Thursday, September 30, 2010

The party has officially begun again.

You know what I am totally psyched for? The rebirth of the World Reading Party! Jill over at Fizzy Thoughts partied too hard the night before (or was a party pooper…I opted for the nicer ‘party’ pun) and put the challenge up for grabs. And luckily, Suzi at packabook picked it up, tweaked it a little, and changed the schedule, giving me lots more time to plan my books and (maybe) actually read them! My participation the last go around included only one lonely title.

The NEW 2010–2011 World Reading Party:

November – Turkey
December – Greece
January – Iran
February – England
March – Ireland
April – Jamaica
May – Pakistan
June – Russia
July – Spain
August – Thailand
September – India

And I already have some ideas. Afghanistan: Three Cups of Tea. Already own it, but haven’t yet read it. Easy! Iran? Persepolis! Have needed to read that for a while now. England: gotta read some Georgette Heyer. And I’m really excited to discover Russia. I’m only bummed Palestine isn’t on the list, because I’ve been wanting to read Mornings in Jenin for a long time, and this would’ve given me motivation.

Idlewild, you will be seeing me soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Art of the Ideal Bookshelf

I stumbled upon these little gems during my daily interactions with the internet. Ideal Bookshelf is an ongoing project by artist Jane Mount in which she paints sets of books. There are cooking sets and Typography sets and children’s book sets…a set that can be really representative of the individual or just be someone’s favorites. You can even commission her to paint your favorite books through her Etsy site.

Very cool. I’d love to fill a reading nook with these paintings.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Napoleon Dynamite may be an inaccurate representation of Idaho

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I recently read Vestal McIntyre’s Lake Overturn thanks to an awesome recommendation from Erica at Harper Perennial. Apparently she is known in her office for loving this book. So in my mind, I said, a) this book had one fan who was so passionate for it that her name is associated with it, and b) it’s about middle-of-nowhere Idaho, and how often do I read or see things about Idaho? Certainly not very often.

Ooh, this was just the kind of novel I love. Lots of characters who lead very different lives but are all so well-developed that you know, and feel for, each of them intimately. They all overlap somewhat but are rarely substantial in each others’ stories. Kind of like Love Actually, where all the characters in the movie know each other somehow but have independent lives and stories.

Oh but Lake Overturn certainly isn’t like Love Actually in any other regard. Lake Overturn is a little dark and certainly somewhat serious. For all these people, ranging from middle school students to a bus driver to parents to an ex-con who wants to be a surrogate mother, Lake Overturn is sort of a coming-of-age story. They all grow and learn and experience. Some end up better off than others. And behind all these individuals and their stories, there’s the overarching theme of a student’s science project, which gives the novel its title. Partly metaphorical, partly fun science project mystery—it’s a very fitting title.

All in all,

I liked all of the characters. They all had faults, but they were all completely and astoundingly human.

My interest never waned, because the characters were so diverse in terms of age and situation. No main character was like another. Despite the lives of nine (or so) characters seeming like a lot to grasp, they all flowed together seamlessly, and it never seemed like too much. And I really knew enough about each of them to really care how they ended up.

This is a great literary work.  I mean great. I want more. Please write more, Mr. McIntyre.

This takes place in the mid-80s in Idaho, but I did not get a Napoleon Dynamite vibe. Lucky for the state of Idaho, I have more than just Napoleon Dynamite representing it in my knowledge base.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Listen to me on That’s How I Blog!

Did you know that I was last week’s guest on That’s How I Blog? If yes, kudos to you for being a frequent listener of Nicole’s awesome show. If no, don’t fret…I’m telling you about it now!

You can listen to our hour-long discussion about fountain Cokes, cats, and Harriet the Spy at this link.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Idlewild Discussion on why Palace Walk reads like a European romance novel

Last night’s Idlewild book club meeting was on the epic-ly long novel Palace Walk, which is part one of a literal epic—a three-parter titled The Cairo Trilogy for which author Naguib Mafouz won the Nobel Prize of Literature. The impression I get from this book is that some people find out amazing and some just find it “meh.”

Initially upon finishing, and during book discussion, I generally found it “meh.” Palace Walk focuses on one family living in Cairo before Egypt’s Independence from Britain in the early 1900s (around the time of World War I). The father is domineering; the mother is submissive; the daughters race to get married first; the older sons try to build their own lives while really just following the path of male stereotypes of the time; and then there’s little Kamal, the youngest, the most innocent, the ray of sunshine in an oppressive household (oppressive thanks completely to Papa Bear).

The book’s 500 pages tell little more than that. It’s simply a day-to-day portrait of ordinary individuals (or, as I’m guessing for the time, what would be middle- to upper-class individuals). The characters, with the exception of the eldest son, are all one-sided and completely stagnant in terms of growth or development. They each fit a stereotype. Al-Sayyid Ahmad, the father, is overbearing and harsh—the villain of the novel—but those are expected characteristics based on the historical setting. Likewise, the mother, like all other women in the story, have no role in society outside the home, as expected based on this society’s treatment and opinion of women 100 years ago. To me this seemed somewhat soap-operatic, somewhat a European character novel. It seemed so full of stereotype that I felt it lacked authenticity. I didn’t really learn anything about Egyptian society of 1917 beyond what I could have inferred from history lessons.


  • The father was the villain, but unlike Disney movie villains, we understood his mentality and his thought-processes. He wasn’t just “the villain.” Strict inside the home and lighthearted outside seemed to be his modus operandi. Points to the author for creating transparent characters. 
  • Kamal just never matured in two years. Not sure what that was supposed to represent. Think this was mentioned in discussion but was probably distracted by wine/pita chips.
  •  The daughters marry and become property of their husbands’ home, thus virtually eliminating them from this story of Al-Sayyid Ahmad’s household. Typical of society?
  • Why has this not been a BBC or Masterpiece Theater production? Much discussion of this during book club.
I’m not too motivated to read the other two in the trilogy until reading some basic bios on the author. His politics seemed to so highly influence his writing that I wonder if all I mentioned early about the style seeming European and full of stereotypes was his method of criticizing Egyptian culture. Knowing this historical context makes the writing somewhat more interesting. [Apparently Mahfouz was stabbed in the back (literally, not metaphorically!) in the 90s by a fundamentalist because of his support of Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. And he was 82 years old!] Maybe this story was more “shocking” in the 1950s when it was written (thought it wasn’t translated to English until the 80s), but it seems a little run-of-the-mill now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW: Unexpected Treasure

Today’s topic for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is to write about a book or genre you have tried thanks to the influence of another book blogger.

Well, hmm.
My reading tastes are scattered anyway, that it doesn’t take much to inspire me to read out of my comfort zone. This past year has probably been my most diverse, genre-wise, thanks partly to my “world-lit” book club and partly to a recent increased thirst for knowledge. Looking back on my ‘read’ list of 2010, there are a couple of things on there that were inspired by another blogger. After all, the number one thing book blogs give me are new recommendations!
Early in 2010, I was looking to try some graphic novels but didn’t really know where to start. I don’t like the fantasy/action stories that I’d always thought most graphic novels were, but then I read a review for Craig Thompson’s Blankets over on write meg! While I didn’t exactly agree with Meg’s opinions of the book, it did jumpstart my graphic novel kick. Since Blankets, I’ve read French Milk, Carnet de Voyage—both of which I enjoyed more than Blankets—and Fun Home, which is one of my favorite reads of the year.
Another series I started thanks to bloggers is Betsy-Tacy! Quite frankly, I was surprised I’d never heard of these in my childhood, but better late than never, right? I breezed through the first four back in July before getting bogged down with reading assignments. But have no fear, numbers five and six are patiently waiting on my shelf and next in my queue after I finish my current book club book. I also discovered that the Betsy-Tacy community is quite welcoming!
And most recently, I devoured Vestal McIntyre’s Lake Overturn, thanks to a raving recommendation from Erica at Harper Perennial. I love reading books about places I know little about or don’t experience in my day to day life, and when she described this one as taking place in small-town Idaho, I was immediately intrigued. That’s all it took, because Idaho…well, I have zero connection to that state and have no idea what it’s like. I loved it, and look for my comments on it next week.
Who else has had some fabulous finds thanks to blogger recommendations?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW: Meet Jenny!

This week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and in my inaugural post to join the festivities, I’m happy to introduce to you Jenny from Supernatural Snark! Jenny started her blog just this past June and already has quite a following. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with her, and she’s answered a few questions so we can all get to know her a little better.

Describe yourself in a sentence.

I’m a twenty-something girl who loves reading, graphic design, boxer dogs, and a well-developed sense of sarcasm.

Top three pet peeves?

  1. Being late without so much as a phone call. I can’t adequately express in words how much it drives me crazy when people are late and don’t call or even bother to apologize when they finally show up. Sometimes things happen and that’s understandable, but please call and let me know!
  2. Entitlement – having more money, a better job, better looks, etc. does not make you better than someone else. A little humility goes a long way.
  3. This is more of a personal one directed solely at my husband. He says “ribbit” (think frog) when he belches and it’s nauseating.

Who’s on the top of your list for a dinner date?

Hmmm. Are we talking real or fictional dinner dates? Real I’d have to say my husband. Or Gerard Butler. Or Hugh Jackman. One of those three for sure. Fictional I’d have to say Bones from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series.

What is your favorite language other than your native one?

Probably Spanish because that’s the one with which I’m most familiar after English, though I can read it far better than I can speak it.

Do you have any bad habits?

I would like to answer no, but that would most likely be a lie. My husband tells me I have a terrible habit of relocating things he needs. He says I lose them. I say I put them someplace that later eludes me. I like things to be neat and organized and he doesn’t mind putting things wherever, so I have a tendency to move his items in an effort to tidy up and I don’t always recall where I put them.

Are you a morning or night person?

Definitely night. I would much rather stay up late reading or working than waking up early to do those same things.

One place you could go and live forever and be perfectly happy.

I think I could be perfectly happy in Italy. It’s gorgeous and they have delicious food. I’m pretty sure I could live forever on pasta and gelato.

Are you a spring, summer, fall, or winter girl?

I’m a winter girl. I love snow. I’m always the person rooting for snow when everyone else is praying it stays away so they can drive to work in under an hour. Perhaps it’s because I work from home and therefore don’t have to go anywhere in the snow, but instead can stay warm inside and watch it come down. I have 2 dogs that adore it as well and it’s hilarious to watch them hop through huge snowdrifts.

Have any guilty pleasures?

Paranormal romance novels. I love them and I’m not embarrassed to read them in public. I see people give me the double take when they see the title or cover image, but I think they’re great reads.

Tell me your token “funny story”!

I think I’ve told everyone I’ve ever met this story in addition to posting it on my blog, but it always makes me laugh when I tell it:

My dogs and I are going on our daily walk down a neighboring street where a house recently had some severe fire damage and was under construction. The house is swarming with shirtless, sweaty construction workers and as I’m walking by a loud whistle rings out. I do a quick once over of myself and determine that I must be having a “pretty” day (aside from the bag of poo I’m holding. Poo is most definitely not sexy). Go me. Then I hear this:

“Wow, those are really beautiful dogs.”


Clearly, my self-assessment a minute earlier wasn’t entirely accurate, and I was not, in fact, having a “pretty” day. We continue on our walk and I get home and call my husband to fish for a compliment. Nothing fancy. Something along the lines of “I think you’re better looking than the dogs” will do. Instead, peals of laughter come through the phone. Apparently my husband thinks this is the funniest thing he’s heard, well, ever.

What’s your dream job? What’s your real job?

My dream job would be to work for Disney Pixar on their animated films. I adore those movies and think it would be a blast to watch the story come to life and know I had something to do with it.
My real job is graphic design. I primarily design wedding invitations and related stationery, but do the occasional corporate branding job (logo design, business card/brochure design).
Very Important!! Coke or Pepsi?


What book would you like to be a character in?

I would love to be a character in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices series. She does a beautiful job with her world building and her characters are full of humor and depth and I would love to meet any one of them.

Top 3 favorite books ever.

I’m going to have to alter this question slightly and do my favorite book series ever, because I don’t think I could narrow it down to just 3 books! I can barely limit it to 3 book series.

  1. The Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward
  2. The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
  3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

What are some of your interests OUTSIDE of books?

I’m a big movie buff. I actually went to school to study film and photography, so Hollywood has always been fascinating for me. I also used to ride horses when I was younger and did so competitively all through college, but haven’t been able to lately as much. Horses will always be a passion of mine though!

It’s such a relief to know that Jenny, too, prefers Coke over a Pepsi…makes her a winner in my book! Go check out her blog, Supernatural Snark, and welcome her to the book blogging community!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Conclusion: An Angsty Anthropology

Hilary Thayer Hamann’s Anthropology of an American Girl is one of those books you pick up and are like, “Whoa. This will be a challenge.” Because it’s 600 pages and hardbound…mega heavy and not small purse friendly.

But, it’s also the kind you start and hope will be a great, long ride. A chunkster by its very definition.

Eveline Auerbach is the “American Girl” of this novel—a high school student of the late 1970s. Hamann takes us through a handful of Eveline’s adolescent/young adult years as she finishes high school, attends NYU (shout out!), and, essentially, grows up in the pre-technological early 1980s.

I say Eveline “grows up” in this novel because she does. But it’s not that first foray into maturity that comes in your mid-teens…its that second big jump that doesn’t feel as monumental because it doesn’t come with a driver’s license or the ability to vote. This is the “growing up” that comes with emotional turbulence, when your little bubble bursts and the world suddenly seems bigger and scarier and everything seems more real, when you suddenly realize that you are living as part of the world and not just observing it. For Eveline, this came through her relationship with Rourke, a college age-ish guy who helped with the yearly high school drama production.

Eveline seems to me to be the kind of girl that claims to be soooooo misunderstood, that is, if she cared enough about herself to self-identify. She’s introspective and notices everything. For the span of the novel, it’s like she’s trying to find her own identity but finds it easier to just meld with the people around her. From the author’s tone, Eveline constantly sounds mopey. She seems depressed to the point where she’s just apathetic, rolling with life rather than actively living it. For this reason, I never really liked Eveline. It took her about 580 pages to stand up and participate in her life. She reminded me a lot of Noa Weber who just couldn’t get over a guy she was never really with. I never understood how Eveline’s life could be so affected by this relationship, because it was never described in great detail…or at least great enough detail that made me care and sympathize with her.

But oh, you know what was lovely? Hamann’s language. Her words cause you to gently drift through this novel.

“He wanted me to know he regretted using words on me so soon after using words on them and that the words reserved for me were different words” (p 176).

“Being in love is like leaning on a broken reed. It is to be precariously balanced, to teeter between the vertical and the horizontal. It’s like war: it’s to demand of one’s sensibilities the impossible—to expect paranoia to coexist with faith, chance with design, to enlist suspicion insensibly in certain regards and suppress it blindly in others” (p. 276).

“Maybe a deer has feelings, maybe the origin of a child is in the protoplasm; frankly, it’s impossible to know. And yet, people keep trying to assign logic to sensation and consciousness in beings and entities other than themselves” (p. 377).

Also, you know what else is cool? This novel was originally self-published and was more recently picked up by Random House. Sweet little success story there.

I did enjoy this one. Quite a lot. Despite not really liking Eveline, I wanted to know how it all turned out. A worthwhile chunkster.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A bit of absence…

It’s been a while because of….NEW BABY! Not mine, but my sister’s! I spent a long weekend in Nashville, arriving just in time for Andrew Luke at a whopping 10lb 13oz. Exciting beginning to what was a fabulous trip home.

I’m trying to hop back on the reading wagon, but between soccer training, nice weather, and trying to coordinate an apartment move, my time seems to fill up a lot faster.