Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reading and Knitting

Since finishing up a particularly tough semester, I was all ready to dive into reading what I want to read. I started off with Lois Lowry's The Giver, since Dude had been at me to read it. He's on a post-apocalyptic fiction kick. I love that he wants me to read the books he loves so we can talk about them together.

The Giver is one of those books that brings home to me that he's not little anymore. The themes Lowry tackles in the book, particularly infanticide, really got to me. The story takes place in a controlled society that has done away with color, feeling and emotion, and individuality. Each year of a child's life comes with a group milestone - the Nines, for instance, all receive sweatshirts with zippers in the front; at one age (I think it may be Tens), they all receive bicycles. At Twelve, the kids are given their professions; Jonas, the main character, is chosen to be the Receiver, the one person in the society who's the repsitory for public memory. The Receiver alone gets the memories of emotion and times before The Change. The Giver in this case is the former Receiver, who looks forward to being "released" - which, we learn, is given a lethal injection. I can't recommend the book enough. Dude and I have been having conversations about it here and there and we're both blown away by it.

When we first started Family Book Group, I tried to make it a formal thing; I'd print stuff up online about our books and try to have a sit-down discussion, but it felt so forced. Now, after I read a book he suggests, we just start talking about it whenever we want to. Sometimes, it's a 2-minute conversation, sometimes we come back to it somewhere else at another time. It's more organic and it works for both of us.

Now, I'm reading another review book, The Confession of Katherine Howard, which is yet another historical fiction novel involving one of Henry VIII's wives (the other one that he beheaded). I used to live for these types of books, but this one is yet another version of Another Boleyn Girl. It's maddening how these things go. One book will define the genre and every other book is a play off of it. Look at Twilight, and all the teen vampire novels that have followed. It happened to Bridget Jones. Sigh.

Once I finish the Katherine Howard book, I promised Dude and Cutie that I'd read the newest Wimpy Kid book, The Ugly Truth. I've read all the others and loved them. They're hilarious and well done. Cutie started reading them this year and loves them.

Knitting, knitting, knitting. I'm going through another bout of knitting ennui. I was working on a sweater vest for myself that was going well until I decided to knit while sick and managed to screw something up somewhere. I started the long and drawn out unknitting process but lost patience. I have to get back to it, but right now, I'm just letting it langish. Cutie wants a pair of yellow mittens, which I started but see the one I'm working on looks HUGE. I have to rip it out and start on smaller needles. Again, just not into it. So it languishes. Maybe I'll start them today, since we have a long trip out to the Island facing us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wow. Two Posts in Two Days?

One of the many awesome things about having a laptop is that I can pretty much post anywhere at any time. It's not like I can open up the laptop and take a snapshot in the middle of the street yet, but hopefully once I get my new and improved cell phone, that will go far. So here I am, with everyone else in bed, blogging. Just like old times.

Thankfully, I seem to finally be getting over the bug that rocked me for about a week. Naturally, Mike's sick now; I hope he gets over it quicker than I did. We're supposed to be taking the kids to see the Radio City Music Christmas Spectacular tomorrow night, so I hope we can still go. The boys have been so excited.

I'm still recovering from this semester - it only ended on Sunday evening, and writing a final paper while feverish and sick really, really sucks. I would say it's not my best work, but I know I say that about almost everything I hand in. I hope my teacher thinks otherwise.

While I enjoyed the class and the material this semester, I did make a big discovery: I can like archives, but I just don't connect with it. I had initially been toying with splitting my specialization between archives and youth literacy, even weighing more heavily in archives, until this semester. I can talk books. I can talk kids' books. I connect on so many levels with books. But archives? This semester was a struggle all the way through, whether it was catching up with the reading or getting the simplest assignment committed to paper. I wasn't on fire and I had to fight to create every sentence. Which is helpful in that it showed me what NOT to do.

I decided to go to library school because I love books. Because helping develop my kids' love of reading made me love kids' books in a whole new way. I took a career detour of sorts years ago when I somehow got away from my original career plan - from the time I was 4 or 5 until I was about 12, I wanted to be a teacher or a librarian - so why am I going to do this to myself a second time? I'm not. Taking this archives class showed me more than ever that yes, I want to be involved in children's literacy. Next semester, I take a collection development class, which any librarian needs to have. I also have an historical research class down, which I thought of dropping; I do, however, need a research class and the class itself sounds interesting. So I'm going to stick with it. After these classes, I'm pretty sure that the rest of my electives will be in children's literacy, perhaps with one or two Web classes to round me out.

Having that direction in place has given me a tremendous sense of relief and peace. Something in my crazy life is settled.

I've been knitting away, but naturally, being sick and knitting equals huge mistakes. Luckily it's a stockinette piece so aside from having to negotiate the ripping back of a few armhole decreases, I should be fine. Grr, regardless.

More tomorrow on books. I should probably get a good night's sleep since I'll be back at work after three missed days. Zoinks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Decade, Same Me

Wow. I'm 40 today. Rather, in a little less than an hour, I will be (it's currently 10:21 a.m. I was born at 11:17 a.m.). It's an interesting feeling.

I remember turning 29 and sobbing for an entire year in the awful anticipation of turning 30. As it turns out, my 30s were some of the best years of my life this far. I became the person I was supposed to be, and it turns out, I actually like that person. My teens and 20s were spent trying to figure out who I was, so having the guesswork taken out of that was really relieving. I figured out how to be the best Mom I was capable of being; I worked at being a better wife and daughter, and I really found out who my friends are versus who the very cool acquaintances that I enjoy having around are.

I finally decided, in my late 30s, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Turns out, it's one of the career choices I'd made for myself when I was 6. Sometimes, we really DO have the answer when we're that young. I could have saved myself a lot of angst, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Today, I'm home sick and woke up really cranky and irritable. What a way to turn 40, right? Feeling all Emily Dickinson-comsumptive and weepy. Not the greatest way to kick off my next decade, so I'm not. I'm surrounded by family and friends that I love, I've just finished one of the toughest semesters in grad school that I've had so far, and I got a shiny Tron light cycle and a Dwight Schrute bobblehead for my birthday. And a fabulous new laptop. Now THAT'S a way to turn 40.

So I'm going to enjoy this, a forced day off of sorts, and crack open an actual book that I've been waiting to read. Today is a day to be enjoyed. And who knows? Maybe having this laptop will guarantee that I find my way back to the blogosphere a little more often now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Okay, so "tomorrow" as a term is relative in my world. Here's the other half of the meme:

Favorite cookbook?
Miracle Muffins (sadly, out of print) has some of the best muffin recipes on the planet. True story.

Most inspirational book you've read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Does Zombie Haiku count? Hey, it's inspirational to see someone lucid enough to not only write, but write in haiku, as he transforms into a zombie. You try it, then judge.

Favorite reading snack?
I'll say popcorn, but ultimately, what goes better with a book than a nice cup of coffee (or another hot beverage of your choice)?

Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I'll give you two: The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. They were such letdowns.

How often do you agree with critics about a book?
It's hit and miss; critics tend to dismiss my favored genre(s), science fiction and fantasy, as so much fluff. Sometimes, it's deserved, other times, they're so far off the mark I have to wonder if they've even read the book. On the other hand, critics tend to go berserk over so-called literary fiction that has left me wanting to bang my head against a wall repeatedly.

How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I've gotten a lot better at it, but I'd like to think I provide solid reasons. I also make sure that peole know it's MY point of view, not a sweeping generalization. Reading is a subjective experience; what one person enjoys, another doesn't like. Someone put (we would hope) a lot of their time and passion into their pages, before tearing it down, I'd better have damned good reason to.

If you could read in a foreign language, what language would you choose?
Elvish. Oh, okay, killjoy. French or German.

Most intimidating book you've ever read?
Aside from some college textbooks, I'll say The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I've read it twice - once when I was a preteen, just to say I did; next, when the movies came out to see if I actually could retain anything other than "the Silmarils are pretty jewels and the Balrog is badass".

Most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin?
At the moment, anything involving metadata.

Favorite poet?
Shel Silverstein.

How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
If I'm talking about books for me, probably 2-3, depending on my class syllabus. If we're talking Cutie Pie, I've shambled home with 15 books, at least. And yes, I am counting them as books I read - he reads them to me or I read them to him.

How often have you returned a book to the library unread?
A few, less often now.

Favorite fictional character?
I refuse to pick just one. Since this is a book meme, I'll just deal in the written word. Gandalf and Aragorn vie for the number one spot; Neil Gaiman's Morpheus rounds out the top three. Andalthough I didn't like the book she had on her own, Polgara the Sorceress (from the Belgariad and the Mallorean) kicks serious booty.

Favorite fictional villian?
Now we're talking. Saruman of Many Colors. Professor Moriarty. Bellatrix.

Books I'm most likely to bring on vacation?
Something light and fun, probably a Doctor Who novel. Or I'll bring something that will keep me up nights, like Stephen King's The Cell.

The longest I've gone without reading.
I think I could probably get two days in before I get the DTs.

Name a book that you would/could not finish.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Sorry, Jane fans, I couldn't even get through the Cliff's Notes. Ask Sister Peggy Linane over at Saint Agnes, she'll back me up. Also? The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. No. Can. Do.

What distracts you easily while you're reading?
"Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?"
"Wanna know what Dude/Cutie did/said to me?"
"Roe, can you help me a second?

Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
The first one of that comes to mind is The Lord of the Rings. Come on, it doesn't matter that Tom Bombadil wasn't in it, for crying out loud. Return of the Living Dead was pretty nifty. It's a short story, but Something Wicked This Way Comes was pretty great, too.

Most disappointing film adaptation?
There are so many. Right now, I can think of The Lightning Thief. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, but then again, I couldn't stand the book either.

The most money I've ever spent in a bookstore at one time?
Before children and rent, when I had disposable income, Mike and I would do some damage in Barnes & Noble. Easily over a hundred bucks, I'm sure. But now I work in publishing and try to get my stuff for free/cheap.

How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Every time.

What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?
Complete lack of interest or if something really bothers me about it.

Do you like to keep your books organized?
I'd like to, but considering the amount of space and the number of books we've got, it's not happening any time soon.

Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you've read them?
I read an article on organizing once, and adopted this advice: Think of a book like an old friend you see one day and have coffee with. If you can imagine visiting with this friend again, keep the book. If it was a nice enough time for you both, but will live just fine with the memory of that chat, let it go.

Are there any books you've been avoiding?
Not lately.

Name a book that made you angry.
The Boy from Baby House 10 by Alan Philps - when I read about the conditions that babies lived in at Russian orphanages, I was upset, appalled, and ultimately just wanted to punch something. Ditto for Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur. When I learned about factory farming and how most food arrives at my plate, I wanted to cut all animal products out of my diet. Now, it just fueled me to find better ways to eat. No living creature deserves to live in those conditions.

A book you didn't expect to like but did?
Hmm... have to get back to you on that one.

A book you expected to like but didn't?
Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter. What a bill of goods that one was.

Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Anything Neil Gaiman, a Doctor Who or Torchwood novel, or late '90s chick lit, preferably from the UK, before the US hype machine killed the genre.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Okay, so while I try to narrow down what I'm going to be writing about, I decided to take the easy way out and start with a book meme, courtesy of Booking Through Thursday. Feel free to copy and write up your own. If you do, leave me a link so I can visit!

1. Favorite childhood book?
Easy one - Grover and the Monster at the End of the Book. Mom would read it to me and over and, and obliged me by adopting Grover's voice (which I'm sure was hell on her vocal cords - thanks, Mom). Years ago, Karen bought me a copy of the book when we were talking about our favorite books and I lamented its loss. I loaned it to my children when they were babies, but it's back on my shelf now.

2. What are you reading right now?
Believe it or not, I blogged about this book almost two years ago, and I'm still inching through it: Mary, a fictional autobiography of Mary Todd Lincoln, by Janice Cooke Newman.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
With school not in session yet, none. I've been trying to request a book for Will, but the OPAC is giving me a hard time (Library-school talk: OPAC, or Online Public Access Catalog, is the library system's online card catalog) with the request.

4. Bad book habit?
Really, is any reading at all bad?

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
A back-breaking number of children's books.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I like reading one at a time, but sometimes I get schizo and will go after two. I don't count school reading here, though.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not really, I was a sci-fi nerd then, am now.

9. Least favorite book you've read this year (so far)?
Ugh, where do I begin? I'll say Palo Alto by James Franco; I had to write a reader report on it. It was awful.

10. Favorite book you've read this year (so far)?
Ooh... that's a tough one. Let me say it's a toss-up between The Lightning Thief and The Graveyard Book.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Pretty often; I review books for book clubs.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Sci-fi and fantasy.

13. Can you read on the bus?
I used to be able to, but now I get horribly car sick.

14. Favorite place to read?
Where almost everyone else's favorite place is - sprawled out on my living room couch.

15. What is your policy on book-lending?
I'm fairly rough these days, I've lost too many. Only to people I can trust to take care of my books, and I'd really like to get it back in a somewhat reasonable amount of time.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Only if there's some pressing reason, and never a hardcover.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

18. Not even with text books?
Okay. Sometimes.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English, although Klingon amuses me.

20. What makes you love a book?
Make me feel something - even the most deplorable villain, if he gets an visceral reaction from me, can make the book. Don't bore me. Have characters that come alive and for crying out loud, don't overwrite. The fifth Harry Potter book drove me up a wall; the last 150 pages could have been the entire book.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
See above.

22. Favorite genre?
See the bit about my comfort zone.

23. Genre you rarely read but wish you did?
Hmmm... I can't realy say that there's a genre I don't read that I wish I did.

24. Favorite biography?
I enjoyed Mick Foley's Have a Nice Day.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Yup. Not one of those touchy-feely things, I read stuff like Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life and Organizing From the Inside Out in my neverending quest to get my crap until control. And wellness books. That kind of stuff.

Okay, this meme has 50 questions, so more to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hi, Remember Me?

I don't blame you if you don't, it's been quite a while. For a while, I just decided I was going to leave my little corner of cyberspace - not for any real reason, mind you - since everyone seems to be on Facebook. Why not just microblog via my status and post links? Then, I missed putting up longer trains of thought. But there was that whole lazy thing. But Linda over at Coffee & Danish started blogging again, and it served as a kick in the rear for me. So here I am. As for where I'll go, who knows? I invite you along for the ride.