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

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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

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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 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

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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 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

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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?