Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Challenges Wrap-up

It's that time of year...challenge wrap-up time!

I managed to complete all the required categories:
1. A 19th-century Classic: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
2. A 20th-century Classic: A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
3. A Pre-18th or 18th-century Classic: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
4. A Classic that relates to the African-American experience: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (it doesn't deal directly with the African-American experience, but it's about the American South and has a few very key African-American characters, so I'm counting it...)
5. A Classic Adventure: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
6. A Classic that prominently features an animal: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I wanted to do the optional categories, but I had way too much school stuff on my plate! I'm still really happy I completed all the required categories, though. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2014 I Love Library Books Reading Challenge

I'm obsessed with the library, so this is naturally the perfect challenge for me.

2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

I did this challenge this year and I have almost made my goal! This coming year, I want to read even more--but, since it'll probably be a really busy year, I'll keep my goals minimal. 

Back to the Classics Challenge 2014

The Back to the Classics challenge is back! (Thanks to Karen for hosting it this time!) I had to sign up just to support, so hopefully I will be able to complete all the required categories this coming year (which I anticipate will be very busy)...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

I've been working on this post for quite some time now (erm, two months). I keep hesitating to actually post it because I have never heard a single person criticize Where the Red Fern Grows. And I'm about to. Hold onto your hats.

Where the Red Fern Grows is a classic American story--but I hope you won't throw stones at me when I say I hope it's not considered classic American writing.

It's pretty obvious that Wilson Rawls didn't have tons of formal training when it came to fiction writing. That doesn't necessarily mean his book is bad. It's fun, sweet, and emotionally provoking (how many of us have cried at the end?). It explores the timeless theme of humanity's relationship with nature and animals. It's a perfect read-aloud and it's easily relatable.

That said, there were some annoying and even laughable flaws in the writing. I believe that a true classic has both the elements of a good story and a beautiful way of telling it. In that way, this book was more of a fun story than a classic for me (emphasis on for me).

Saturday, November 30, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 14: Deal Breakers

Click on the picture to check out the challenge and participate!

I have been a serious slacker on this challenge. Whoops. But I will finish! Almost there!

Today's prompt is: Tell us your deal breakers. 

1. Eroticism, excessive language, or anything that I find too immoral to read. I don't mean to be snobby, and I hardly ever put down a book for this reason--I can handle some language and some sexual content, but if it's just meant to be shocking, then I have better things to waste my time on.

2. Bad writing. Sometimes I can push through it, but if the writing is so bad that it gets in the way of my ability to focus on the story itself, then I'm more likely to put the book down.

3. Boring characters. I need characters that are more complicated and not cliche. I'm more than happy with cliches in movies, but when I'm reading, I want the characters to have some substance to them.

4. Post-Twilight vampires. Just no.

What are your deal breakers? 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Evelina by Fanny Burney

"If you like Jane Austen, you'll like Evelina," my 18th-century Brit lit professor promised us before we began reading this book. I'd never heard of it, but I do like Austen, so I was interested to see if my professor was right. 

So, was he? Am I going to send all you Janeites running out to the bookstore to buy Evelina?

In a way, it was a lot like Jane Austen. Like I said, it's a story about a young woman coming out into society. Plus, it has other Austen-esque features, such as: romance, class issues (and sometimes, class issues IN romance--that's a bonus), marriage, annoying people who won't shut up, gender issues, propriety problems, and probably lots more.

But believe it or not, with all those similarities, this book really didn't feel much like Austen to me. It was somewhat darker. Unlike with Austen novels, the characters didn't spend all their time in the drawing-rooms of the gentry. The "improper" people weren't just snooty Catherine de Bourghs inviting young ladies to play their pianofortes; they were often genuinely cruel, rude, creepy, or just downright gross (or all of the above). Just a few of the events that would never show up in an Austen novel:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Bookshelves

This week, Modern Mrs. Darcy is hosting a fun link-up: What's on your bookshelf?

My bookshelves are a bit pathetic. I don't really buy a lot of books due to my starving-student status. So these are just the beginnings of my book collection.

I only have one bookcase in my apartment that I actually put books on, and that's this monster bookcase built into the wall in our bedroom. It's tucked discreetly between our closet and the bedroom door. I fell in love with it when we moved in--we didn't have much shelf space in our old apartment.

These books are general fiction. (Though I can see a couple on there that deserve a place with the classics. Oops.) There's my husband's battered copy of October Sky, which we read together this year, and my beloved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

This is my British literature shelf (plus Moby Dick, War and Peace, and Little Women, because I didn't want to break up the pretty editions). There's my lovely Jane Austen collection; the red velvety one is the copy of The Secret Garden that I read as a kid; and the brown one on top is Bleak House, which I read recently. And the MLA Handbook, for some reason.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pamela by Samuel Richardson (Vlog!)

I'm going out on a limb today and I tried video blogging for the first time ever!

Please cut me some slack on this video since, like I said, it's my first "vlog" ever. My lovely backdrop is my untidy kitchen and pantry...I swear it was the best lighting I could find in my apartment. And I do get a bit rambly at the end. So please try to ignore my mistakes. It was a fun experience overall and I do hope to do more video reviews in the future. Let me know what you think of it!

(Also, I look really young--I promise I'm not fifteen years old. :) )

P.S. Here's a blog post on my other blog about my video blogging experience, what I learned, and why you should try it, too!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time now. Since Oedipus Rex (or Oedipus the King) is on my Classics Club list, I feel like it's only right to write about it.

But it's just...so...not something I want to write about.

If you read my post about ancient literature, you know that I was less than thrilled with this and various other works that represent the grand ol' ancient world. Now, usually I prefer the literature of a time/place to just about anything else it has produced. But that certainly isn't the case with the Greeks and Oedipus Rex.

I gave everything I had to like this play. I read it and discussed it with my class, and I went and saw a live stage version of it. But nothing could make me enjoy it. In fact, it was hard to appreciate it on any level.

Maybe it's just that Sophocles and I simply don't have a connection. Maybe I'm just not old enough to appreciate it. Maybe I'll read it again in twenty years and then love it. I certainly hope so.

But for now, this pretty much sums up my reaction to Oedipus Rex: All these things happen that are supposed to be exciting, but I'm just bored and grossed out.

Now that I think about it, that's actually a pretty amazing feat. If that's what Sophocles was trying to accomplish, then I applaud him.

Does anyone out there have words of wisdom that can convert me to this work of genius?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

This book was quietly wonderful. It wasn't one of those books you have no choice to love, that grab onto you and force you to love them, like Les Miserables or Wuthering Heights or Little Women. No; this was a book that quietly took its place in the corner, folded its hands, and just sat.

What struck me about this book was that there was virtually no significant plot. Sure, there were events, but the events mainly served to expose the character, Holly Golightly. Holly Golightly was the only thing that mattered in this story. Even the narrator was there only as our eyes, to enable us to see her, as a person profoundly interested in her.

Holly is not the everyman that novels are famous for, the main character that everyone can relate to. She's much better than that; she's completely unique. She's an enigma, a celebrity, a personality circus freak. She's wild. She's amoral. She's out of the bounds of anything society tries to impose on her.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

First Blogiversary

It occurred to me the other day that it's been a year since I started this blog. A year. It hardly feels like it's been that long.

I'm still learning a lot about book blogging. In some ways, I feel just as naive and ignorant as when I first started on October 26, 2012. My blog is still just beginning.

But in other ways, I feel that if nothing else, the past year has been about integrating myself into this fascinating community of book lovers who take time out of their busy lives to share the book love online with strangers across the globe. It took me a while to get the hang of things and find blogs I wanted to read, and to feel like anyone at all was reading mine. But now I feel proud to say that I am a real, live book blogger. It may not always be easy to fit another hobby into my school schedule, but I'm passionate about book blogging. I think I have even more ideas and excitement for blogging than I had a year ago.

Many thanks to those who have kept coming to my book blog over the past year. It's wonderful to have my few wonderful friends who keep faithfully reading, and who write wonderful blogs themselves! I'm also so grateful to those who have just come once or twice. I love writing this blog and I hope some of you enjoy reading it, too.

I know this post is a little mushy and cliche, but I couldn't let my one-year anniversary go by without mentioning it! Hope you're all enjoying my little corner of the blogosphere, and I hope to be blogging for many more years to come!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ancient Literature

I'm taking a world literature class. The first half of world literature, aka Ancient Literature. (Yes, the caps are necessary.)

I was going to try to post separately about the various works of literature I'm reading, like the Epic of Gilgamesh and Oedipus the King. Lovely stories. Only made more agreeable by the ripping off of limbs and gouging out of eyes. But truth be told, I have very little to say about these stories. In a classroom setting? I could go on for fifteen minutes about the significance of the text in a historical context and what it says about the culture and time period in which it was written. But honestly? I have no emotional connection to these texts.

Now, an emotional connection isn't really necessary in order to write a paper about it, but to say anything about a book here on the blog would be positively dull if I didn't have some sort of feeling attached to it. Love, hate, anger, whatever. Even just a vague enjoyment.

I was excited to take this class because I thought I would get to learn about mysterious other cultures and their secrets to the universe. Needless to say, this was quite naive. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus the King, and the Aeneid don't seem to have too many secrets to the universe. (Unless they go something like, "No matter what you do, the gods are going to run your life, so get over it.")

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trying to come back...

First things first: Have you seen the way my blog looks now? How different and beautiful it is? And particularly, the lovely banner on the top? My very own sister Stephanie did it all! There are still a few things to tweak, but I'm excited with the way it's turning out!

Now for the less exciting stuff. I was doing SO WELL at posting nearly every day, and then all of a sudden I hit a bump and I don't post at all. And I'm falling completely behind at reading all of your beautiful blogs, too. Funny how that started happening right after the post about blogger fatigue.

School is taking up a lot of my time, of course. And this semester, all of my classes are turning out absolutely fantastic. I'm not even being sarcastic. I love every single one of my classes. Since three of them are English classes, I've naturally been reading a lot. Here are some of the things I've read so far:

Masterpieces of World Literature: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus the King
18th Century British Literature: The Country Wife, All for Love (Antony and Cleopatra), and I started Pamela (lucky me)
Victorian Literature: Lots of rousing essays and poems by John Ruskin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, and others

Sounds wildly exciting, right? You just can't wait to read what I have to say about the Epic of Gilgamesh, right?

Yeah, okay, these things are fun to discuss in class, but I honestly don't have a lot to say about them here on the blog. I would pretty much never read any of these things on my own time.

But, that's what I thought earlier this year, in spring term. That's the exact same thing that kept me from posting about all the great stuff I was reading back then, and then I regretted it. So, that's not going to happen again! Now that I've had a bit of a break to get my bearings and figure out this semester, I'm going to come back to the blog. Of course, I won't write about everything I read... I'll stick to the (relatively) interesting stuff. Then, if you studied literature in college, you can take a walk down memory lane. Or if you didn't, you can now know exactly what it's like. (Snort.)

Sorry this was such a short and dull post. I just needed to write about my plans to get myself motivated, you know? See you again soon!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Oh, Mr. Dickens. You confuse me sometimes.

On one hand, Dickens was a marvelous storyteller. His books have intricate, detailed plots that appropriately raise the tension little by little, while also offering characters that we can laugh at and relate to. His writing style is witty and engaging. And yet...

I don't know what it is, but I always feel that there's something missing in Dickens's novels. Perhaps it's an aspect of the characters. They're either too obvious, or not believable. Rarely do I find a Dickens character that is fascinating enough to me that I want to dig deeper.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 13

Click on the picture to check out the challenge and participate!

"Describe one underappreciated book EVERYONE should read." 

I seriously dislike the fact that "everyone" is in all caps there. I don't know that there is one specific book (excluding what I believe to be scripture) that literally every person should read (and if there is, I don't claim to know which it is). Aside from that, to be honest, I don't really read a lot of underappreciated books. I read mostly classics, and if not classics, then usually it's bestsellers and award winners and highly-recommended books. So...yeah. All very appreciated. 

So be aware that these are what I consider to be underappreciated classics...and not necessarily everyone should read them...but they're good ones to consider, if you haven't read them yet. (Okay, excessive disclaimer over.)

First is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I definitely wasn't expecting this one to be much good, and it blew me away. Don't trust the horrid black-and-white film--the original book is completely different! 

Second is Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. This is possibly the funniest Austen novel I've read, and yet it seems to be even more obscure than Mansfield Park. Probably because the romance isn't quite as dreamy as Lizzy and Darcy. 

Third is (forgive me) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Say what you will about this book, I will stand by it as an American classic. Oddly, it seems to be considered something of a sub-par classic, which I just don't understand. Because it's sympathetic toward white Southerners? Because it depicts racism? (Quick, sweep Tom Sawyer under the rug...) Anyway, I really loved this book. Even better than the movie. 

What underappreciated books do you think everyone should read? 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 12: Blogger Fatigue

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"How do you fight blogger fatigue?" 

A couple months ago, I was kind of done with book blogging. I never felt like writing and I sort of forgot about my blog for about a month. I was reading a lot for school, but I just wasn't interested in writing about it.

Then one day I started reading other blogs again, and I remembered what I was missing. I got inspired and started writing for the ol' blog again. Since then, I've been posting more than ever and having a blast.

So, here are the things I try to do so I can stay in the zone and post as often as possible:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shakespeare's Macbeth and The Winter's Tale

Over the summer, I took a Shakespeare class, as some of you already know. I kept up pretty well on posting about the various plays we read, but toward the end of the term, the last two plays got a bit lost in the shuffle.

So, I'm going to give you two mini-posts on each of them: Macbeth and The Winter's Tale


I have always loved this play, and this time around was no exception. Intrigue! Murder! Madness! (Destiny of the Republic?) Not only is it an enthralling play to watch and read, there are so many questions it raises. Are we slaves to fate? Do we decide our own destiny? Do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth really love each other, and does love really conquer all? (In this case, it would seem it doesn't.) I love these juicy questions in a Shakespeare play. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 11: Best Blog Posts

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"Show off! 5 of your best blog posts!" 

Hopefully, this one won't be too difficult because I haven't been blogging that long. I only have 130-ish posts to choose from, and they're certainly not all my best. Not too hard, right?

Why I Don't Like Science Fiction and Fantasy: This is the first post that leaped to my mind. Looking back on it, I think I got a little strong in my criticism (well, maybe more than a little), but I still feel like it was a good post. It really got people talking, and I was pleased to get lots of recommendations for good sci-fi and fantasy. What I like about this post is that I got some things off my chest, but I also learned after writing it that I might be missing out on some great books. Which brings me to...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

I wasn't sure what to expect with Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. Whose madness? What medicine? Which president? And what could the three possibly have in common?

I'll tell you, by way of summary for those who haven't heard of this book. President: James Garfield. Madness: Charles Guiteau, the man who shot him. Medicine: What the doctors who treated Garfield knew woefully little about, leading to Garfield's untimely death.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 10: Picking Books

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"How do you choose what book to read next?" 

Well, I read a lot of books because of some obligation. The huge one is school. As an English major, I have a lot of stuff to read during any given semester, so that always gets priority. 

But we all need fun stuff to read too, so even when I should be sticking to literature for classes, I'm usually in the middle of two or three other books. I'm finding it hard to remember the last time that I came up against the problem of having to "choose what book to read next." I'm almost always in the middle of a few books at a time--usually books I picked up on a whim from the library, sometimes books I own that I just decided to read one day, sometimes gifts or borrowed books... There are so many options at almost all times that I'm just never at a loss. It's usually hard for me to whittle down the number of books I'm reading--it's never a problem to add to it! 

But if I do find myself without a book to read, which does happen occasionally (I think), all I do is go to the library and wander. I can guarantee I'll walk out with a stack of books. 

What about you? How do you decide which book you'll read next? 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Classics Club: Forewords

It's been a while since I've done a meme from The Classics Club. Why, you ask? Um...I plead the fifth.

This month's question is:

Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics? Does it help you or hurt you in your understanding/enjoyment of the work? 

When I was younger, I felt a strange obligation to read forewords and introductions. I'm not sure why. I guess I felt like if I didn't read them, then I didn't really read the book. Nowadays, I usually skip the forewords, notes, introductions, etc...anything that wasn't written by the author him/herself.

The main reason I skip them is because they're often boring. I'll admit it. Especially if I haven't read the book yet. I honestly don't think those things are written for new readers to the book (which begs the question, why do they put them before the content instead of after?). I rarely care about the author's life or the themes in the book until I've actually read the work.

But I have another, better reason for not reading forewords: They usually try to lay down the law for what the book means. If I read someone else's opinion before reading the work, it will always color my own reading. Even if I disagree, I'll be forever disagreeing whenever I think about the book. (For instance, I can't think of Wuthering Heights without thinking about my disagreement with all the people who say that it's a story about redeeming love. I just can't.) I prefer to go into a classic without an interpretation all laid out for me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 9: Why?

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Today's question is "Why do you blog about books?" 

Whew. That's kind of a tough question. 

I've been blogging for quite a few years now, believe it or not, although I only started actually getting serious about it over the past year or so. As a teenager, I started a blog I called "Black Paint" (the title was meaningless). Since I didn't know what I wanted to blog about, I used the tagline "randominity under cover of darkness." Yep, I'm a clever one. And the blog was very random. My parents were concerned about my Internet safety, so I wasn't allowed to write anything about my life. Mainly, the entire blog was just me trying to be funny. 

After a while, I realized that I'm not very funny and I needed a blog where I could be more serious and post some of my real writing. So I created a blog I called "Pass the Chocolate," which I thought was a slightly more clever title than "Black Paint" (I'm still very attached to both names, but I guess they're in the bloggy graveyard now). Pass the Chocolate was allegedly my writing blog, and I felt a little more free to write about things that actually had to do with real life (although I was still very careful). I also posted book reviews on occasion. And I really liked writing book reviews. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

A couple of years ago, a family friend cut an article out of a magazine for me. He had heard I liked to write, and he offered it to me as an example of what he thought was good writing. I was touched. The piece was an interesting, funny, intelligent article about the author's decision to try to make her food at home, and included a recipe for peanut butter. The article turned out to be the introduction to Jennifer Reese's book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch--Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods. 

The book itself did not disappoint. Part cookbook, part memoir of Reese's hilarious and occasionally sentimental cooking adventures, Reese delivers a practical guide to trying to make one's food at home. She admits that some foods, like butter, just aren't worth the time/money/effort to make at home. Sometimes, she concedes, the store-bought version actually tastes better. On the other hand, there are a lot of foods that are cheaper and more delicious when made at home--and some take very little effort.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 8: The Best Book Blogs

Click on the picture to check out the challenge and participate!

Today's prompt is "Quick! Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs!" In the interest of being "quick!", I'll cut to the chase.
  1. A good writing style. This one is absolutely vital, or I won't read the blog at all. Also, if the blog doesn't have the other things I like, really good writing can redeem it (for me). 
  2. A clean, uncluttered look. One of my pet peeves is when the content gets squished between two colorful sidebars. Just pick one! People hardly ever look at sidebars anyway. 
  3. A good "about" section. I like to know where the blogger is coming from, which genres they read the most, how blogging fits into their everyday life, etc. I don't need to know their whole life story; I just want to have something to go on. Which brings me to...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott, of Bird by Bird fame, is an extraordinary wordsmith. Her non-fiction books combine beautiful writing with deep thought, personal experiences, and humor. When I saw a copy of this book on prayer by Lamott on my library shelves, I immediately snatched it up.

I was not disappointed. In Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Lamott was at her most magical and ethereal. I was slightly hesitant to read this since I have very specific ideas about prayer, but Lamott managed to make the book accessible to all her readers, whether we have the firmest or the haziest beliefs in God. Prayer might not make everything better, but it can make life a little bit better. It won't fix your problems, but it can make you strong enough to handle them. It can give you the slightest push in the right direction. It can draw your attention to a burgundy sunset or a tiny ladybug. It can leave a plate of cookies on your doorstep at the moment you needed them most. That's what prayer can do.

I wondered what this book was going to be like. Would it be a step-by-step guide to prayer? Would it be a humorous dismissal of organized religion in favor of individual spirituality? Would it be a collection of the author's own experiences with prayer? It was none of these. Rather, the book was a prayer itself. It was Lamott's own "wow" prayer that said essentially this: Wow, prayer really does work, and it is wonderful. In my church, we call this a testimony. I don't know that I've ever read a more powerful testimony of prayer than Help, Thanks, Wow. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bout of Books: Day 7 and Wrap-up

11:00 pm

This wasn't such a hot readathon day, but I expected that. I probably read about 30 pages.

I've enjoyed this readathon, even though I didn't get as much reading done as I wanted to. I did my first ever readathon challenge, and I got a ton of Bleak House read. I'm sure I'll be able to finish it within the next couple days. I love the motivation that I have during readathons. Bout of Books is always especially fun for me. I'm looking forward to the next one already!

Bout of Books: Day 6

6:30 pm

I didn't post an update for yesterday because it was a dismal reading day (but a great day otherwise). I only read about 30 pages, what with spending time with family before they left town.

Today has been much better. I still haven't gotten as much read as I might have liked, but I've read about 100 pages and I still have time to read more. I'm losing hope for finishing Bleak House by tomorrow night, but I'll still finish it in the next few days without a problem. I'm excited! I have other books I want to get started on, but I want to wait until I'm finished with Bleak House--otherwise, I'm afraid I'll abandon it in favor of faster-paced books, and I'm so close to the end! ("So close" meaning 200 pages, which really does feel close for this book...)

3:15 am

Yes, it's into the wee hours of the morning, and I'm still awake. The hubs and I were feeling adventurous, so we went to a super-late showing of Iron Man 3 at the dollar theater. It was really fun! Not to mention, I got a few more pages read since my last update and so the total for today is around 140. I'm sure I could have done better, but I feel pretty good about that, especially for Bleak House, which is good but not exactly a page turner. (Okay, parts are...well, I'll save it for a later post.) Anyway, I'm not the fastest reader in the world so 140 is pretty good for me. Now I only have about 150 pages left in the book!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bout of Books: Mad Libs

I decided to do my first challenge today! It's hosted by Shaunesay at The Space Between. I decided to do this one because unlike other challenges in this and other readathons, it seems fairly easy and still fun. It's Mad Libs! What could be more fun than Mad Libs?

Basically, answers have to come from a book title or be a character in a book. I don't have to actually own the books, but I do want to use books I've read, if possible. So here goes!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bout of Books Day 4

5:30 pm

I read a bit this morning when I woke up, and then I decided that today I really need to get some chores done that I've been neglecting. So instead of lounging around reading, I've been trying to read Bleak House via audiobook while cleaning the kitchen.

This worked out pretty well for about an hour or so. Then some people came to fix our refrigerator, which has been acting up. After that I ate lunch and got a little distracted online... And then I went to a friend's house for a little sewing club we've started up. We sewed for a good three hours, and now here I am again to try to actually work on the kitchen and listen to the book.

11:45 pm

I got some good cleaning and good reading/listening done, then read some more out of the book, and then listened some more while I was making dinner. All in all, a good reading day! I read nearly 100 pages. If I do as well in the next couple days as I did today, I should finish Bleak House before the end of the readathon. Even if I don't, I'll still have made really good progress. I only have about 300 pages to go.

Bout of Books: Day 3

For this readathon, I decided to do a reading journal of sorts each day. Hopefully they won't get overly long...

Yesterday was not my best reading day, even for a regular, non-readathon day. I read a bit of the cookbook, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, but I ended up spending most of my time with my husband (he had the day off) and my family (they were in town). So not much reading got done around here.

I started out my day by finishing Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. I'll write a bit of a review and post it later, but it's such a fun book. Obviously, reading a cookbook called for making some food. So today I made Reese's recipes for English muffins and Nutella.

Wow and wow. The English muffins were quite good (they unfortunately didn't have the airy bubbles inside that you get with the store-bought, but they tasted just as good) but the homemade Nutella was otherworldly. Reese describes it as "nubblier" than the smooth, waxy, store-bought version--which it is. I started out by vowing that I would grind the hazelnuts until they were as smooth as possible, but when I tasted the hazelnut paste, I decided I actually really liked the nutty little granules. I used a little less sugar, too. The result was a delicious nutty butter that I far prefer to the store-bought Nutella. A bit of it spread on an English muffin makes for a marvelous reading snack.

Anyway, enough of food. Back to books.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bout of Books!

I meant to do this ages ago, and then it just didn't happen. But here it is now!

Like many of you, I always get super excited about Bout of Books. I don't know why I like it particularly better than other readathons; maybe because more people participate and I feel a greater sense of community.

Anyway. I know I'm signing up a little late, but I actually did do some reading yesterday! In fact, I sacrificed my comfort by making myself carsick by reading in the car all day.

**Little Personal Update** I've been just a little MIA on the blog for the last few days because I just went on a big trip for a family reunion. 13-hour car drive, each way. The reunion was super fun, but it's good to be back.

I was really excited to find out that the Bout of Books was this particular week, because my summer classes are over and my fall classes won't start for about ten more days. Perfect week for a readathon! So even though I kind of missed the first day, I'm super excited for all the reading I'll be able to get done in the next 6 days.

Here are the books on my plate for this Bout of Books:

Classics Spin Number Revealed

Yeah, I'm a day behind. But I was still excited to find out that the classic I'll be reading isssss....

4. Breakfast at Tiffany's! 

Considering that this was on my list of books I'm excited to read, I'm naturally excited. All I need to do is get my hands on a copy and then I can start reading! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book blogging milestone!

Today I'm guest posting over at Whitney's blog, She is Too Fond of Books. I would love for you to head on over and check out my post!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 7: Blogging Quirks

Click on the picture to check out the challenge and participate!

Day 7 is for talking about our blogging quirks. I have my fair share, so here goes. Bullet list! 
  • I usually don't schedule my posts. I do sometimes (ironically, I've been doing it for this challenge) but for the most part, I want to be there for the big PUBLISH. Who knows why. So if I do write a post before I want to publish it (which does happen fairly often), I just save it and let it waste away until I'm there to hit the button. (Aaaand sometimes I forget about it just a little bit.)
  • For the most part, I don't care that much about views. I sometimes consult them to see which posts are the most popular, but I usually rely on comments more for that (I like posting things that people feel compelled to respond to). So I don't use anything for analytics. I probably will someday, but for now it's still all about the books, for me. 
  • I'm in a constant struggle with myself about ads. They don't bother me on other people's blogs, and frankly they actually appear somewhat more professional to me. Of course I've been tempted to use them on my blog, but I'm afraid people would take it the wrong way. And besides, I'm sure I wouldn't make any real money off them (if I made any money off them) for at least several years, if that. But why not just try, when I love blogging so much? 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Classics Spin!

Unfortunately, I missed the last Classics Spin down at The Classics Club due to life happening. But I'm excited to participate this time!

The rules are simple: make a list of twenty books from your Classics Club list, number them, and then on August 19th (next Monday) the moderators will pick a random number, and you have to read the corresponding book.

I know this is a bit of a cop-out, but I'm not going to put any super-hard books on my list this time because I'm going to be starting school and plus, I have a couple of thick books I borrowed from my mom that I really want to read. So I'm going to stick to books that will be manageable--otherwise, I'd just end up abandoning the spin book. And I don't want to do that!

Here's my list:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 6: Book Shopping

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Today is about how we shop for books. The truth is, I don't really shop for books. (These last three have all been things that I don't normally do...at least, I claim I don't...) I am a broke college student, and on top of that, I'm a newlywed. I don't have a lot of extra money, to say the least. So I refrain from buying books as much as is humanly possible. 

The only thing that makes this okay is that I have library cards for three different libraries. That's right, I said three: the Provo public library (since I live in Provo), the BYU library (since I'm a BYU student) and the Orem library (since Provo is so close to Orem that they're practically the same city). Not to mention, all three libraries are positively excellent and have well-maintained collections. (Plus, they're great to study in. I'm typing this in the BYU library right now--and yes, I'm supposed to be studying...)

So rather than describing my book buying (which would be a very short post), I'm going to entertain you with my book borrowing habits. Go get the popcorn! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shakespeare Misguided??

While I was doing research for a paper on The Merchant of Venice, I came across this annotation:

As much as I'm against writing in library books, I would have to agree with this anonymous reader. Shakespeare misguided?! I don't think so, buddy! 

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 5: Tear Jerkers

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So. Today I'm instructed to "Recommend a tear jerker." I have a hard time thinking of any of the books I read as "tear jerkers." Maybe because I think they have more substance than that. But I'm going to overcome my prejudice of what I believe the typical tear jerker is like and recommend some books that may move a person to tears. (To be honest, though, I can't remember the last time I cried while reading. I know, I'm a terribly cold-hearted human being.) 

Of course, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. If this book can't make you cry, I don't know what can. (I think I cried during it... If I didn't, I really am terribly cold-hearted.) 

Little Women is a somewhat more cheerful tear-jerker that won't make you hate society at large. 

But if societal crimes are your thing, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (or, more correctly, Notre Dame de Paris) is another great one. (Mr. Hugo was sure good at jerking those tears.) 

However, after going over my list of books I've read on Goodreads (that website is my savior for lists like these), I've realized that I have, in fact, read and enjoyed some actual tear jerkers (the stereotypical kind that I was talking about before). So, hopefully I won't embarrass myself by admitting that I've read...

The Wednesday Letters and Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright. Yes, I have read a full two books by Jason F. Wright, and I am not ashamed. (...Mostly.) I actually really liked them. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 4: Flinging Books

Click on the picture to check out the challenge and participate!

Today's question is, "What's the last book you flung across the room?" 

Okay, well, I'm not much of a book-flinging person. (As book lovers, I imagine most of you aren't, either.) There's only one book that I can actually remember flinging across the room. 

That book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. 

That book drove me totally up the wall. I was on board with it for the first, I don't know, 300 pages. I liked the strong female lead, Dagny Taggart, and I liked where the book was going. I was so engrossed in the mystery of John Gault. And then...it was just downhill from there. 

*spoiler alert--if you don't want to read spoilers, skip the next paragraph*

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 3: Blogging BFFs

Click on the picture to check out the challenge and participate!

Today's question is about blogging "BFFs." This is probably the hardest question for me on the whole list.

I've been blogging for less than a year now, and I still feel like I'm getting my bearings in the book bloggy world. Sometimes I'm afraid to even comment on another blog because I feel like that blogger is so much more experienced and well-read than I am; how could I possibly have anything good to say? It wasn't until recently that I started getting braver about that. Also, I have yet to come upon a blog that's very much like my own; I don't feel like I've found a "kindred spirit" yet (and I don't know if I ever will). I'm very picky about which blogs I read, and I'm constantly on the lookout for new blogs to follow. I still feel like I'm finding my niche in the book blogging world. So it's hard for me to say that I have best friends in book blogging.

I read (and love) several blogs silently. I read just about every post on the blogs, but I rarely leave a comment. I'm the worst. I know. I promise I'll do better. But I don't think I can reasonably count these bloggers as "BFFs."

But there are a couple people out there who kindly comment on my blog quite often, and I enjoy their blogs very much as well, so I hope they won't think I'm presumptious if I claim we're BFFs.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 2

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After I got married, it became well-nigh impossible for me to have a bedtime reading ritual. At the end of the day, all I want to do is spend time with my husband, not shut him out by reading. (And he's not big into reading, so he wouldn't just happily pick up a book of his own.) Maybe in five years a bedtime reading ritual will be a thing for me, but for now it's just not happening.

But when I do read in bed, I read aloud with my husband. We read books that interest both of us. Right now we're in the middle of Where the Red Fern Grows. Usually I read, but sometimes he reads. He tends to read reeeeally fast, picking up speed until I can't understand what he's saying. It's so funny! We like to do voices and fake accents for the characters. We usually only read a chapter or less a night, since we tend to go to bed late all the time, but at least we're reading.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge - Day 1: Bookish Confessions

You know that thing? That thing that's all over the book-blogosphere? And all the cool kids are doing it? Yep, I decided to do it, too.

Click on the picture to check out the challenge and participate!

Day One is all about bookish confessions. Some of them are really awful, so please don't hold them against me...

1. I'm not well-read. I like to think I am, but I'm really not. I feel overwhelmed by the long lists of the Best Books In the History of Ever because I've only ever read a small fraction of them.

2. When people try to tell me that Harry Potter is a Christ figure, it really bothers me. I mean, I enjoyed Harry Potter as much as the next kid, but think about it. Hormonal, sometimes-annoying teenager vs. All-wise, all-knowing Savior of the world. Um? No. Go read Narnia.

3. I read all the Twilight books. And I liked them. (Of course, this was back when they were first coming out and I was actually a teenager.) Then I discovered that the people I respected most wanted to beat Stephenie Meyer over the skull with her own shin-bone, and I decided to hate her. Here's the thing...I won't likely read Twilight again, and if I do I'm sure it will be accompanied by much eye-rolling...but even when I liked it, I never said it was great literature. Who did?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Quick note--photos are not my strong point. Taking them, editing them, figuring out how to incorporate them into the ol' blog...not really my thing. And I don't like the idea of randomly stealing other people's photos. But I finally had to admit to myself that everyone (including me) likes blogs better when they have lots of pictures. So I made this beautiful picture for you guys. Well, it's not that beautiful, but hey. I took it and edited it and I even put my website on the bottom and I feel very cool. (And if you want to use it, feel free. I know, I'm so generous.) 

But anyway. Let's talk Hamlet. 

Hamlet is one of those great literary works that left me so utterly wowed that I almost can't say anything about it. The long list of literary things we could talk about is just far too overwhelming (and has already been done by people far more intelligent and educated than I), so I'll just share my emotional reaction with you. 

I'm pretty sure I'd seen an adaptation of Hamlet or something before I read it this time, but I remembered very little about it, so it was almost like I was reading it for the first time. As I read, I watched an adaptation (one that was rather poorly done in my opinion, but was the only version my library had). 

From the very beginning, I criticized the actor who played Hamlet, because I didn't think he understood the character. Yeah--I remembered next to nothing about this play, I had barely seen the character of Hamlet at all, and I already felt like I knew him. Hamlet is an erratic, emotional, crazy character, and yet I had no trouble identifying with him. While I was reading the play, Hamlet felt like me. Which is kind of scary to think about. 

There are no characters in this play that win. (Sorry if I spoiled it for you.) Nobody comes out on top. Most people end up dead. The play carries with it a horrible feeling of desperation and hopelessness. You wouldn't think people would be so interested in it. And yet, it's the feeling of desperation that we all have. Does my life matter? Am I ever in control? Can I change my fate? Who can I trust? These are the questions the characters ask, and although our lives may not be quite as tragic, they're the questions we ask, too. 

That's my take on Hamlet--and I know there are a million more. What do you think? 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I started reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail for my family reunion book club (yes, my family is enthusiastic about having a book club at our family reunion...I'm so lucky), but after I'd gotten partway through it, we decided to change books. I finished it anyway, and I'm mostly glad I did...

Here's a brief synopsis, for those who may not have heard of it (written by yours truly):

Wild is Cheryl Strayed's memoir of her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. After her mother's death, a difficult divorce, a seriously messed-up relationship, a stint with heroin, and her life basically falling into a million pieces, Strayed decides on a whim that she's going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and find herself. So she hikes it, thinking she's prepared, although she most thoroughly is not. She gets into numerous scrapes, meets some nice and interesting people along the way, acts stupid, and manages to come out of it alive.

Okay. I realize that that was very sarcastic. I hope you enjoyed it.

I have a love/hate relationship with books like this. They seem to be extremely popular these days. You know the kind of book I'm talking about: Woman has crappy life, realizes she has some serious issues, and decides to solve those issues by doing something really random and crazy.

You can probably tell from that brief description the "hate" part of my relationship with these books, but I also love them, in a weird way. I love them because we all have issues, we all make bad decisions, and we all find ourselves at a fork in the road where we need to decide whether we want to stay home, keep on keepin' on, and try to patch up our lives. Or...we can take the other road. We can do something daring and crazy. It could lead us to danger and even death...or it could lead us to a better life. The life we've always wanted, which we know we won't ever get if we keep living the way we're living.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Henry V by William Shakespeare

This was the only play I've had (or will have) to read for my Shakespeare class that I was almost completely unfamiliar with. (Apart from the St. Crispin's Day speech, but even that I've only heard in passing.) Thankfully, I found a good amount of time to spend with it so I didn't have to speed through it.

I'll admit that I was pretty confused for most of the time. I'm not super familiar with the history of the English royalty, especially pre-Henry VIII. My teacher explained it in class a little bit, but I often got lost among the large cast of characters.

Also--and I'm not proud of this--I often wondered, "What's the point of this?" The play was interesting enough, and had some truly fantastic speeches, but it's the first Shakespeare play I've ever read where I finished reading it and didn't feel particularly "wowed." After discussing the play in class, I think a lot of the reason I didn't really relate to this play was that a lot of "The Point" had to do with English patriotism and monarchy. As an American who is somewhat critical of monarchy (like most Americans, I think), I just wasn't as drawn in by Henry's greatness and the excitement of conquering another country. I was sort of ho-hum about the whole thing. Even when I read the St. Crispin's speech (and again, I'm not proud of this), I kind of thought to myself, "But what about the people who die?"

Yep. I'm a product of my time. I'll freely admit it. (And the fact that I'm a woman might have a little something to do with my inability to relate to the "band of brothers.")

The play was good, and I enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong. And there was plenty to think about, and some very interesting themes. And some gorgeous speeches. It just wasn't my favorite Shakespeare play.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Truth About Food by Jill Fullerton-Smith

This is going to be sort of a mini-review because I don't have a lot to say about this book, but I enjoyed it.

I liked this book for its accessibility. It explained a lot of the important science jargon in the food industry and nutritional studies. It was fun to read about the popular myths and whether or not they're true. The book also discussed some of the ways you can boost levels of important nutrients like omega-3s through the things you eat. It had a good, practical approach to actually help people figure out the best diet for them based on modern nutrition research.

The book was based on a show in which they did mini studies on certain research, so they included accounts of the small studies in the book; however, I think these studies were probably more suited to a TV show than a book. Most of the studies involved so few people that the results could not possibly be conclusive. I preferred to read about the real, published studies that actually made a difference.

However, this was still a good, fun book to read about food and nutrition.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Is it okay to be a snob?

I was on Facebook the other day and saw a couple of my friends commenting on a video featuring a lovely song that was arranged beautifully. My friends were commenting about how they disliked one of the singer's voices. I listened to the song and was annoyed at how snobbish they were being. I actually wrote a comment that said, "Have you guys ever thought about all the great things you're missing by being snobs?"

Thankfully, I took a moment before I published the (quite rude) comment to think about the hypocrisy of it.

I may not be a music snob, but I'm certainly a snob about other things. Especially when it comes to literature. I'm not super well-read by any means, but as an English major and a classics lover, I've started to let my love for (what I consider to be) the best literature drift over to snobbery about the average books.

So I started thinking: Is it a bad thing to be a literary snob? (I kind of think it is.) Are there levels of snobbery, and can I just be sort of a low-level snob? (Enter justification.) And perhaps most importantly: Am I missing out on great literature by being too much of a snob?

Part of me says no. After all, there are way too many good books in the world for me to ever read them all, so as long as I'm reading good books as often as I can (whether they're classics or not), then even if I am missing a lot of other good books, it's inevitable anyway. Right?

Richard III by William Shakespeare

I saw this play on the stage once, and that performance has never left my mind. It was performed on a completely empty stage, no sets whatsoever, which was surrounded on all four sides by the audience. It was absolutely amazing how the actors pulled it off, making every person in the room (well, me, at least) feel like Richard was talking DIRECTLY TO THEM.

We watched bits of a couple different film versions in my class, but even though they seemed to be masterfully done, there's just nothing that could compare to the King Richard I remember, staggering around on an empty stage, unfolding his horrible plots.

I really loved this play back then, and I still love it now, but one of the things I didn't get about it reading it this time around was all the women. They all hate Richard because they know what he did...or do they? I mean, how do they know? Do they just assume it was him because he's ugly? It's kind of hard to get mad at them when he really did do all those things, though. And then they end up conforming to his wishes, anyway, despite all their professed hatred. Why do they do this? Are they afraid of what he'll do? They don't seem very afraid when they yell at him and spit on him.

I kind of scared myself with how sympathetic I was to Richard as I read the play. I actually wanted him to win a little bit. I was actually sad when his friends didn't show up to help him fight. I almost wanted him to have a happily-ever-after...even though I knew it wasn't possible.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Lost City: Personal Essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Well, this book certainly took me long enough to finish. It wasn't boring, dense, or difficult; it just needed to be taken slowly, for me at least.

This book offered a nicely wide range of varieties of essays from dear Fitzgerald. Some were hilarious, some were a little more musing, but all of them gave the sense that Fitzgerald didn't take himself too seriously. That's really a great quality in a writer, in my opinion. So many of the great writers seemed to believe that, since they had great success, they now know All There Is To Know About Writing And Life. Fitzgerald definitely didn't come across that way; he made fun of himself in several essays. "How to Live on $36,000 a Year" was a funny one.

There were a few essays that I considered snooze-worthy, but in most cases it was just because I knew very little about the subject of the essay ("Princeton" is a prime example). There were a few interesting essays about his time period and his generation, which was also what Fitzgerald was so great at portraying in his fiction, but the ones that I loved the most were about himself.

Fitzgerald has such a great sarcasm, which is a quality I always love in a writer. I wish I could own this book, so that I could read an essay here and there, rather than trying to read through it like a novel (it was definitely a similar experience to what I had with his On Writing). But alas, it's a library book and I didn't have much other choice.

One little detail I loved about the book was that it had pictures of the original typewritten manuscripts, complete with Fitzgerald's handwritten edits, in the back of the book. I love how ruthless he was with his own writing, cutting out whole paragraphs, making edits to at least every other sentence. It's definitely something I'm still learning with my own writing.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

In the past, this play has not been my favorite Shakespeare. In fact, barring Titus Andronicus, it may very well have been my least favorite Shakespeare play.

But this time, I was enthralled from the beginning. It's been a few years since I'd read it, so I didn't remember all the details of Portia's caskets and, as my professor put it, the "marriage lottery." It was so much fun to read. Portia's conversations with Nerissa were delightful. And I thoroughly enjoyed the development of Shylock's character and his relationship to Antonio. Not only did I love trying to figure out if Shylock was a villain, I enjoyed trying to dissect Antonio as well. Is he really as good as everyone else makes him out to be?

And then there was Shylock's daughter, Jessica. Why did she run off with Lorenzo? Was it right of her to steal from her father? Does Shylock care more about the loss of his daughter, or his ducats? Or is it less of an "either/or" situation than the other characters perceive it to be.

Of course, this was all delightfully fascinating. And then we come to the court scene.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Has the first half of the year been worth it?!

I've been reviewing the books I've read so far this year recently, and I saw this meme over at She Is Too Fond of Books (meme was created elsewhere, but I was unable to find the specific meme) and I thought I'd give it a shot, just for fun. 

Number of Books Read: 25 (seems like hardly any, but it's right on track with my goal to read 50 books this year, so I'm going to try to stop comparing myself to all the other incredible bloggers and consider myself accomplished.) 

Number of Books Bought: I've bought 8 of my own free will, plus others that I was compelled to buy for my classes that I don't care to add up at this moment. :) 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

I've been familiar with this play for quite some time, and to be honest, it's kind of hard to muster up something to say about it. (That's really quite shocking when it comes to Shakespeare, I know...)

As always, Shakespeare is a master of comedy, and this play is no exception. I really enjoyed reading it again, since I haven't actually sat down to read it (rather than watch it on screen or stage) in at least a few years. This time, I found myself more interested in the relationship between Oberon and Titania. It always bothered me that Oberon got the boy (the changeling) in the end, and that Titania appeared to care so very little about the fact that he made her fall in love with an ass. (Pardon my language.) It seemed to me, if I were in a fight with my husband over something and he responded by mocking me in the cruelest possible way, I would be a lot MORE angry at him, not less. And yet, I find it funny...is there something wrong with me?

A lot of aspects of the play are really, if you think about them, not funny at all. Helena has so little self-confidence that she begs Demetrius to treat her like a dog. Hermia seems to be a little better, but the second she runs off with Lysander, all he wants is to get it on whether they're married or not, and she has a hard time keeping him off her. Demetrius is a fickle pig (did you know he was actually in love with Helena before chasing after Hermia? I never noticed that little detail before). Hermia and her father, Egeus, don't have a particularly good father-daughter relationship. Most of the characters have big problems, but Shakespeare manages to brush them off. And we actually go along with it.

I don't really know what to think about it. I guess this reading has raised a lot more questions for me than I've ever thought about in the past.

The next play we're reading is The Merchant of Venice, and I'm going to be honest: This is one of my least favorite of the Shakespeare plays I've read/seen. Why? I don't know. Most people love it (well, most people who love Shakespeare, that is). Maybe I just have a hard time getting around the whole anti-Semitic thing the entire play revolves around. Hah. I need some help getting motivated to read it--have you read it? What do you like about it?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Library Books Readathon Wrap-up

Well, this readathon has been fun. I approached it in a very relaxed way, because I was also starting a new term, but it did help me get reading done that I've wanted to do.

Books finished:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
On Writing by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Books read (but not finished):
My Lost City: Personal Essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It's been fun!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Readathon Update and F. Scott Fitzgerald's On Writing

The Library Books Readathon has been going great so far!

I made some good headway on Friday, then on Saturday morning I finished The Happiness Project. I spent the rest of the day generally avoiding the Fitzgerald books, since prior to that I had only been reading snippets at a time, and after The Happiness Project (a very quick and easy read), I wasn't sure I could handle that much wit, sarcasm, and irony all in one sitting.

But on Sunday, I finally got into them. I'm still working on the book of essays, but I easily finished On Writing, a slim little volume of collected quotes. Some were taken from essays I'd already read, so I had an opportunity to see them in and out of context.

On Writing, to be honest, was not quite as delightful as I expected it to be, and I think it's because Fitzgerald is just better in context. When I read the quotes as part of the essays, they were much funnier and more sarcastic; when taken apart, it seems like Fitzgerald is more serious than maybe he would have wanted to be. But then again, this is really a book I should have just kept by my bedside for a while, to pick up and read a few quotes every night; instead, I read it straight through like a novel. (Since it was a library book, I didn't have much other choice.) But there were some gems in it.

I'm still working on Fitzgerald's essays and I've made good progress, but I'm not sure I'll be able to finish them this week, since I also have a ton of school reading to do. I've been reading sonnets for my Shakespeare class, and I need to finish A Midsummer Night's Dream by Friday. Yikes! But thankfully I already know that play pretty well, so it shouldn't be too hard.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Books Read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

So far in 2013, I've read a whopping...24 books!! ...Okay, that's not very many, but may I add that I've also read at least 200 pages of anthologized, tiny-print short stories, poetry, and non-fiction for school? Not to mention I've been spending a lot of time on various other school reading. That should add at least five books worth of material. 

Anyway, here are my top ten out of those 24, from least favorite to most favorite (does that count as redundant?): 

10. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. This was a very interesting and refreshing non-fiction book looking at nutrition in a basic, fundamental way. 

9. The Paris Wife. This was such an interesting take on Ernest Hemingway's first wife. 

8. Great Expectations. I'm glad I finally read another Dickens! It was a good, thought-provoking classic. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I liked this book more than I thought I would. I kind of expected it to be a little more "spiritual," if you know what I mean. (Rubin made some references to that, herself, on occasion.) Instead, it was more organized and methodical, and made a lot of sense! (Not that I'm trying to say spirituality doesn't make sense, but it can be illogical, depending on how it's done.)

Anyway, I also really liked the concept. So much, in fact, that I decided to do a Happiness Project of my own! I'm going to keep a (very low-key) blog about it, which you can visit here, if you so desire.

But lest you start calling me Little Miss Pollyanna, I will say that although I loved the concept of the book, Rubin did occasionally bother me. Maybe it's because I was expecting the spiritual stuff, and instead I got constant waves of hard facts and evidence. Like, this book was the Niagara Falls of scientific evidence about happiness. And although it was often very interesting to learn what the studies said about happiness, there were occasions where I just couldn't help but start thinking threatening thoughts if I saw another sentence that started with "Studies show..." I guess I just feel like, although it can be interesting to learn about more ways to try to be happy, I'm not going to listen to some so-called "expert" tell me what's going to make me happy. Actually, I would consider myself the expert on my own happiness, thank you very much.

But Rubin herself admitted that the studies weren't always right and that ultimately she had to find her own way to happiness, so that was good. But it was just slightly annoying at times that she seemed so addicted to knowing (and sharing) what every single study has ever showed about happiness.

There were other things that annoyed me about Rubin (for instance, her compulsive list-keeping), but most of what I didn't like was just about her personality. I also couldn't help but be suspicious that she was just looking for the million-dollar book, and thought, "Everybody wants to be happy; why not write a book about  happiness? And of course, with the trend nowadays, I'll have to spend a year doing something..." But even though I'm still a little suspicious of her motives, I really do think she was sincere.

Annoyances aside, this was a lovely, inspiring book. I've been wanting to read it for quite some time, and I'm glad I finally did.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Howl" by Allen Ginsberg

I'm going to be honest. I've never had much of a desire to read "Howl." This aversion is linked to all kinds of things, involving weird community college teachers, documentaries watched involuntarily, and various other things which I won't bore you by explaining.

But I had to read it for class on Monday. This being BYU, my teacher gave a disclaimer in class, assuring us that we could skim over certain parts if we wanted to, but ended by saying "We're all adults, we can handle it." (In other words, if you skim over parts, you are probably a way-too-sheltered wuss.) Now, let me get this straight--I didn't anticipate having to skim over parts; my aversion to the poem has little to do with skittishness about the dreaded "sexual stuff" and "vulgar language." But somewhere deep down, I kind of said to myself, "Okay...here we go."

Well, I read the poem. And...seriously? It wasn't half as bad as people make it out to be. And when I say "bad," I mean the "sexual stuff" and "vulgar language" was hardly worth batting an eyelash (particularly when you consider that movies with one "F-bomb" and partial nudity are considered appropriate for 13-year-olds in this day and age). Not that I'm saying I would feel comfortable reading the poem aloud to third-graders or anything, but people really make "Howl" seem like X-rated poetry or literary porn.

The truth is, "Howl" is a really amazing poem. Do I consider it uplifting and inspiring? Would I quote bits of it in church? Erm, no. But contrary to what seems to be popular opinion (among members of my church, anyway), poetry's sole purpose is not always to uplift, inspire, and be fodder for church talks so you can make it all the way to 10 minutes of material. "Howl" is dark and absolutely awful, but also positively entrancing with its ugly beauty. (And its ugliness--not even the worst of it--does not all come from "sexual stuff" and "vulgar language.") Somehow, Ginsberg has managed to take all the worst language in English (and I'm not just talking about vulgarity, but words that are just ugly) and weave it in with some of the most beautiful, corrupting it all and making it all ugly together. That's a pretty amazing feat. Whether it's worthwhile could be debated, but it's amazing.

I don't have any deep insights to relate about "Howl." But I read it. And I lived to tell the tale.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Library Books Readathon Begins: Goals

Books I want to finish: 
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
My Lost City: Personal Essays and
On Writing by F. Scott Fitzgerald

After that, it's free game! 

After participating in two readathons and using different methods for each to track my progress, I've come up with a new way to do it. The first time, I wrote a post about my progress every single day. This was nice because it kept me accountable and I enjoyed writing my thoughts, but after a few days it just got a little stale, and it also kept me online more when I should have been reading. The second readathon (not too long ago), I tried doing what many bloggers do and just keeping a log on a single post of page numbers, what books I read, etc. This turned out to be way too hard for me, and what's more, I didn't want to write any other posts during that week because then my readathon post would keep going down the page until no one would ever see it, even though I kept updating it every day (well, I tried to). 

So this time, I'm going to continue blogging like normal (reviews, etc.) during the readathon, and I'll write a post sometime in the middle of the week to discuss my progress, and then a wrap-up post at the end. Hopefully, this will help me get the best of both worlds! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Library Books Readathon

So, after my mediocre performance in the last readathon, I need to prove myself with another one, right?


Starting tomorrow, I'll be participating in the Library Books Readathon hosted by Rachael at Rachael Turns Pages:

I am planning on reading my library books first: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and a couple of F. Scott Fitzgerald books I got out of the school library while I was writing a paper about his short story "Babylon Revisited." However, I'm already halfway through The Happiness Project and it might not take me that long to get through the others. And then, I might have other things to read for my classes that start on Monday. Depending on how things go, I might turn to some of the books I own (or just use it as an excuse to get more books out of the library...).

I'm looking forward to it!