Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I'd like to be friends with

Top Ten Tuesday again, the weekly meme from the Broke and the Bookish. This week we discover who our fictional best friends would be.

1. Anne Shirley. This Anne-girl manages to bring a smile to the face of anyone who encounters her. She warms hearts and is a terrific 'bosom friend' to Diana. And she always has something interesting to say!

2. Jo March. I have always looked up to Jo. Her strength of character is a perfect model for how I'd like to live my own life. True she makes mistakes, but she is human and determined to live her life in the fullest way possible.

3. Alanna of Trebond. She kicks some serious butt, but has a pure heart and a fierce loyalty to her friends. Someone I'd always want in my corner!

4. Jane Bennett. She is so sweet and a great sister to Lizzie. I wish she were my older sister too.

 5. Pippi Longstocking. There could never be a dull moment with Pippi around!

6. Dickon from The Secret Garden. He talks to animals and can make things grow-who wouldn't want a friend like that!

7. Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. A shieldmaiden of Rohan who fights to achieve her own destiny. I think she could teach me a thing or two about inner strength.

8. Lestat. He fascinates me, and would love to have many a deep conversation with him.

9. Elphaba from Wicked. Again, she seems like a great person for a conversation.

10. Bridget Jones. She is so scatterbrained and drama-prone that she makes my life seem dull in comparison! Plus we can gush over Colin Firth together.

so there it is-my top ten. How does your list compare?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Holiday Books!

Top Ten Tuesday again, a weekly meme from the Broke and the Bookish. This week it's favorite holiday books, just in time for Turkey Day!

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have read the book and seen countless adaptations of this classic story. I'm also reading a little nonfiction book about how this book changed the way we think about Christmas forever. I don't doubt it. What book can boast that it reinvented Christmas cheer and good will towards all?

2. The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry. This book always brings me to tears, because no matter how bad things are for this couple financially, the love they have for each other keeps them warm.

3. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson. Another touch-me-to-the-point-of-tears book. And so beautifully written too.

4. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. My mom read this book to me every Christmas Eve when I was growing up. It will always have a special place in my heart.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Love this book. My family used to call me Mindy Lou Who because I loved this book so much.

6. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. The illustrations in this classic book are fantastic, and the story can warm any cold night.

7. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewel. A bit religious but still very sweet, about a little angel who wants his star to shine the brightest.

8. Catmas Carols by Laurie Loughlin. A book of traditional Christmas Carols with a kitty twist. Classics include O Hold Me Right (O Holy Night), O Come All Ye Furful and O Little Town of Cat Mayhem.This book never fails to put a grin on my face!

9. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. When "always Winter, but never Christmas" begins to melt away, I can't help but feel the touch of the Christmas spirit!

10. The Nutcracker. I don't remember who wrote the picture book version of this story I had when I was a kid, but I remember looking at the pictures an reading along and wishing I was Clara, so that I could be whisked away to an enchanted land by a handsome nutcracker prince too.

well, there's 10. I must say that I had to do some heavy digging through my memory banks for this week's list, but I'm glad I did. These books make me smile with fond memories.

How does your list compare?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

Literary Blog Hop

It's Literary Blog Hop time-a new weekly hop from The Blue Bookcase.
This week's question is: Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

I think there most definitely is such a thing as literary non-fiction. I define it as when an author paints a true event or experience with rich detail and literary prose that it reads like a novel. I wouldn't count your typical dry history book, full of facts which, while interesting, don't move a story along. I do however count many memoirs into this category. For example, I recently read Italo Calvino's Road to San Giovanni, which is a collection of five "memory exercises" about his past, written down in such vivid detail with a healthy smattering of philosophical waxing. While the heart of the book is non-fiction, the book is just as literary as his novels.

So how about you? Does literary non-fiction exist in your reading experiences?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

I venture into the fantasy realm with this recent read. This book is the second volume in the 500 kingdoms series, focusing on Andromeda, princess of a small kingdom by the sea ruled by her mother who doesn't think much of her. Andi tries so hard to get her mother to realize that she is bright and intelligent, and can help her run the kingdom, but doesn't quite realize that her mother's attentions might not be the best thing for her well-being. In her eagerness to please, she stumbles upon some details that don't quite add up- for some reason the number of shipwrecks-which the crown profits from- are drastically increasing.

And then a dragon comes to town to further complicate things, and to prevent it from destroying their country, the kingdom starts giving the dragon virgins to eat. The kingdom needs a champion to set things right, but that might be more difficult that originally thought. There is more to the story behind the dragon's sudden appearance and the shipwrecks, and as Andi digs deeper, the more likely she will be to end up as said dragon's latest sacrifice.

A delightful and very quick read-I finished it in a day. I love immersing myself in the world of fairy tales, and love reading about how the characters work with the Tradition, which keeps trying to put everyone on a fairy tale path, whether it be Cinderella or some other tale. It is so interesting hearing what they come up with to circumvent the Tradition and make it work for them instead of forcing them on the path of, say, the helpless princess who falls in love with her protector. Although the first book in the series is still my favorite thus far, this is a welcome addition to the series.

Other Books to Consider: The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Nastiest Villans!

It's top ten Tuesday again, brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish! This week we explore those nasty villains you just love to hate.

1. Jack Randall-Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. This guy is just despicable! He consistently abuses his power and will stop at nothing to not just capture his enemy, but to destroy him entirely-making his life a living hell. Death is easy compared to a fate like that.

2. Blaine the train from The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. What an amazing villain. He is super intelligent and incredibly evil. His set up and entrance into the story was wonderfully imaginative, and the rhyme associated with him is haunting.

3. William Hamleigh from Pillars of the Earth. Everything about this character I hated-as he is supposed to be. There wasn't one redeeming thing about him, and I waited the whole book to see him get his comeuppance.

4. Cathy from East of Eden. I loved Cathy because she was just so completely flawed. She is the perfect villain who shows no remorse at all when she is hurting those around her. She is not really human-something is missing from her soul.

5. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Perfume. A lover of beauty to such an extent that he loses touch with humanity. His path is interesting to read, but I certainly wouldn't want to meet him-creepy.

6. Faust-the original villain in my opinion. He sells his soul for youth and beauty, and never falters when he destroys the life of an innocent maiden unfortunate enough to have crossed his path. Some would say that 'the devil made him do it' but he could have refused. His weakness makes him the greater evil.

7. Simon Legree-Uncle Tom's Cabin. He takes pleasure in beating slaves. There is nothing likeable about this character. A true villain.

8. Abigail Williams from The Crucible. She convinces an entire town that she can tell who is a witch and who isn't-thereby destroying said town and turning neighbor against neighbor. A really nasty little girl.

9. Javert from Les Miserables. The villain, but a very dedicated man devoted to the point of mania. He will stop at nothing until he captures Jean Valjean. His heart is in the right place, but his obsession makes him a very dangerous person.

10. Iago from Otello. This guy is just evil to the core. He turns Otello from his wife out of petty jealousy, but he does it so cunningly that Otello doesn't even notice it. Very subtly the seed of doubt and hatred is placed between the once happily married couple.

well there's 10. I think I could have kept going really, but I'll leave it there. How does it compare to your list?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

Literary Blog Hop

I just stumbled upon this new blog hop from the Blue Bookcase, and it hit me like a breath of fresh air. So first off, thank you blue bookcase! I can't wait to join you every week.

This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion.
How do I know if my blog qualifies as "literary"? Literature has many definitions, but for our purposes your blog qualifies as "literary" if it focuses primarily on texts with aesthetic merit. In other words, texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure.
This week's question comes from Debbie Nance at Readerbuzz
What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?
I think one of the most difficult literary works I've read is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and this is because it is just so darn sad. All Lenny and George want out of life is the chance to have one that is worth living, and they are just so overwhelmingly denied that. It makes me angry and sad and somewhat disgusted every time I think of it. 
Another one that comes to mind is Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky. This is also incredibly depressing, so much so that I had to pause, read something else, and come back to it. Russian literature I can only take in small doses, so that the bleakness emanating from the book doesn't overwhelm me entirely.  

What about you? What were your difficult books?

Book Blog hop hop hop

Book Blogger Hop

Hi there! It's time for Friday's book blog hop. I can't wait to check out some new blogs.

This week's question is:
"If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title?"

My answer: Yes, I always start with book one. This is something of a pain because I'll pick up a book 2 at a sale or something, and refuse to read it until I've found book one. I just can't stand not starting things from the beginning. I hate being lost, because more often than not the sequels build upon major elements from previous books-I don't want to miss anything!

What about you? Do you start in the middle and work your way out?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cicernos

This book, set in Chicago, portrays a family and a neighborhood of recent immigrants from Mexico. It is told in small vignettes from the point of view of Esperanza, a young girl who has moved to the House on Mango Street from a series of terrible apartments. Through the vignettes, which almost read like little poems, we learn of the people who make up her family and her neighborhood, who become a sort of extended family. The struggles with fitting in, being poor, and making a place for yourself in a new world are all laced within the pages of this short novel. It could really be set in any time, because the problems these immigrants face are the same as they were 50 years ago, only now there is even more scarcity of resources, particularly in Chicago. But the basic human aspiration to succeed is the strongest theme in the book, which had me hoping that Esperanza would not let the depression of her current status get her down- that she would rise above it. 

Living in Chicago makes this book even more real to me, because there are tons of neighborhoods just like Mango street all around me. There is that strange mingling of fear and hope, and a desire to provide for your family at all cost. Hispanic immigrants are very quickly becoming the major ethnicity in this town, as more and more flock to the city for the chance of a better life. But with that comes the enormous contingent of hate, crime, and depression which leads to violence. These also appear in this book, from Esperanza's perspective. There is no balance here. It's a sad reality, but reality it is.

About the Author: Sandra Cicernos' work experiments with literary forms and investigates emerging subject positions, which Cisneros herself attributes to growing up in a context of cultural hybridity and economic inequality that endowed her with unique stories to tell. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and is regarded as a key figure in Chicana literature.

Cisneros's early life provided many experiences she would later draw on as a writer: she grew up as the only daughter in a family of six brothers, which often made her feel isolated, and the constant migration of her family between Mexico and the USA instilled in her the sense of "always straddling two countries... but not belonging to either culture." Cisneros's work deals with the formation of Chicana identity, exploring the challenges of being caught between Mexican and Anglo-American cultures, facing the misogynist attitudes present in both these cultures, and experiencing poverty. For her insightful social critique and powerful prose style, Cisneros has achieved recognition far beyond Chicano and Latino communities, to the extent that The House on Mango Street has been translated worldwide and is taught in American classrooms as a coming-of-age novel.

Cisneros has held a variety of professional positions, working as a teacher, a counselor, a college recruiter, a poet-in-the-schools, and an arts administrator, and has maintained a strong commitment to community and literary causes. In 1998 she established the Macondo Foundation, which provides socially conscious workshops for writers, and in 2000 she founded the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, which awards talented writers connected to Texas. Cisneros currently resides in San Antonio, Texas.

Other Books to Consider: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Unfortunate Character Names

So it's Top Ten Tuesday again, from The Broke and The Bookish. Hooray!

I almost didn't participate this week, because I have a hard time remembering my own name let alone someone else's, but one character name in particular stood out so much for me that I decided ti jump in with my list.

1. Renesmee. WTH kind of name is that? It isn't cute, frankly it isn't even English. It is appalling and if I were named that I too would prefer being nicknamed after the Loch Ness Monster. Blech. (this character is from Breaking Dawn, btw.)

2.  Mochriadhemiach from the Nine Kingdoms Trilogy by Lynn Kurland. Talk about a mouthful. Thankfully they shorten his name to Miach for most of the book.

3. Boudica. I know she is a real person, but I have always hated the name. For those non history buffs, she was a Queen of old England who rebelled against the Roman invasion, and almost won.

4. Yum Yum from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. No it isn't a book but an operetta, but this name always makes me think of a candy bar. Who would want to be named after a candy bar?

5. Number 5 is just about every character in Where the Heart is by Billie Letts. Novalee Nation and her daughter Americus Nation, Lexie Coop and her children who actually are named after candy bars, and the drop dead jerk of a baby daddy Willie Jack Pickens. Wow what a collection.

6. Huckleberry Finn. This can't be his real name, can it? But we aren't given any others, so it must be so.

Well there's six. I'll keep thinking about this and update accordingly, so stop by again!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This mystery thriller follows writer David Martin, a young man and writer full of 'great expectations' but always falling short of the mark. David makes a desperate pact with the mysterious publisher Andreas Corelli to write an unusual story. But what he doesn't know is that he has just set a string of events in motion that strangely, seem to have happened before years earlier. David must try to unravel the story of what happened to Corelli's last employee before he falls victim to their consequences.

This prequel to Shadow of the Wind is nothing short of fantastic. It may take place before Zafon's last novel, but don't expect it to be exactly the same, because it is very different. They simply share some similar characters and of course, the cemetery of lost books plays a role. The writing is so richly developed that you are pulled in every time you pick the book up, and the novel refuses to let you go until every page is consumed.

I loved how all of the characters, despite or maybe because of their many human flaws, are entirely three dimensional and real. My favorite character is Isabella, David's young assistant who more than once rescues David's sanity and humanity.The story is very tragic in many parts, so I would recommend having some tissues handy.

I loved this line from an Amazon reviewer so much that I had to quote it here. It so accurately conveys my feelings. "Most importantly, this novel details the power that books can have in our lives, the voids they fill within us, and the myriad methods by which they can mold us- for better or for worse." I'm sure all of us book lovers can agree to the power that the written word can have on us.

All in all, another masterpiece from Zafon. Looking forward to his next novel!

About the Author:
Carlos Ruiz Zafón (born Barcelona, 25 September 1964) is a Spanish novelist who has lived in Los Angeles since 1993, where he spent a few years writing scripts whilst developing his career as a writer.

His first novel, El príncipe de la niebla (The Prince of Mist, 1993), earned the Edebé literary prize for young adult fiction. He is also the author of three more young adult novels, El palacio de la medianoche (1994), Las luces de septiembre (1995) and Marina (1999).

In 2001 he published the novel La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind), his first "adult" novel, which has sold millions of copies worldwide and more than a million copies in the UK alone. Since its publication, La sombra del viento has garnered critical acclaim around the world and has won many international awards. Ruiz Zafón's works have been published in 45 countries and have been translated into more than 30 languages. According to these figures, Ruiz Zafón is the most successful contemporary Spanish writer, along with Javier Sierra, whose works have been published in forty-two countries, and Juan Gómez-Jurado, whose works have been published in forty-one countries.

The English edition of Zafon's books have been translated by Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves. She has translated over 30 volumes.

Other Books to Consider: Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hippity Hoppity Book Blog time!

Book Blogger Hop

Yay book blog hop time! Brought to you courtesy of Crazy for Books!

This week's question concerns what our feelings are on losing followers, or whether we have ever stopped following someone. I can say that I never have stopped following anyone. I choose to follow because I find a blog interesting or the books reviewed align closely to what I might be interested in picking up one day. The more choices of blogs I have to peruse, the more options I have of finding that new exciting read. So, unless I've been personally offended, I won't stop following anyone once I've joined.

I hope that no one has stopped following me. I try to bring as many thoughtful reviews as possible, but sometimes life intervenes and I'm not able to provide as many reviews as other blogs. But at the end of the day, this blog is simply to have fun and share my book loving experiences with other like minded book nerds. :-)

How about you-inquiring minds want to know! I look forward to your comments!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that made you cry

That's right, it's time for my favorite meme, Top Ten Tuesday, brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish.
This week we are examining the top ten books that made us cry. So lets give those tear ducts a jerk and dig right in.

1. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. This was inevitable-the book is setting you up for a bawl fest from page one.

2. Marley and Me by John Grogan. Pet book. Nuff said.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I can't tell you why without giving the plot away.

4. Where the Heart is by Billie Letts. Sister Husband was one of the best characters in the whole book, is all I'm saying.

5. South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami. This book is just so tragically beautiful, I couldn't help shedding a tear or six.

6. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. A great end to a great series, but bittersweet as well.

7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. "For never was there a tale of more woe, than this of Juliet, and her Romeo"

8. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The end was nearly unbearably sad.

9. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce. I return to the favorite series of my childhood. This is the last book in the series and Pierce is pretty ruthless with my heartstrings here. So many of my favorite minor characters didn't make it to the end of this book. I mourned them all.

10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Both sad and happy tears were shed during my time with this excellent little novel.

well there they are, my tissue clutching list. How does yours compare?