Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Present Goes to . . .

To celebrate the one year birthday of my blog, I wanted to give a present to one of the sweet people who frequent my blog and cheer me with their comments. On the one year anniversary of my blog I sponsored a drawing. And the winner is . . .

Lover of Books

Congratulations. I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did. If you will click on my profile and then on my email and send me your snail mail address I'll get this book in the mail.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Classics Challenge Update

I have finally decided on prizes. It would be wonderful if all could receive a prize, but alas, I am not the richest person in the world. Hopefully, the biggest prize will be the joy of reading 5 classics. I know that's one of my rewards. I will draw for prizes on Sunday, March 4. That gives a few days to get your reviews written.

First prize
A copy of The Illustrated Jane Eyre.
Illustrated by Dame Darcy. I have to say that I don't love most of Dame Darcy's artwork, but I do like the art in this book.

Second prize
A miniature sheet of British Jane Eyre postage stamps. These stamps were issued on the 150th death anniversary of Charlotte Bronte who died in March 1855.

I know these two prizes are both based on only one author and only one classic. My excuse - Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and I was able to find 2 interesting prizes connected to it. I hope those who win them will appreciate them.

Third Prize
A key ring I bought when visiting the Manse (home of Ralph Waldo Emerson) in Concord, Massachusetts during the summer of 2001. It's a little silver book with Emerson's name engraved on the front. This quote by Emerson is engraved on the back: "...A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature."

Fourth and Fifth Prizes
One of my favorite 'Last Line' bookmarks. I first found these bookmarks at Books A Million while visiting my daughter in Texas. I have tried to find them online, but with no success. Also, some book darts. 'Last Line' and book darts are two of my favorite book tools. If you are wanting to buy book darts they are carried by lots of stores, but I suggest buying them from the source which is located in Hood River, Oregon. These people send out the product very quickly and usually include a few extras. Two names will be drawn for prizes 4 and 5.

These people have already finished the classics challenge. I'm not one of them! I still have 1 more to go. I'm determined to finish, though. It's most unfortunate that Feb is a short month because I could use the extra days. Speaking of days - there are only 7 days left to finish the challenge.

(((((APPLAUSE for those who have finished)))))
3M - 3M's Challenges
Alyson - Fifty Books
Bellezza - Dolce Bellezza
Bookfool - Bookfoolery and Babble
Bookish Lore - Literary Craving
Booklogged - That's me!
Brandie - A Journey of 1000 Stitches
Caligula03 - Puss Reboots
DJ - Minute Marginalia
Eva - A Striped Armchair
Framed - Framed and Booked
Heidijane - Adventures in Bookland
Henk - Masterpieces
Janet - Joyful Jottings
Joy - Thoughts of Joy
Literary Feline - Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Lotus - Lotus Reads
Mary - Mary's Library
Melanie - The Indextrious Reader
Nessie - The Biblio Files
Orange Blossom - The Library Ladder
Paula - On a Rainy Night
Raidergirl - Book of Books
Rjam - Links and Things
Sarala - Blogaway
Sfp - Pages Turned
Susan - My Reading Adventures
SuzieQoregon - Blogging My Books
Tony - Storyteller's World
Wendy - Caribousmom

Those who have finished 4 classics will also be included in the drawing for the bookmark and bookdarts. So if you have read 4 classics, please leave a comment. People who have read 5 will be included in all drawings.

As you finish your five books please add your name in the comments. Or if you are finished and I haven't already added you to the list of those who have completed, please make a comment.

It's been lots of fun sponsoring this challenge. I was overwhelmed by how many joined. I'm considering hosting this challenge again next year, but I don't think it will be in Jan & Feb. I need to read suspenseful and cozy mysteries during the winter. It was extremely hard for me to face up to a classic this time of year. Did anyone else have that same problem? I do know that I wouldn't have read 5 classics without the challenge egging me on.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Am the Messenger

by Markus Zusak
This is the same author that wrote The Book Thief. I think he is awesome. I'm so glad he's young (looks 19, but is actually 30!) so that we can look forward to lots more books. I loved both of these books even though they are as different as night and day. The only comparisons are the ingenious plot and the beautiful writing.

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That's when the first ace arrives in the mail. That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

I've read several comments that people had a hard time 'getting into' The Book Thief. I didn't, but I did have a bit of trouble 'getting into' this one. I was hooked by page 60, though. I wasn't sure I would ever really care about this 19-year-old boy and his looser-like friends. There was the mystery of who sent the ace and what the mystery meant that kept me reading. And, of course, by the end of the book I cared deeply for Ed and his friends.

A few passages that caught at my heart*:
When her hands reached out and poured the tea, it was as if she also poured something into me while I sat there sweating in my cab. It was like she held a string and pulled on it just slight to open me up. She got in, put a piece of herself inside me, and left again.

One quick question. "Who sent you?" Once in the air, my question loses its pace. The words float . . .

I know that all of this will stay with me forever. . . . things just keep going as long as memory can wield its ax, always finding a soft part in your mind to cut through and enter.

It's the person, not the place. If you left here, you'd have been the same anywhere else. If I ever leave this place - I'll make sure I'm better here first."

*These are parts of the book that I want to read again. I realize they may not make any sense to anyone who hasn't read the book, but for some reason they said something to me.

I Am the Messenger is a 2006 Prinz Honor Book.

Celebrate Freedom by Reading a Banned Book

Here are some terrific sites where you can learn more about banned or challenged books.

Fahrenheit 451: Banned Books - Elaine Anderson, who works at the Pelham Public Library in Ontario, Canada hosts this blog which discusses banned books. She has some fun posters you can add to your site, such as the one at the bottom. At the top of her sidebar you can join the Banned Book Challenge, which is to read as many banned or challenged books as you wish between Feb 26 and June 30, 2007. I know we are all about challenged out, but this is one I can't pass up. I think I can readjust some of the books in my other challenges to work in with this one.

The Freedom to Read - This is a Canadian site that offers clip art, posters and suggestions for participating in the freedom of reading.

The Forbidden Library - This site is in conjunction with and lists banned and challenged books by alphabetically by title or by author. A great source to pick books from for the Banned Book Challenge. It also provides Censorship quotes like this one: "The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion..."
-- Henry Steel Commager

ALA - American Library Association sponsors their banned book week in Sept. It has a section on Intellectual Freedom, posters, etc.

100 Most Frequently Challenged Books (1990-2000) - A list put together by ALA.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Alice - Through the Looking Glass

by Lewis Carroll
I finished my last classics challenge book! Yeehaw! Whippee! I mean to tell you I had a hard time reading classics - five in a row - during Jan and Feb. If we do this challenge again it cannot be during Jan. I just wanted to snuggle up with some cozy mysteries and had to keep denying myself. It was horrible!

I did like Through the Looking Glass much better than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Part of that might be because I actually sat down and read TLG in chunks. Wonderland I read a page or two at a time. I even have some favorite parts from the Looking Glass.

I enjoyed the conversation, if you can call it that, between Alice and Humpty Dumpy. My favorite part of the book was Alice's encounter with the White Knight. I read Gardner's Annotated Alice and there were lots of helpful comments.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Blogging Anniversary

Today is my blog-iversary. It's been one year since I started my blog and I want to celebrate by giving away a book. Sometime during the year I read and enjoyed The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. I would like to pass it along so someone else can enjoy it as well. If you will leave your name in the comments, I will hold a drawing on Feb 28 at noon and announce the winner that afternoon.

The Illuminator is a historical fiction that takes place in the late 14th century. A master illuminator has two secrets that lead both himself and his beloved daughter into ever-increasing peril.

My first blog was titled Books I Would Like to ReRead. There were 2 comments, which I appreciated very much because I didn't think anyone would bother reading my blog. I started blogging to keep a record of the books I'd read, along with a brief synopsis to remind me what they were about. I had kept a written journal before but thought it would be quicker and easier to type, especially with those books that I had a lot of passages I wanted to keep track off.

Little did I realize that blogging would introduce me to book bloggers from all over the world who would share wonderful book suggestions and friendship. It's been a delightful year filled with sweet memories. Thank-you all!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gone With the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

I read Gone With the Wind for my 4th book in the classics challenge , my 2nd Chunkster challenge book and for my 3rd TBR challenge. It makes me feel much better about reading this book that I can kill 3 birds with one stone.

The size was daunting, but it was the racial slurs that made this book so hard to read. I understand that this was realistic for the 1860's and, probably even for the 1930's when this book was written, but to read these derogatory terms today assaults my sensitivities. It was interesting to learn there was a class of whites, just above the po' white trash, that were called Crackers (with a capital C). I don't know why but I thought that was a more current term.

I found that I really did not like Scarlett, Rhett or Ashley in the book, whereas I did like them in the movie. Scarlet was so selfish and self-centered. Every action and every decision was made based on what she would get in return. Even when she appeared to be doing something nice, there was ulterior motives. I found myself forgiving Rhett some of his 'rascalness' towards the end of the book. Or maybe what I really felt at the end of the book was pity for everyone, except maybe Melanie, who I felt sad for because of the happiness she might have had if it were not for Scarlet and Ashley.

Gone With the Wind was the only book Margaret Mitchell wrote. It was published in 1936, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and was made into a movie in 1939. Mitchell's work relates the story of a rebellious Georgia Southern belle named Scarlett O'Hara and her experiences with friends, family, lovers, and enemies in the South during the antebellum period, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction era.

I'm glad that I finally did read this classic in American literature, but I will not be joining the ranks of those who reread it. I thought it was a splendid work, but it is so terribly tragic.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Completed Classics

When you finish reading one of your classic selections, leave a comment letting us know what you've read.

If you want to see who's reading what classics click here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Madame Bovary

by Gustave Flaubert
The only thing I knew about this book before reading it was that it was about a French woman who had an affair. It's a tragic tale, really, of a beautiful, young woman who is an incurable romantic, swayed in her ideas by novels of love and adventure. Emma Bovary yearned for adventure. She was bored with the dullness of day-to-day existence. She longed for the pampered life of an aristocrat, but the reader knows that even that would not have made her happy. Emma would soon tire of anything that became routine. I think Madame Bovary suffered from bipolar disorder in addition to dreaming of the unattainable.

I can see why this is a considered a classic. I think there are times in any married woman's life that she could relate to Madame Bovary, when we look across the room and study the man we married with contempt. Unlike Emma's husband, I suspect most husbands occasionally look at their wife in a similar way. Emma never learned to look at the good things in her husband and her life. She was always unsatisfied, because she was always selfish and self-centered.

I probably would not have read this book if Lotus Reads had not suggested it. Thank-you, Lotus. I enjoyed it. I think it is interesting to note that all three classics I've read so far were published in 1850-1860's, and yet are so different.

A few passages I liked.
The less Charles (Emma's husband) understood these elegant whims, the more they captivated him. They added something to the pleasure of his senses and the charm of his home. They were like a layer of golden dust sprinkled over the narrow path of his life. It's interesting to note this passage after finishing the book. I can see the foreshadowing of Charles's granting Emma's outlandish desires even though they later get out of hand. When I first read this passage I thought what a delightful way to appreciate charming things in life.

A man, at least, is free; he can explore the whole range of the passions, go wherever he likes, overcome obstacles, savor the most exotic pleasures. But a woman is constantly thwarted. Inert and pliable, she is restricted by her physical weakness and her legal subjection. Her will, like the veil tied to her hat with a cord, quivers with every wind; there is always some desire urging her forward, always convention holding her back.

She was exasperated by Charles's apparent unawareness of her ordeal. His conviction that he was making her happy seemed to her an idiotic insult, and his placid confidence about it struck her as ingratitude. For whom was she being virtuous? Was he not the obstacle to any kind of happiness, the cause of all her miser, the sharp-pointed tongue in the buckle of the strap that wound around her, binding her on all sides.

This is how they wished they had been: each was creating an ideal into which he was now fitting his past life. Speech is a rolling mill which always stretches out the feelings that go into it.

Why did everything she leaned on instantly crumble into dust? . . . But if somewhere there existed a strong, handsome man with a valorous, passionate and refined nature, a poet's soul in the form of an angel, a lyre with strings of bronze intoning elegiac nuptial songs to the heavens, why was it not possible that she might meet him some day? No, it would never happen: Besides, nothing was worth seeking - everything was a lie! Each smile hid a yawn of boredom, each joy a curse, each pleasure its own disgust; and the sweetest kisses only left on one's lips a hopeless longing for a higher ecstasy.
Doesn't Flaubert write beautiful. He captures the longing, the aches of an insatiable appetite so well. Haven't we all felt that same pain? Rereading these passages has increased my respect for Flaubert's writing and the beauty of this book.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Alice in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll
This is my second classics read. I was reminded of Dr. Seuss as I read this nonsensical work of genius. I didn't understand very much even though I read the Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner. It did help to know that most of the poems mentioned were based on songs or poems familiar at the time of Carroll. I suspect the Liddell children were entertained by Carroll's silliness much the same as modern-day children enjoy Dr. Seuss.

I have read some of the introductory materials in the book, but I want to do more research on this man and his works. I feel like I would gain more from this book if I was taking a college class on Carroll.