Friday, April 30, 2010

Flash Back Friday: The Baby-Sitters Club...

Flashback Friday is a chance to showcase books that you loved as a kid or teenager and is hosted over at Lovely Little Shelf.
Every Friday we’ll post about the books that we loved.  Do this however you want.  You can outline the plot as you remember it, tell why you remember this particular book, talk about how it is still affecting you, whatever you want.  This part is totally up to you. Feel free to nab the little guy up top and put him at the top of your blog post.
Oh, how I loved the baby-sitters club when I was in elementary school. I was reminded of this love recently when I discovered Ann Martin recently released a prequel, aka a brand new Baby-Sitters Club book! I was nearly delirious with excitement and joy and immediately went to Amazon to make my purchase (much to the amusement of my husband).I then did my part in educating every single person I ran into, "Hey did you know there's a new baby-sitters club book?" (FYI when telling this to people in their late 20's and 30's the reactions are incredibly varied).

I think I was so excited about the new book because it immediately brought back a flood of memories. My love of reading all the books. The T.V. show, playing pretend with my sisters and putting on plays where we created and reenacted our own baby-sitters club meetings. I was struck by just how much these books were part of my childhood. I so hope my children will love to read so one day when they're all grown up they'll see a book from their past and  be reminded of a different time when anything was possible and the world was full of make believe and possibilities. (The truly ironic thing about my love of the BSC books is I hated baby-sitting. I had no problem reading about it and holding fake meetings, but I had no desire to actually do it).

I've been reading the new BSC club book out loud to my 1 year old twins, again to the amusement of my husband. I'll start them young and then they'll have to love books right?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It occurred to me recently...

that in order to graduate with my masters degree I'm going to have to return all of my library books. I'm pretty sure withholding ones diploma is a measure they're willing to take in order to ensure all books are safely back where they belong. There's just one problem, I don't want to. I still have 5 that I haven't yet finished (because things like final papers and exams keep getting in the way of reading for pleasure).
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
  • Long Walk to Freedom The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
  • The Works of H.G. Wells (The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, A Dream of Armageddon)
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
And then there are the books that I have finished reading but I don't want to give back because they look like this:
Filled with post-it notes marking quotes, thoughts, and other sections I want to go back to. These books include:
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Notebooks by Tennessee Williams (a collection of all his personal journals). 

Three final papers and an exam away from the freedom to read swiftly through my remaining library books before graduation in May. Ready, set, here I go.

BTT: Restrictions...

btt button God* comes to you and tells you that, from this day forward, you may only read ONE type of book–one genre–period, but you get to choose what it is. Classics, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Cookbooks, History, Business … you can choose, but you only get ONE. What genre do you pick, and why?
*Whether you believe in God or not, pretend for the purposes of this discussion that [God] is real.

My first instinct on this question was biography/memoir which is by far my favorite, but as much as I love biographies many of them follow similar patterns, even if the lives and stories are very different.

Then as I thought about it even more a lifetime of one genre is incredibly tragic and I would be pretty upset with God for even requesting such a thing. Come one God, what a strange thing to require. Although I suppose it's not quite as crazy as say requesting the sacrifice of a child or something, but still... 

Anyways, back on topic. Because it's a lifetime I suppose I would just choose general fiction because it offers the greatest variety in stories, authors, themes, etc. In the bookstore this section is usually among the largest, offering the widest variety of options to keep me satisfied for a lifetime (I hope).

*Dear God, please never ever request such a crazy thing.* Amen

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: Song Yet Sung by James McBride

The Book: Song Yet Sung by James McBride author of the The Color of Water is the story of Liz Spocott a young runaway slave. Liz known as "the dreamer" because of her constant dreams of the future, accidently leads a breakout from slave thief Patty Cannon. Alone in the Wilderness of Maryland Liz learns "the code" and begins her perilous journey of survival, as she attempts to out run slave catchers and seeks help and refuge from unlikely sources along the way using "the code" as a means of communication and survival as she moves along the intricate web of the underground railroad. 

I picked this book because of my interest in the history of slavery and the underground railroad. According to McBride Song Yet Sung is a work inspired by the life of Harriet Tubman and questions surrounding the mystery of how exactly the underground railroad worked. What resulted from those questions are this book where McBride creates a fascinating and subtle means of communication for slaves to speak to one another without words.

What I thought: I had a hard time getting into this book. It took me about 50 pages before I felt fully involved and connected to the story. A lot of the opening pages were confusing for me to understand and I often would read a chapter and then stop for the night. That said I'm so glad I hung in there because once the background pieces were in place I couldn't get enough of the book. The confusing and nonsensical uttering of an old woman to runaway Liz, suddenly came alive and made sense as the narrative unfolded. 

One of the greatest things about this book is the language. McBride has a way with words and throughout the book with simple dialogue and his use of prose gets at the complicated feelings and emotions for those on all sides of slavery. The  naming of white privilege, "Amber loved him for that, his innocent, his purity and wondering. The boy was still years away from learning the arrogance and impudence of being white. That would come soon enough" (122). 
The dehumanizing effects of slavery on the lives of the many men and women, "It's me. I ain't never going to be the man I should be because of how I'm born. When you're born as another man's property, you're raised to that. And whatever you think of yourself, you always come back to how the white man see you" (203). 

The complicated emotions on the part of some of the slave owners and slave catchers. and the importance or God, faith and religion in lives of many slaves.
-But I don't know who I am.
-Well, there it is, he said ruefully. That's a problem, ain't it. If you don't know who you are, child, I'll tell you: you's a child of God
-With all I seen, I don't know that I believe in God anymore, she said.
-Don't matter, the old man said. He believe in you. (283).

McBride captures all of this and more throughout the narrative. I especially loved the ending of the book. The ways in which visions of the future and those Liz encounters along the way come full circle. That piece of the book made it even better. A brilliant book.

Rating: A+ 
Although it was a slow start the rest of the book more than makes up for it, especially since the beginning pieces are so necessary for understanding the rest of the book. I can't recommend this book enough. If for nothing else the compelling language and emotions that truly get at the complexity of race relations throughout our American history and our present day. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Musing Mondays: War Books...

[Musing Mondays2[5].jpg] 
Musing Mondays is hosted by Just one More Page and today's questions is about war books. Am I reader of war books? My first instinct was no I don't, but as I started to scan by book shelves I realized that a flat out no was not a sufficiently accurate answer.   I think the last book I read about war was Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War by Harry S. Stout (one of my professors). I read it for my Religion in American Society class in the fall of 2007 and the book was fabulous. It offered a different perspective on the Civil war, engaging the war from a moral perspective looking at the role of religion and God for both sides during the war.

Aside from the non-fiction genre like the book above I do have a tendency to read a lot of historical fiction that take place during WWII, like The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas etc., as well as the historical fiction set during the Civil War that look at slavery and racial tensions of that time, and the time immediately following.

I don't often read war books that are set on the front lines and are about the perspectives of the soldiers like The Pacific, (also an HBO show that my husband is obsessed with) or All Quiet on the Western Front (which I read many years ago in junior high). But I do enjoy well written non-fictional accounts of war as well as fictional books that are set during wars that allow a look inside the thoughts and lives of those who experienced those conflicts first hand.

That's my big messy answer. Which is far more complicated than my initial, "no".

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Used Book Sale...

A few weeks ago I received an email announcing an annual used book sale sponsored by a church in a nearby town. I promptly wrote down the date, time, and directions to the church not knowing what to expect. I only hoped there would be a few books of my liking.

This sale was beyond what I could have imagined. I stepped into the church basement and saw this...

Tables and tables...

Full of books.

I only brought $20 in cash with me (as a means of self control) and I happily shopped for well over an hour and ended up with: 

  • Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Summer of '49 by David Halberstam
  • She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
  • A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
  • The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus 
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo
  • The Women Who Raised me by Victoria Rowell
  • Morrie: In His Own Words by Morrie Schwartz 
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult 
  • Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
  • Run by Ann Patchett
  • By the Time You Read This by Lola Jaye
  • Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory 
Total Spent: $19

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I met Jodi Picoult!!

She came to my university to do a book reading and a book signing and I have been anxiously awaiting this day for the past month or so. (I'm a huge book nerd and I happen to love her books). She did not disappoint. She's hilarious, down to earth and extremely personable. We had a Q & A after the reading and I'm going to try and recount her answers as best as I can because they were wonderful and hilarious.

So these are from my memory about an hour after the event not exact quotes and if I get something wrong and Jodi happens to read this (you know because I'm sure she'll find a random link to my blog) then I apologize Jodi.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your research? 
She talked about the research she did on her latest book House Rules which deals with an autistic book who has a diagnosis of aspergers. She did expansive work observing and talking with teachers and students in schools in several areas. She also read had hundreds of children and their parents answer the questions. She got back hundreds of pages including 200 pages from one teenage girl with aspergers. That girl was such a phenomenal write that Jodi Picoult corresponded with her regularly to ensure that her character was authentic, and she also had this young woman read through the manuscript.

Additionally, she did a ton of research on the whole hype about autism and the link to vaccines. I won't get into everything she said but she was very through and well thought out on this and did an excellent job explaining both sides and then citing accurate research.

Q. Can you talk about your writing process (this was ask by me. I was hoping for some insight so I could write my own best selling novels, sell the rights for a screen play and live happily ever after). Unfortunately,  her system will not work for me. 
Each book starts with a question that she keeps thinking about and can't get out of her mind. If this question stays there for a couple of weeks that's usually a sign for her that it should be a book. Then the characters just show up in her head and start talking to her. (She described this as something like useful schizophrenia where she gets to make a living from her voices) and then once that becomes clear. She stops everything and starts her research. Once that's all taken care of she sits down and writes the entire thing out from start to finish in the order that we get to read the book. A novel usually takes her 9 months and her husband buys her a "congrats. on your new baby ballon" at the end of each nine months.

Q. How did you feel about the director changing the movie ending of My Sisters Keeper?
She was not happy. When she sold the rights to the movie the director told her he wouldn't change it unless it absolutely couldn't be helped and he would have a conversation with her about it. This did not happen and instead she found out about it  by email from a friend who got a copy of the manuscript. Jodi called the producer and he wouldn't talk to her. She went to the set to ask about what was going on and the director threw her off of it, and to this day she still doesn't know why.

She went on to say, that when a writer sells their book to a director it's sort of like an adoption. You don't get to call each night and ask if the babies been fed and taken care of. Later on you might find out that the baby went on to have a great family, good life, successful education, and sometimes you might find out you gave your baby to a crack whore (and that crack whore bit is a direct quote).

Q. Would you ever sell another one of your books to that director? 
"Hell no!" (direct quote). According to Jodi, when a book is as successful as My Sisters Keeper and sells as many copies as it did you probably shouldn't mess with a good thing.

Q. How do you balance work life with being a wife and mother? 
Her children are all in their teens now and mostly self sufficient, but she owes a lot of her success to the support of her husband who took on a lot of the day to day care. He's amazing with knowing she goes on tours, but she also has the ability and flexability to make sure she doesn't miss the concerts, plays and other big events in her children's life. Her children have always known that they come first.

Q. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 
She always knew she would write. She started writing at 5 and just kept on doing it. She would write even if nobody read, because she can't not write. In college she sent a short story to 17 magazine and received a call back that someone wanted to buy it. She was ecstatic and called her mom and said, "I'm going to be a writer" to which her mom responded, "Great who's going to support you?" So Jodi Picoult went to work on Wall Street (which she claims is a miracle because she's not good with numbers). She then states she was lucky enough to work there during the crash of 1987 and received a nigh severance package and she moved away from there. Then she taught 8th grade English, got married, had a baby in a span of two years. After that she knew she wasn't going back to teach 8th grade because of layoffs and the fact she just had a baby, so she pulled out a novel she had been working on at that time, finished it, sent it to an agent, who sold it in three months.

Q. How do you decide your titles? 
Sometimes they are there from the start. Plain Truth was always going to be called Plain Truth even before it was written. Sometimes she has no idea and sends them off without titles and hopes someone else can come up with something.

Q. Any advice for young writers?
Just write and write every single day. Also don't scrape something until it's totally finished even if you think it's the worst thing ever written in the entire world. When it's all finished re-evaluate and if it still sucks scrap it but it might surprise and it might be worth fixing. Also take a creative writing class to learn how to be your own best critic.

Q. What was your favorite moment doing writing?
Doing the research for Second Glance which included a lot of paranormal research. She told a really creepy story that happened while she worked with some guys who specialized in finding ghosts.

Q. What's next? (I can't wait for this book!!)
It's a book about gay rights and embryo adoption. To top it off the main character does music therapy so each chapter in the book is going to be a different tract, and Jodi Picoult wrote a song for each chapter and the book will include a recorded CD that goes along with each chapter. The topic sounds amazing and the music is an added bonus.

That's most of what I can remember. She was hilarious and I loved meeting her.  I'm sad because my picture turned out really blurry. Oh, well such is life.

Me & Jodi Picoult

Reading from her latest book House Rules. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What I read in March...

1.) The Associate - John Grisham (4/5)
2.) The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith (2/5)
3.) My Life in France - Julia Child (3/5)
4) The Souls of Black Folk - W.E.B DuBois (5/5)
5.) Balancing Act - Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy (3/5)
6.) The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown (5/5)
7.) Notebooks - Tennessee Williams (5/5)
8.) From Old Notebooks - Evan Lavender-Smith (5/5)
9.) The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down - Anne Fadiman (4/5)

And this doesn't include any of the books and articles I've read for school. Not too bad. Some of the longer reads like Notebooks slowed me down a little, but I've enjoyed allowing myself time to read for pleasure. I've missed it since starting college and now grad. school and it's just the kind of break I need to re-center myself when everything else seems so out of control at the moment.