to have a happy life?” I have to tell you that my life IS very happy and fulfilling. In a lot of cases, the people that I know who have children – friends, family members, coworkers, etc – are LESS happy than I am. In fact, many studies show that couples who have children are likely to experience a “drop in maritial happiness”. See also “Well, what do you do with yourself?”
I’m not asking anybody to give up their children. I’m not even asking you not to have children. What I would hope that you would consider is to possibly only have one or two. Or consider not having children at all. It isn’t a requirement in life. But mostly, I just want people to stop harassing me over my choice. It doesn’t really affect you. It isn’t a drain on society’s resources. Please consider that before you say something like “That’s so weird!” when you hear that somebody doesn’t want kids.
(PS – Some of these pics are clickable.)
Weekly Geeks #3 – Fond Childhood Memories of Books
Here’s how you make a little girl fall in love with reading:
Read to her frequently. Don’t complain when she asks you to read the same book for the fiftieth time. Show her the pictures when you read, but make it more about the words. Befriend the Pokey Little Puppy. Buy her books even though you’re so poor that sometimes the electricity gets shut off. Become her Giving Tree. Encourage her to read. Go to pizza hut more often than you would normally, just so that she can redeem her “Book-It” prize. Read the entire “Little House” series out loud. Give her money to go to the book fair. Help her find books she enjoys. Let her escape in books when she needs to. Tell people about how well she reads, where she can hear you but doesn’t think you know she’s listening in.
Sure, I have fond childhood memories of books. But I wouldn’t have those memories without having had the experience of becoming a reader. Reading has played such an important role in my life that the memories of becoming a reader are just as precious – if not more precious than – any memory I could have of reading any specific book.
The Bookworm Carnival – 11th Edition is up! Check out my review of Un Lun Dun in the carnival.
We Seattlites do read a lot. I think there’s several reasons behind this:
- We have an excellent library system.
- We have a lot of bookstores. (Seriously, it’s very bad. I used to be a cook at a bar. Almost all of my tips went to books. Yep, I’m a geek.)
- We have weather conducive to reading. Lots of times it is drizzly and all you want to do is curl up with a good book and come coffee, tea, or hot cocoa. (Mmm… hot cocoa.)
- We have a lot of smart people and a lot of geeks. This is more influential than you might think. We have book geeks, computer geeks, gaming geeks… so many geeks. And guess what? Most of them read regularly.
- We have a pretty good transit system. I see a lot of people who, in other places, might be driving. But here, they’re on the bus, peacefully reading. (Any ideas on how to avoid motion sickness from reading on the bus? I do it until I know I’m about to get really ill, then I stop. It’s annoying.)
- We are a pretty solitary bunch. An article and a seven-minute documentary about “The Seattle Freeze”.
It all leads to a bookish culture, I think.
This week was interesting, as far as book blogging goes. I looked for people who had reviewed the same books I had and found a few. A few people found my reviews. But, this still being quite a young blog, I don’t have that many reviews up.
Have I found this useful? Yep. I’m still searching for my “voice” as far book blogging goes… I’m trying to keep my reviews helpful and yet not too stiff. Reading lots of other reviews has been helpful with that. It’s also been EXTREMELY helpful to see what other people have written about books that I’ve also written about.
Am I going to keep doing this? Absolutely.
Tip: I’m sure most of you know about it already, but you can search for other blog posts about the book you’ve read by going to Google Blogsearch and typing in the title of the book. I tend to use quotes and the author’s name as search parameters because there are some titles that are used for several different books. Also, that way it doesn’t search for the words of the title separately. You can find nifty new-to-you blogs that way, as well.
I’m a bit of a book snob. Or, rather… I used to be. It used to be that certain fiction books were “worthwhile” to read, while others weren’t. I think that a lot of readers go through this sort of thing. Some people never move beyond it. Others, like me attempt to rationalize.
Earlier today, I was talking to my husband about this. Jeremy and I have talked about this several times, actually. Talking it out has helped me come to the conclusion that if I’m willing to watch a movie for a couple of hours, just for fun, and not feel bad about it, then I could most certainly do the same for a book.
Thusly, when I was bored one day at lunch (frankly, I would rather have a half hour lunch and be able to get off half an hour earlier, but that’s besides the point), I wandered over to Bartell’s (Bartell’s is a drugstore – I don’t know if they have them out of the area or not). I stopped in front of the book section and decided that I’d just get a book. Any book would do, because, after all, if it sucked, the book wasn’t much more than your average magazine anyway.
I ended up grabbing Devil Who Tamed Her by Johanna Lindsey. Ophelia Reid is very beautiful and has men flocking to her, even though she is spoiled and behaves like a brat. Raphael Locke is young man who bets his friend, Duncan MacTavish (who Ophelia was engaged to, but she wrecked the engagement… on purpose), that he can make Ophelia “change her ways”. To do this, Rafe basically kidnaps Ophelia. He then sends a letter to Ophelia’s father, letting her family know where she was and that she was safe. Ophelia’s father was thrilled, because he hoped that this meant Rafe – heir to a dukedom – would end up marrying Ophelia, even though he knows Ophelia would rather choose her husband for herself. During Rafe’s time with Ophelia, he helps her learn to deal with some of her anger and bad behaviors while learning some of the reasons behind them. When Ophelia returns home to London, everyone is surprised at her change in behavior. She receives several marriage proposals but turns them all down, though far more gently than she would have before. Has Ophelia really changed? And why is she still rejecting every suitor? You’d have to read the book to find out. Anything more will spoil the story.
While this book isn’t on my “everyone MUST read this book” list, it is on the “not a bad way to spend a couple of hours” list, which still isn’t a bad place to be.
If you have reviewed this book as well, please feel free to email me at email@example.com with the link to your review and I will add the link to this post.
When I was little, I really enjoyed the “Rumplestiltskin” story. I kind of worried about the baby – what would somebody like Rumplestiltskin DO with or to a baby?
A Curse Darks as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce takes the Rumplestiltskin, expands on it, and makes it more fantastic. The story is mainly about Charlotte Miller (“the miller’s daughter” gets a name!). Her family has, for generations, owned Stirwaters Mill.
Unfortunately, when Charlotte’s father dies, the mill is in financial ruins. Charlotte and her sister try to keep the mill from going under, but Charlotte is definitely struggling with it. To make matters worse, the girls’ Uncle Wheeler (their mother’s half-brother) shows up to “help care for” the girls – both of whom are young adults – and is pressuring them to sell the mill. Then, a man from the bank shows up and tells Charlotte that her father took out a loan, that it’s in default, and if she doesn’t pay up, the bank will take the mill.
Just when things seem at their worst, a mysterious man named Jack Spinner shows up and offers to help – he spins gold thread from straw. For this, Charlotte pays him her ring. The next time she really needs help, he makes cloth for her to sell, at the price of a very important piece of jewelry given to her by her husband.
The third time Charlotte needs help – and they are truly about to lose the mill this time – Jack Spinner agrees to help her. She says she’ll give him anything. He agrees, with the promise that he’ll be back for the payment at a time of his choosing.
Fast forward a while, and Charlotte has a son. Jack Spinner arrives to take her son. He agrees to give her three days to choose: give him her son or the mill. The entire town depends on the mill but her son… is her son.
This is where the book departs drastically from the story. I would tell you more, but it would spoil the book. Suffice it to say that the book is fantastic and I’d recommend it to anybody who likes historical fiction or fairy tales.
If you have reviewed this book as well, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the link to your review and I will add the link to this post.
For “Weekly Geeks” this week, Dewey suggested that we all adopt a policy that Darla of “Books and Other Thoughts” uses with her blog. If Darla reviews a book, and you email her a link to your own review of the book, she’ll add the link to her post.
Frankly, I think that this is a FANTASTIC idea. It gives alternate points of view, which is good. I know that sometimes I’ve loved a book but others have hated it. Others have seen things in the book that I haven’t (and vice versa).
I hadn’t thought to do this before but now, I am definitely adopting that policy.
So, starting today, any time you see a book review on this blog that you have also reviewed, please send me a link to that review. You can email me at email@example.com. It would be helpful if you also include a link to my post (that way I have don’t have to go combing through my archives – thereby getting the link to your review up faster).
You can find a link to all of the books that I have read this year here.