Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Heroines

It's time for another venture into Top Ten Tuesday, brought to you courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish! This week's topic is:

My Top Ten Literary Heroines!

Here goes, again in no particular order.

1. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I am certain that she will be a frequent character on these lists because, let's face it, she is just that great. She is strong where others around her are weak, intelligent in spite of a silly, grasping mother and even sillier sisters, and able to make the world's most unattainable man fall at her feet. She is witty and charming and is always able to think of just the right thing to say to convey her feelings. I admire that and wish it was a trait I was blessed with as well. Most of the time I turn into a bumbling idiot when I am placed in a stressful position where one would need to tread carefully in the words department.

2. Alanna of Trebond from the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.
This quartet of YA novels have stuck with me for nearly 20 years because of the wonderful character of Alanna. She defies all conventions and disguises herself as a boy in order to obtain her knighthood, and she won't let anyone push her around. She is strong, smart, braver than most men, and I have always delighted in reading her adventures, even now that I'm older.

3. Mehrunnisa from The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. This is actually a real person, and was the aunt of the woman to whom the great Taj Mahal was built for. She was the source of power behind the Indian throne, climbing there through great adversity and much struggle both in the world and 'behind the veil'. I admire her greatly.

4. Aliena from Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Talk about struggling to get by in a man's world. This woman is completely shattered more than once and manages to keep her wits about her and rebuild from scratch while keeping her dignity, her pride and her core of inner strength intact.

5. Jo March from Little Women by Louis May Alcott. I love Jo. She is warm and caring, and also has a quest for learning which knows no bounds. A wonderful character to read about.

6. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables.
She could warm anyone's heart, and she certainly does mine. One of the most charming literary heroines ever written.

7. Sayuri from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
She stops at nothing to achieve her goals, even if that means stepping on a few toes on her way there. But she manages to make everything work with poise and dignity.

8. Morgaine from Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A beautiful, mysterious and magical heroine who is a delight to read about.

9. Rowan Mayfair from The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. She is a brilliant doctor and the most powerful witch of her age-what's not to love?

10. Vida Winter from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
Just an amazing character, full of all the virtues and vices that make a great story.

so those are mine, how about you? Agree? Disagree?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hop to it!

Welcome fellow lovers of the Book Hop from Crazy for Books! Thanks for hopping by. Pull up a chair, sip some lovely frozen margaritas, and enjoy life. Hey it's 5pm somewhere, right?

This week's question is:

Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

I used to use a ratings system with up to 5 stars, but I stopped doing it because I didn't want to pin my review to a specific numeral. I'm of the camp that feels the reviews should speak for themselves, and readers of my reviews can interpret the content in whatever way they wish.

Which leads me to my question for you: Do you prefer reading reviews that have star ratings, or does it matter that much to you?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: The Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

Here it is again, because I'm a listaholic: Top 10 Tuesday brought to you courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is

The Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

I feel some major shame for having to record these, thinking about how I haven't brought myself to read these has given me pause on whether I consider myself an avid reader, which I am of course but they still make me blush. I blame it all on a deprived childhood. Yeah, that'll work.

Ok, enough excuses. Here's the list:

10. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I love the movie and have watched it maybe a hundred times. But sadly this is one of the only Austen books I haven't yet read. I want to, I really do. But I keep getting distracted...

9. The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald. This is a huge hole in my high school education. I cannot believe that this wasn't required reading. But alas because of that it lingers on the shame list.

8. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Everyone keeps telling me how awesome this book is. I see a review every now and again and think to myself that I should pick that book up, but never have.

7. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Another potential literary gem left by the wayside.

6. Schindler's List/Ark by Thomas Keneally. I even bought this book thinking I should definitely read it. But I couldn't bring myself to do it-Holocaust books creep me out and give me nightmares. So I had to take a pass and eventually gave the book away.

5. The Illiad- I know the story from the Cliff's notes version provided by Edith Hamilton's Mythology, but never shouldered the epic poem. A major lapse in judgment I think.

4. Beowulf- Speaking of epic poems, I hate to admit that I never read this one. When I talk to friends about books we read in school, the almost always mention Beowulf with a groan. I am saddened that I cannot share their strife. But knowing me I'd probably be among that 1% that actually enjoyed the book.

3. Lord of the Flies – William Golding.
Sad to say I don't even know what the book is about. I just know everyone has read it except for me and that it is constantly popping up on those 'must read' lists.

2.The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway.
I lived in Oak Park for 2 years( Hemingway's birthplace) and still have yet to pick up a single Hemingway book. I've been inside his childhood home and never cracked his book. What the heck is wrong with me?

1. And this one is the worst: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I am actually, albeit distantly, related to H.G.Wells from my mom's side. He was my great grandfather's first cousin, and they were pretty close. But has that compelled me to read any of his books? Of course not. I can't believe I haven't gotten to it yet.

So those are my 10 biggest literary embarrassments. What do you think? Any literary skeletons in your closet? I do hope to get to all of these at some point in my life. Hopefully they will just stop coming out with great new books for a bit so I can catch up. Then again, what fun would that be?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George

This epic (epic meaning really freaking long here) book tells the story of the great Queen Cleopatra, last Pharaoh of Egypt from beginning to end. It tells of her relationship with the two great loves of her life-Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, her struggle to keep Egypt independent in a world that is being dominated by Rome, and her determination to rule an Empire and make it one of the World's greatest powers. The story begins with her birth and follows her through her ascension, her failed attempt to fight against Rome, and her memorable death by asp bite.

This book was about 300 pages too long. I understand how George felt the need to create a complete portrait of Cleopatra, but I also believe that her editors should have been a little more strict. But yet still only a couple characters feel more than ancillary. Even Caesar felt a little two-dimensional. It goes on and on about feasts and battle strategy, and often inserts exclamations like "My heart stopped cold" or "The aching need for him was killing me", when Cleopatra is nervous about the safety of someone, or worried about some outcome or another, or longing for her man. Would the real Cleopatra shown such tender weakness? Who knows? It doesn't make her less of a political genius. Still, I do feel like I know a great deal more of the history of that time period, and for that I am grateful.

History time: Cleopatra VII, last Pharaoh of Egypt, (Late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC)
A descendant of Alexander the Great and member of the Ptolemy line of Greek kings and queens of Egypt, Cleopatra was able to unite both the native Egyptians and the ruling Greeks by accepting both Egyptian and Greek gods and goddesses, and by learning the Egyptian language. By doing this, she earned the respect and loyalty of her entire nation, something most of her ancestors failed to achieve.

When her right to the throne was threatened by her brother, Julius Caesar stepped in to help her ascend to her rightful place. Her alliance with Rome solidified her hold on her empire, while also keeping Egypt safe as an independent nation.

After Caesar was assassinated, Cleopatra allied with a member of the rising Triumvirate, Marc Antony, in an effort to preserve Egypt and become the most powerful nation in the East. But as Antony lost support from Rome due to his alliance with Cleopatra, the campaign failed. Cleopatra was painted as a wicked seductress who led Romans astray, a view heralded by Caesar's nephew Octavian (Or Caesar Augustus as he was later called). Her failed campaign led to the overthrow of Egypt, and the end of the country's independence. As Rome invaded her beloved country, the legend goes that she killed herself with the bite of an asp. She was the last Pharaoh of Egypt-her children never inherited her country.

Other books to consider:
Queen Isabella by Alison Weir, The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan, and The Royal Road to Fotheringhay by Jean Plaidy

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Hop!

Hey all you lovely hoppers-welcome back for another fun and exciting journey on the blog hop. Please click the logo to the right to continue your hop, but if you enjoy what you see, please follow-I'm really appreciate it!

This week's question is:

How many blogs do you follow?

Well at this point I follow 25 blogs. I am fairly selective about the blogs that I follow because I enjoy taking the time to read the posts. This number grows every blog hop though, so eventually it may get overwhelming to read them all. But I just love seeing all the wonderful creative things people do with their blogs, and of course reading all the great reviews! I expect this number to increase very quickly-there are so many great blogs out there!

So how about you? What does you dashboard look like?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a feature that I really latched onto from a great blog called The Broke and the Bookish. I didn't get a chance to answer last week's topic, and I really want to, so I'm going to.

The topic is/was: Top Ten Most Dislikable Characters. Here goes! (In no particular order, and watch out for spoilers!)

10. Cathy from Wuthering Heights. I love him! I don't love him! I'm not sure what I want! Basically this is the primary whinings of Cathy throughout this book. She is incredibly selfish and in my opinion really doesn't have any redeeming qualities. As the "heroine" in the book she was just annoying.

9. Uriah Heap from David Copperfield. Every time I came across a passage with him in it, the only thing I could think was "eew". His slippery sliminess just made me feel dirty-almost to the point where I would rather skip those passages altogether.

8. Frances Brandon from Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir. I am so glad that this woman isn't my mother. Her blatant lack of caring for her eldest daughter was just appalling. While I know that this book is a fictionalized version of real events, I believe that Weir probably didn't stray too far from the truth. The woman is despicable and should not have been allowed to procreate.

7. William Hamleigh from Pillars of the Earth. I know he is the bad guy and we aren't supposed to like him much, but there are few villains I've read that have incited me to such levels of pure, white-hot hatred. Just a horrible horrible person. I'm so glad he's fictional.

6. Felicity Worthington from A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Can anyone say uber bitch? She wants nothing more than to boss everyone around and for people to think she is the queen bee. Yes her character expands a little bit by the end of book 3 (The Sweet Far Thing), but in my opinion it is never enough to save her from being the annoying bitch character. She always has to have her way, she must not listen to others, she has to make life difficult for everyone. There isn't an eye roll strong enough to suffice.

5. Emma from Emma by Jane Austen. Spoiled little rich girl gets bored and amuses herself with meddling in everyone else's lives. This is the only Austen book I didn't like. All the other characters were lovely, but Emma was just unpalatable. She got on my nerves far too often to redeem the book.

4. Estella from Great Expectations. Here is another one that wins the total bitch award. Throughout the book she is only the puppet of a bitter and vindictive woman. She never actually thinks for herself and is just plain despicable from start to finish. I wonder what Pip ever saw in her.

3. George from Of Mice and Men. Great way to look out for your only friend. Fabulous job you did there. Jerk.

2. Wilbur from Charlotte's Web. Another big fat whiner. Oh what'll I do? Bail me out again Charlotte! She died from exhaustion from constantly having to pull the pig out of danger.

1. Beatrice Lacy from Wideacre by Philippa Gregory. This woman would do anything, and does, to keep her hold on her father's land. The book is full of her disgusting, despicable and just downright dirty doings to everyone who has the misfortune to know her. Probably the biggest literary bitch of all time. Seriously.

So there's my list! What do you think? Have I left off the one character that rubs you the wrong way the most? Do you disagree with my choices? I want to know!

Friday, August 13, 2010

To Hop or Not to Hop

Stupid question: let's hop again!

This week's question:
How many books do you have on your 'to be read shelf’?

Oh my, my TBR shelf is a mile high. I probably have nearly 100 books on my physical shelf that I have yet to read. And the accumulation never ends. I just can't resist buying new books. Ever. But at least I have the comfort that I will never run out of things to read!

How about you? What are your TBR skeletons?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

What a brilliant memoir. Shattered by a crippling divorce and a very unhealthy rebound relationship, Liz Gilbert strikes out to find herself through a year divided between pleasure (Italy), prayer (India) and the balance between the two (Indonesia).

Through her journey she eats a lot of pasta and ingrains herself with the wonderful decadence that is Rome, she spends four months at an Ashram in India communing with God and getting in touch with herself, and spends time with an ancient medicine man in Bali, learning his secrets about how to live life to the fullest.

She meets the most wonderful characters, that jump off the page and come to life under her excellent narration. I especially loved Richard from Texas, a crass and down to earth man whom Liz meets in India. He is so fully in tune with himself and has accepted who he is so completely--I admire him so much. And he makes me laugh.

Throughout the book I really felt like a part of her journey, and rejoiced with her at the end when everything came into balance for her. She finally was able to come to terms with herself and to let go of the worry and the pain that had consumed her. I admire that very much, and hope someday to begin my own spiritual journey to aspire to the same balance. This book does inspire you to reach beyond yourself in order to see the better, more complete you. I highly recommend this book to anyone who needs this inspiration, or to those who would just like to read an entertaining story full of colorful characters and beautiful backdrops. I think all could get something different out of this book and still be entirely satisfied.

A bit about the locations in this book:
Home to one of the oldest civilizations in history. Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated municipality (central area), with over 2.7 million residents. The city has been a focal point for arts and culture since the dark ages, and was of the central cities of the Italian Renaissance, which sparked a rebirth of culture for all of Western civilization.

Rome's influence on western Civilization can hardly be overestimated. Due to this influence,[Rome has been nicknamed "Caput Mundi" (Latin for "Capital of the World")and "The Eternal City". In 2007 Rome was the 11th-most-visited city in the world, 3rd most visited in the EU, and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy.

Don't even get me started on the cuisine influence-the entire first third of this book had me craving pasta big time!

India: Instead of an overview on the country as a whole, which would take too much time, I decided instead to shed some light on the Ashram, one of which Liz lived in.

Traditionally, an ashram is a religious hermitage. Additionally, today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Indian cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instruction, the moral equivalent of a studio or dojo.

An ashram would typically, but not always, be located far from human habitation, in forests or mountainous regions, amidst refreshing natural surroundings conducive to spiritual instruction and meditation. The residents of an ashram regularly performed spiritual and physical exercises, such as the various forms of Yoga. Other sacrifices and penances, such as Yajnas were also performed. Many ashrams also served as Gurukuls or residential schools for children.

Ashrams have been a powerful symbol throughout Hindu history and theology. Most Hindu kings, until the medieval ages, are known to have had a sage who would advise the royal family in spiritual matters, or in times of crisis, who was called the rajguru, which literally translates to royal teacher. A world-weary emperor going to this guru's ashram, and finding solace and tranquility, is a recurring motif in many folktales and legends of ancient India.

Bali: is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It is one of the country's 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island.

With a population recorded as 3,551,000 in 2009, the island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia's small Hindu minority. About 93.2% of Bali's population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, while most of the remainder follow Islam. It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.

If you like this book, check out: Persepolis, Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, and Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakuruni

Friday, August 6, 2010

We Be Hoppin'

Welcome Friends to the book blog hop! I'm glad you stopped by. Click on the icon to your right to continue your journey, but please leave a comment before you go! And if you decide to follow, yay! Thank you in advance.

This week's question is: Do you listen to music when you read? If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?

For me, I do sometimes like to listen to music when I read, but more as ambiance music. I put on the radio or LastFM shuffle and delve into the book. I couldn't tell you what specific piece was playing. I do in general prefer classical music as a genre when I'm reading. It sets a nice peaceful mood for me.

How about you?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mythology by Edith Hamilton

This book gives a great overview to all the major stories that are prevalent in Greek and Latin mythology. She does a good job of explaining where she took her source information from and why at the beginning of each chapter, which is good because there are many stories that were told by more than one major Greek poet, and then modified when the Romans took over. Included in the book are descriptions of the major and minor gods and goddesses, and information about them is compiled from the major stories in a condensed format, so that you can get the full picture of how each was depicted in the section. It also describes the great heroes (Perseus, Hercules) and their many adventures, and takes a whole chapter to condense the Iliad in a format that is much easier to read. It does the same for the Odyssey. It then describes the tragedies, most chiefly those of Oedipus, and at the end there is a little section on Norse myths, which have been made popular by Wagner's operas. At the end of the book are family trees, which really help to display how the gods and heroes and major characters are interrelated. All in all a very informative book that is easy to read. Highly recommended for every mythology buff.

Mythology Defined:
The term mythology can refer to either the study of myths or a body of myths. The term "myth" is often used colloquially to refer to a false story, however, the academic use of the term generally does not pass judgment on its truth or falsity. In the study of folklore, a myth is a symbolic narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form.

One of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior. The figures described in myth are often the result of circumstances which may have a moral interpretation. They are worthy role models of human beings because they embody certain combinations of human and animal traits. For example, the Centaur is part man, part beast. The upper body, being human is a symbol of rationality. The lower body, being of a horse is a symbol of animal instinct. The Centaur thus represents the uniquely human psychological challenge of animal instinct in relation to the rational mind. This example shows that myths are not only valuable due to cultural assumption (or 'spirituality'), but because they portray a set of symbols which can be interpreted morally. It is not necessary to introduce divine experience to explain these symbols, since a symbol is by definition a depiction of an idea in physical form. (bird = power, horse = beast, tree = knowledge).

In Greek mythology, the oldest known sources are the Iliad and the Odyssey, both of which depict the events of the Trojan War. They also tell us a great deal of the Greek gods and goddesses, and of their personalities and abilities.

Greek mythology has exerted an extensive influence on the culture, the arts, and the literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in these mythological themes.

Other books to consider:
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, American Indian Myths and Legends by Richard Erdoes, and Chinese Ghost and Love Stories by Pu Singling