Monday, April 26, 2010

The Three Musketeers

It's time to welcome The Classics Circuit back to my blog! This time we have Alexandre Dumas joining us. The first thing I have to say about The Three Musketeers is that it was actually a really easy read. The language wasn't difficult and there's a lot of action. But although I definitely enjoyed it and didn't get bored, I found myself reading really, really slowly. I'm not sure why that was. I think part of it might be that there was so much going on, and so many characters, that I read very carefully and that slowed me down. Not that I don't normally read carefully, but there's usually not that much to keep track off, and I had to keep making sure I kept Athos, Porthos, and Aramis straight. I adored D'Artagnon though (Although it kept making me think of this guy I went to high school with who was named after him - D'Artagnon Everett Dean Burns. It goes from French to hick real fast when you say that with a southern accent!)
I really enjoyed the adventures though, and I was surprised at some of the killings and stabbings that the musketeers and D'Artagnon jumped at every chance to start. There was also a reference to lesbians that surprised me!
I loved Don Quixote, and I was kind of hoping that The Three Musketeers would be somewhat similar, although with a stronger hero of course. So I thought it was awesome that Dumas refers to Don Quixote on the first page! I think that set me up to really enjoy the book, and take it for the fun, frothy, adventurous story that it is. I think that more English teachers should use this book, although it is really long. But I think it would interest more boys in reading since it's so clearly a boy book, while still be entertaining to the girls. It's also an accessible classic, although a post Jenny made over at Shelf Love made me wonder about that.
Jenny wrote a post about translations, and whether translators should modernize the language or stick closely to the original and what liberties they can take with the overall style. I've thought about translations before when reading Greek or Russian literature, but her post made me realize I've never once thought about that with French works! I think I just assumed that they wrote in English! I have no idea why I had never thought of that before, especially because I love Voltaire and I just read Zola and was reading Dumas. So I picked up my Oxford World's Classics edition of The Three Musketeers, and noticed that the translator is barely acknowledged. With the Greeks, it's usually plastered all over the place, probably because the translator also wrote the intro. But here it was buried in the last part of the introduction. William Barrow translated it in 1846, so I'm impressed the language was still very easy to read, although I do read a lot of Dickens who wrote at the same time so maybe I'm biased on that. According to Wikipedia, Barrow is pretty faithful to the original, except he toned down the sexuality to conform with Victorian standards. I'm surprised that lesbian reference still worked it's way in! But apparently the D'Artagnon and Milady scenes were a bit steamier in the original French. Although the Barrows translation was the standard for years, now a version by Richard Pevear in 2006 is considered standard, and he believes that the Barrows edition is an example of bad translation screwing up the author's work. So, if you'd like the steamier, more recent edition, check out the Pevear one. Maybe someday I'll read it to and see which was better. Anyway, thank you to Jenny for making me think more about translations!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Graveyard Book

The blogosphere is a bit obsessed with Neil Gaiman. I've read so many glowing reviews, and although I haven't seen Coraline, it looks like it has a Tim Burton-esque feel, which I love. So, I decided to read The Graveyard Book and expected to love it. And I did end up enjoying it, but something was just a bit off for me. Maybe it was just timing. I've been stressed at work, am preparing to be out of the office for nearly two weeks, am dealing with learning I have termites in my house (which are extremely common in Oklahoma and the surrounding states, but is still disturbing, and extremely expensive to get rid off), and having plumbing issues in our master bathroom. So I was a bit distracted.

There was a lot to like about the book. The writing is beautiful. You can tell Gaiman works at carefully crafting each sentence. It has an interesting plot, with a mystery to solve. It had a unique story. And I love books like Harry Potter and the Series of Unfortunate Events series.

And yet, every time I set the book down, I had to force myself to pick it back up. While reading, I would be interested in what happens next, but if I took a break I would completely stop caring, and it felt like a chore to pick it back up again. So my reading experience fell a little short of my expectations. Again, that may have more to do with my week than the book though.

Since I was hoping Gaiman would give me a Harry Potter-like fix and didn't, does anyone have any book recommendations to help feel that void?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

4-for-1 Update

Whew! I guess after the readathon last weekend I decided to take a mini blogging break. I did read a few books last week, but then my husband and I took a long weekend trip up to Tulsa this weekend so I'm trying to play catch up now. The trip to Tulsa was fun. We stayed at a cute little boutique hotel, went shopping, went to a museum and to an aquarium, and had a lot of fun at Dave and Busters. Between that and the NHL playoffs starting though, other things have fallen by the wayside a bit. So I'm going to do a quick update on the books I read last week and call it good!

First up is Big Boned by Meg Cabot. I actually finished this during the readathon. I've written about Cabot's books before and don't really have anything new to say. I really enjoy them, and they always make me laugh. This one is a sequel to Size 12 Isn't Fat, which I read last year. It features former pop star Heather Wells, who currently works in a college dorm, solving a mystery. It's a fun, light-hearted read.

Next up is Club Dead by Charlaine Harris. I have enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse books so far, but this one ended on a really sour note and I'm pretty sure I won't continue reading these. At the end of the book, Bill rapes Sookie after he's been tortured and is out of it and doesn't realize it's her. Now, I get that they're showing him as a vampire, a "real" vampire, not a "sparkly" one, but I expected to see Sookie having to see if she can get past it and try to deal with it. Instead, it's glossed over, and she breaks up with him because he was cheating on her, with no mention of the rape. She's never shown dealing with it in anyway. Now, maybe she does that in the next book, but it would be logical for her to at least reflect on it briefly in this one when she decides to call it quits with him. Perhaps I'm overreacting, but it just bothered me and I don't think I want to keep investing in reading these if I'm going to hold that against Sookie for the rest of the series.

The next book I read was We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. The only thing by Jackson that I had read before was The Lottery. I enjoyed the story of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and I read it very quickly to find out what happened next, which is a good sign. But, I didn't really like something about the writing style. Maybe it's just that I'm not used to reading short books, but it seemed somewhat unfinished. Not the ending, but the writing throughout. For example, I was unclear on the main characters ages until fairly late in the book. And just the details overall seemed fuzzy, like Jackson wrote an outline and then just filled in sentences and left it at that. That kept bothering me, although like I said I still read it quickly and wanted to know what happened, so I still enjoyed it.

And finally, I read Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin. I was excited the main character was from Pittsburgh, where my favorite hockey team is from! And then much of the rest of it is set in NYC, where I'm going in a few weeks, and some is set in Atlanta, specifically in Buckhead, where I've gone for conferences before, so it was fun to idetify with all of the settings. I've loved all of Giffin's books, and this was no exception. It explores what happens when the one who got away comes back into your life a few months into your marriage. Giffin did a great job of showing that situation without making the main character seem stupid or evil. Ellen remains likeable throughout the book, and it's not a clear choice between the two guys either, making the anticipation over her decision that much better. And the description of life in Buckhead cracked me up. When I was there for a conference, there was a wedding shower at the hotel I staying at. I said a wedding shower, not a wedding mind you. All of the guests arrived in formals! I'm talking full-out tuxes for the guys, formal long evening gowns for the girls. In the middle of the afternoon. For a wedding shower. I hate to think about what the actual wedding was like! And there were at least 150 people there. It was completely insane. I've never even been to a wedding that formal, much less a shower! I kept reliving that over and over again as she described Buckhead society. Now, I like Atlanta, don't get me wrong, and clearly not everyone there lives in that manner, but that aspect is clearly there. I definitely recommend this book as a fun read! On a side note, I saw that Giffin's books Something Borrowed and Something Blue are being made into a movi starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, and John Krasinski. I'm so excited! I like those actresses, and I loved Colin when he was on All My Children, and I'm excited he got a lead role in such a big movie! And he's definitely easy on the eyes and it would be easy to see how two women end up fighting over him.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Most Hated Mini-Challenge!

Hello! Welcome to the Most Hated Mini-Challenge! No, it's not the mini-challenge that you hate the most, but one about your most hated characters. I figured by this time in the readathon, if you're actually still awake and participating, you're probably hating the readathon right now. And the organizers. And those perky cheerleaders. And yourself for signing up. So, let's channel that into hating a fictional character, then you can get back to remembering why you signed up - to read!

Here's what you need to do. Create a post on your blog about your most hated character from a book. Maybe they're evil, maybe they're just annoying, or maybe they remind you of your ex. Whatever the reason, just pick someone and then write a post that shares who they are, what book they're from and the author, and why you hate them. Then come back here and sign and Mr. Linky, and make sure to leave a comment!

You've got three hours to complete this mini-challenge, which takes us through the end of the readathon! (hours 22-24; 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. central) The winner will receive a $10 gift card via e-mail. I will select the answer I like best.

Readathon Update Number 6

Happy 24-hour readathon day! I think this is my last update for the day, although I will host the Most Hated Mini-Challenge here at 4:00 central time, so happy reading and commenting!

Title of book(s) read since last update:
Imitations of Austen by Jane Greensmith and Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Number of books read since you started: 3 (The Ladies' Paradise, Herland, and Big Boned) and parts of 2 others

Pages read since last update: 70

Running total of pages read since you started: 790

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 34 minutes

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 450 minutes = 7 1/2 hours

Mini-challenges completed: Kick off champions
And the nominees are...
Pantyworthy mini-challenge
Where in the world are you reading?
Soundtrack song mini-challenge
Bookish Movies
Get the Heck Out of Here

Other participants you’ve visited:

Prize you’ve won: Fot the Dewey comment post for hour 17 I won a Lionel Shriver prize pack with two books! Yeah!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Get the Heck Out of Here Mini-Challenge

The Literate Housewife is hosting a Get the Heck out of Here mini-challenge.

The Questions:

1.What steps did you take to ensure you’d be able to read as much as possible today? I created a TBR pile and cleaned up my reading area last night, and made sure I didn't have anything planned for today. And then my husband got the day off. He usually works on Saturdays. So he's been a bit distracting, but I love him! :) I also made sure my TBR pile had a lot of variety, including short stories and easier reads.
2.Of those steps, which proved to be the most beneficial to your day? having a clear TBR pile that wasn't too full, so I had choices but not so many that I spent too much time deciding what to read. And telling my husband I would really be reading all day, not just reading most of the day like normal.
3.Is there anything you might do differently next time? I might sit up camp in another room if my husband is home. I would also prepare some of my blog posts early by setting up posts for updates throughout the day so I only have to edit them with the updates numbers, etc. I also think I've gotten distracted by the mini-challenges. Like right now. Ooops. But that is a really, really awesome prize!

Title Teasers Mini-Challenge

Write for a Reader is hosting a mini-challenge of fill-in-the-blank title teasers. Here are my answers!

The Dark Divine
An Irish Country Girl
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Necessary Heartbreak
She's So Dead to Us
Fireworks Over Toccoa
Club Dead
Scones & Sensibility
All Unquiet Things
Beautiful Creatures
Perchance to Dream
The Dead-Tossed Waves
I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It
Prophecy of the Sisters
Very LeFreak
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Marriage and Other Acts of Charity
Making Toast
White Cat
Letters to My Father

Readathon update number 5

Happy 24-hour readathon day! Here's my fifth update for the day!

Title of book(s) read since last update:
Big Boned by Meg Cabot

Number of books read since you started: 3 (The Ladies' Paradise, Herland, and Big Boned) and part of 1 other one

Pages read since last update: 179

Running total of pages read since you started: 720

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 70 minutes

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 416 minutes = 6 hours and 56 minutes

Mini-challenges completed: Kick off champions
And the nominees are...
Pantyworthy mini-challenge
Where in the world are you reading?
Soundtrack song mini-challenge
Bookish Movies

Other participants you’ve visited:

Prize you’ve won: none

Romancing your friendship challenge

Star Shadow is hosting a Romancing Your Friendship mini-challenge. My favorite friends than romance couple is Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series. I love how they evolve over the series and end up falling in love by the end. I was so glad that they didn't do a Harry/Hermione relationship. It was nice for the side kick to end up with the main girl, and they work really well together.

And wow! Here's a pic of the actors from the movies. Ron's making a move!

Bookish Movies Mini-challenge

The Lost Entwife is hosting a mini-challenge on what book we'd like to see made into a movie and then cast a character. THe first one that springs to mind is Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I just finished it this week and really enjoyed it. I think it would make a good, although creepy, movie.

I think Emily Blunt would work really well as the main characters, twins Julia and Valentina. She's dainty enough to play them and is a strong enough actress to play the dual role, including playing the two very different personalities.

The Ladies' Paradise

Whether you're visiting my blog for the 24-hour readathon or from the Classics Circuit, or just because you like me, welcome!

The current tour on the Classics Circuit is for Emile Zola. I've owned The Ladies' Paradise for a while, and had started reading it about a year ago. I was only about 15 pages in when I realized it was part of a series, so I put it aside to get the earlier books in the series and read them first. Then I learned that some of the series is only available in French. Oops. So, when Zola came up on the Circuit, I decided to dust off The Ladies' Paradise and dive in.

Overall, The Ladies' Paradise doesn't feel like a novel. The main character is really the store, The Ladies' Paradise, and it's more about business, marketing, and consumerism than about the actual characters and plot. Normally that would drive me crazy, but it didn't here. It's definitely not going to make my list of favorite books, but I still enjoyed it. It surprised me that this was written in 1883. The business world descriptions were oddly accurate for today as well.

It's a revolutionary time for business. Stores have started placing pricing signs in the windows, increasing competition. Large stories like The Ladies' Paradise now have departments selling different items instead of each store only selling one type of item. Before then, there were umbrella stores, dress stores, silk stores, etc. Now, one giant store could sell all of these items, and grow to have over 3,000 salespeople and make a million francs in one day. (See my entry in the book score/soundtrack mini-challenge for the readathon for a comparison between this and Empire Records.)

The story is about Mouret, the owner of The Ladies' Paradise. He sees the opportunity to exploit women and market to them to make tons of money in his story. There is one girl, Denise, who becomes a salesperson in his shop that refuses to give into the consumerism and be bought by him, and he falls in love with her. And her transformation from a frail girl unable to stand up for herself to someone who can control the shots was interesting, but the story is less about Mouret and Denise than consumerism itself.

I don't know if it's just because I'm in marketing myself that I paid more attention to that aspect of the novel, or if it was just really prevalent anyway, but that's what I focused on. The focus on women is definitely there though: "Of supreme importance...was the exploitation of was Woman they were continually snaring with their bargains...They had awoken new desires in her weak flesh." And on, and on. It doesn't paint a very flattering picture of women. It portrays them as easy to tempt by saying something is on sale, by filling the store with baubles and shiny things, by saying it's the latest fashion, by having sales reps there to greet and sell to each customer individually. The whole thing is extremely insulting, but at the same time it's rather true. Even when I worked in the men's department in J.C. Penney's in high school, it was the women who bought 90% of the stuff. And sometimes something like Dockers would be on sale for like $2 off, but the sale sign convinced them all they were getting a great bargain. And how many women do you know that have to buy the latest fashions just because it's the trend, and heaven forbid they aren't trendy?

I think I found this book fascinating because in high school I was someone who focused on fashion, and even though I didn't like being trendy exactly, I was still obsessed with clothes and shopping. Now you have to practically drag me to a mall, and if someone told me I was trendy I might just punch them in the face. I think focusing on being trendy just makes you look unintelligent (although going to far in the other direction can be just as bad). It looks like you don't know who you are and are just doing what you think you're supposed to be doing, demonstrating low self-esteem. What's interesting to me is that this seems to now be a plague among the boys in America and not just the girls. Last night I went to the mall with my husband for the first time in about 18 months. What is wrong with teenage boys these days? They look like idiots, and the look girly! They all have skinny pants and pink and purple tops, which I noticed is what was also on all the mannequins. And their hair, ugh. I don't mind long hair, my dad actually usually has long hair, but what's with the weird long in front, elf-like haircuts? I'm really glad I'm not a teenager these days. I would not be dating.

Sorry for the tangent. One more thing I thought was interesting. Mouret arranges his story so that you have to walk across the most floor space as possible to reach departments that you might shop together. For instance, ladies shoes and dresses may be a mile apart, with accessories in between to tempt you along the way. That way you aren't like to just walk in and make your purchase and leave. He also rearranges the store to keep people confused. I think Dillard's is on to that strategy. My mom and grandma always talk about how they have a different layout every time they go. Maybe that's why. Interesting. It also talked about marketing to the children, having tempting items for them that the parents can't say no too. We tend to talk about this being a recent issue, so I thought that was fascinating that Zola wrote about that over 100 years ago.

Well, I'm off to get back to reading for the readathon!

Mid-event survey

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Big Boned by Meg Cabot
2. How many books have you read so far? Finished 2
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Portuguese Irregular Verbs
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I tried to, but husband's off work so it's a little difficult!
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Tell my husband nicely that I'm trying to read!
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How much time blogging takes.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Maybe updates every two hours?
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Make my husband go to work. :)
9. Are you getting tired yet? No. I read a lot most Saturdays.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Pick a comfortable chair and stretch every once in a while.
Sign the linky below with a link to your post with your answers. There will be 4 winners: 1st gets 1 prize packs of books, along with chocolate coins, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th get three books of their choice. This is only open until the beginning of Hour 14.

Readathon update number 4

Happy 24-hour readathon day! Here's my fourth update for the day!

Title of book(s) read since last update:
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Big Boned by Meg Cabot

Number of books read since you started: 2 (The Ladies' Paradise and Herland) and parts of 2

Pages read since last update: 140

Running total of pages read since you started: 541

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 100 minutes

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 346 minutes = 5 hours and 6 minutes

Mini-challenges completed: Kick off champions
And the nominees are...
Pantyworthy mini-challenge
Where in the world are you reading?
Soundtrack song mini-challenge

Other participants you’ve visited:

Prize you’ve won: none


I finished book number two for the readathon - Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I had heard about this book in college when we read The Yellow Wallpaper in a class, but hadn't read it. A few months ago Rebecca at Rebecca Readshad a giveaway, and I won a copy. Thanks Rebecca!

Herland is about a land where only women live. They can reproduce asexually, and haven't had men in their society for 2,000 years. For the story, three men discover this land and assume that is must be awful because women can't run anything, that there must actually be men somewhere, and that they'll have a grand old time with that many women to conquer. She wrote the book in 1915, so that was still the belief of most of the world.

Of course, the women's world is portrayed as a utopian society where all is peaceful and wonderful. What surprised me was that their society so celebrated motherhood above all else, and that seemed to be their reason for living. I found it odd that Perkins Gilman visualized even this utopian society that way since she did not seem to enjoy motherhood herself. After she and her husband separated and he remarried, she willingly sent her daughter to them. So this worshipping of motherhood just seemed really odd.

I think that aspect is part of what prevented me from really enjoying the book. As someone who does not want to have children, I hate things that focus on how the point of everything is to have kids. I didn't expect to love this book since I personally don't think an all-woman society would be a pleasant thing. I have to agree with a bit of the men in the book's preconception of the society, that the women would fight all the time. Maybe if men weren't in the picture women wouldn't tend to be so jealous of each other and so mean, but I don't know. I mean, when I was dating this one guy in high school, I had several different girls threaten me if I didn't break up with him. Again, maybe that wouldn't happen without men around, but it just seems like there would still be something to fight about. And I prefer anti-utopian novels to utopian ones. They seem much more realistic. I guess I'm a pessimist.

I am glad I read this book though, I did think it was interesting and it does you make think, and it does make me appreciative of the fact that I can have a great career, could easily support myself if I wasn't married, and can choose not to have kids if I don't want to.

Pantyworthy mini-challenge

Well, this is a challenge you don't see everyday! The Book Lady's Blog is hosting a pantyworthy mini-challenge. I decided to write about Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng, which I gushed about here. I LOVED Chang and Eng and couldn't stop talking about it. Then I looked at Strauss's website and realized that in addition to being a great writer, he's rather attractive. You can also check him out here. He's also married with twin boys (how funny is that?). I have to say, you don't see a lot of good looking male writers these days.

I have to share something fun for this post - Strauss actually e-mailed me this week because he read my post on Chang and Eng! How crazy fun is that?

Readathon update 3

Happy 24-hour readathon day! Here's my third update for the day! I took a break in between my last update to eat lunch with Ryan and watch an episode of Mythbusters.

Title of book(s) read since last update:
The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola

Number of books read since you started: 1 (The Ladies' Paradise) and parts of 3

Pages read since last update: 162

Running total of pages read since you started: 401

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 90 minutes

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 246 minutes = 4 hours and 6 minutes

Mini-challenges completed: Kick off champions
And the nominees are...

Other participants you’ve visited:

Prize you’ve won: none

Book score/soundtrack mini-challenge

I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read is hosting a mini-challenge on book score/soundtracks! I'm currently reading The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola. I think the perfect soundtrack for this book is Money (That's What I Want).

Here's a video clip of it in my favorite movie, Empire Records:

The Ladies' Paradise is about shopping and the growth of the department store in Paris in the nineteenth century. The last chapter I read featured a huge sale where a half a million francs of items were sold in one day. So, this song seems quite appropriate. Actually, the fact that I used the clip from Empire Records is even more appropriate, but both the movie and the book are about the little shops trying to take on the big guys. That's kind of funny. Look for my full post on The Ladies' Paradise to come soon!

And the nominees are...

Here's my second mini-challenge to enter for the readathon! And the nominees are..., hosted by 'Til We Read Again. I am answering quickly to get back to reading, so these are off the top of my head answers!

Favorite Female Character in a book: Hermione Granger - Harry Potter
Favorite Male Character in a book: Gulliver - Gulliver's Travels
Favorite Side Kick in a book: Ron Weasley - Harry Potter
Favorite Couple in a Book: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy - Pride and Prejudice
Favorite Book Series: Harry Potter!
Favorite Author: Jane Austen
Favorite Book Cover: Out of my stack for potential reading for today...White is for Witching
Favorite Book of 2009: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (I'm not sure if it came out in 2009, but that's when I read it, so I'm counting it.)

Kick off of champions mini-challenge

Yeah! My first mini-challenge for the readathon! It's hosted by Miss Remmers' Review. To start off my first readathon, I've surrounded myself with books (obviously), opened the blinds by my reading chair, grabbed a Diet Mountain Dew, my laptop, my Snuggie (I know they're kind of goofy but every big reader should have one! My arms can be warm and snuggly and I can still read!), and my cats. I just took some pictures, but realized I have no idea where the camera cord is to upload them. Doh! At least getting up to get the camera got the blood moving a bit. I will try to post the pics later even though this challenge will be over. Happy reading everyone!

24-hour readathon update 2

Happy 24-hour readathon day! Here's my second update for the day!

Title of book(s) read since last update:
The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola (I should have already finished this one for my Classics Circuit post today...I'll finish it soon and post by early afternoon!

Number of books read since you started: Parts of 4

Pages read since last update: 104

Running total of pages read since you started: 239

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 54 minutes

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 2 hours and 36 minutes

Mini-challenges completed: Kick off champions
And the nominees are...

Other participants you’ve visited:

Prize you’ve won: none

24-hour readathon

I woke up a little late this morning and so I launched right into reading and am just getting my first 24-hour readathon update posted. I was about 40 minutes late starting. Boo.

Title of book(s) read since last update:
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Big Boned by Meg Cabot
Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Number of books read since you started: 0

Pages read since last update: 135

Running total of pages read since you started: 135

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Mini-challenges completed: none (I'm about to do that though!)

Other participants you’ve visited: none (I'm about to do that though!)

Prize you’ve won: none

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry

I chose an oddly appropriate book for Easter weekend - Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. It's got quite a bit to do with death and resurrection. I bought this when it first came out because I LOVE The Time Traveler's Wife, but it was not well reviewed and was so criticized that I was afraid of disappointment and put it off for a while. I think putting distance between the reviews and the actual reading paid off, and my still somewhat lowered expectations made me realize this probably wouldn't be as good as as The Time Traveler's Wife.

However, I actually really liked it! It's very weird, which might have something to do with the negative reviews, but really, The Time Traveler's Wife isn't exactly normal either. But, it doesn't focus on a cemetery and death and ghosts like Her Fearful Symmetry does. I don't usually enjoy ghost stories, but this was very well done. I think overall it was extremely well written, with a whole cast of interesting characters who I came to care about, a mystery I wanted to unravel, and a plot I wanted to unwrap like a candy bar - slowly at first, savoring the anticipation, then quickly ripping through the package to get to the end.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a love story, a truly unique love story, and actually several love stories packaged together. Elspeth and Robert. Edie and Jack. Valentina and Julia. Martin and Marijke. All of the characters have their good and bad sides, and they're all intriguing. Martin has an extreme case of OCD and won't even leave his flat. Valentina and Julia are twins who can't quite seem to separate and still dress alike at 20. Elspeth is dead. (That's not a spoiler; it's on the book flap and happens in the first few pages.) Elspeth leaves her flat to Julia and Valentina, and Martin and Robert also have flats in the same building, so all of the characters are intertwined. The condition of the girls inheriting the flat and money is they must live in the flat for a year and their parents, Jack and Edie, cannot enter the flat. Why? Well, you'll just have to read it to find out.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

House Rules

House Rules: A NovelI know some people think Jodi Picoult's books a bit formulaic, but I love them! They always rekindle my love of reading and I tend to go on a reading tear after reading one of her books. There have been a few disappoints, including Change of Heart, so I was very glad that I enjoyed her latest, House Rules.
House Rules is about a family where the older son as Asperger's, a high-functioning form of autism. I have been anticipating this book since I heard she was writing about that topic a while ago. I'm intrigued by autism and since her books are also so carefully researched I knew I would learn more about it through her book. I think my interest in the topic goes back to elementary school when I read Kristy and the Secret of Susan, one of the Baby-Sitters Club books. I think it was the first time I'd really read about someone with a disability, and we had a special elementary school in my district for kids with disabilities, so I had never met someone with one at that point in my life. I found Susan's abilities amazing and wondered how the brain could work that way, and the trade off her being stuck in her own mind.
Jacob, who has Asperger's is able to interact in ways that Susan couldn't, so that he can seem almost "normal" some of the time. This mix of not being clearly autistic but not functioning like a typical person is the crux of the book. A woman is dead, and Jacob is suspecting of her murder. His Asperger's causes him to act guilty, but is he? And if he is, is he reponsible for his actions? I enjoyed the mystery aspect of trying to discover if he did it or not, and even though I guessed early on what happened, since Picoult is known to through in twists I couldn't be sure if I was right until the end. Every time I put the book down, I couldn't wait to get back to it and find out what happened.
I don't think it has been very well reviewed, but I really liked it and would recommend it, and especially thought it was stronger than Change of Heart, which is probably one of my least favorites of her books. I also liked that is wasn't depressingly sad like some of her other books. I do think the reviewers are right in that she focused more on research of the legal and medical aspects of the stories, but I actually felt that worked well since Jacob is the focus and he focuses on those things, not the emotional elements. And she still did a good job of creating different perspectives and having the voices sound different, especially Jacob's. So overall, I think it was a great book!

Nanny Returns

Just once I would like to see a character who asks "should I have kids or shouldn't I?" answer with a "no." I think I may have to write my own book to get this ending. Unless anyone has any book suggestions for me?

Nanny Returns: A NovelThat is not the main plot point in Nanny Returns, but it did bug me. It probably bothered me mainly because I was already disappointed with the book. I really enjoyed The Nanny Diaries. I thought it was funny, entertaining, and surprisingly well written for haing two authors. I usually find that even with the editing process, books with two authors have an uneven flow. I felt like that was more noticeable in Nanny Returns. It wasn't clear cut when the changes happened or anything like that, just overall it felt uneven.

Also, in this book the characters all just annoyed me so much I just wanted them all to die. While you're supposed to dislike Mrs. and Mr. X, I also disliked the children and Nan. I know Nan had no backbone until the end of the first book, but in this book it's like she reverts to having no backbone and ends up even worse because I felt like she let her husband talk her into the baby at the end. In the first book, you understood her actions because she wanted to make sure Grayer was taken care of, but this time he's an annoying 16-year-old so it's hard to see why she gets involved. When his parents dump him and his brother, why doesn't she just call the police to track them down? And how can she possibly live in a house as disgusting as the way hers is described? (It's being remodeled.)

So, I'd pass on this one. I did enjoy Dedication by the same authors, so if you want more of their style I'd go with that one instead of Nanny Returns (or Citizen Girl. That was awful.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

100 Worst Bosses

So, I have been a wee bit neglectful of this dear old blog lately. This is not due to a lack of wanting to blog, but from an I've been spending way too much time at work lately and the last thing I want to do is get on the computer when I get home kind of thing. Work is going well, and I actually just had two people moved onto my team and had my role expanded, which I'm excited about, but I've been a little stressed as a result.

Also, we have a huge campaign that I'm managing at work right now and I've been frantically trying to answer phone calls and e-mails about it all day while trying to actually do the work of planning and implementing the thing! As part of the campaign, we're having a simulcast that will have over 230 event sites participating throughout the U.S. and Canada on May 5. I'm planning the content and marketing of the event, which could have 14,000 attendees. So I'm going a bit crazy at work right now.

This does have something to do with a book, and I'm getting to that. Last year, best-selling author Jim Stovall contacted my company to partner with him in writing his next book. Jim wrote The Ultimate Gift, which was made into a movie starring James Gardner and Abigail Breslin. He was working on a book called 100 Worst Bosses and wanted to work with my company to gather stories for the book. (Not because we have a lot of bad bosses at my company. :) I work for a staffing company, and we put over 350,000 people to work each year, so we have a lot of people to ask for stories about bad bosses they've had over the years.) So last year I led a campaign to collect those stories, and then we ended up with the book this year. And I got to be the ghostwriter on the foreword of the book for our CEO, which is fun. Jim will be speaking as part of the simulcast, and the whole thing is centered around some of the content of the book.

You can check out our website for the campaign at There are some really funny videos we created as part of the campaign that you can view on the site, and a quiz to determine your leadership instinct. Two of the videos will air on Fox News, CNN, CBC News (in Canada), Comedy Central (during the Daily Show), and Fox (during Fox News Sunday)! It's kind of crazy that I came up with an idea that's going to end up airing on national television.

So you can see why I'm a bit behind on my blogging. And why I'm not quite on track with my reading goals for the year. I'm hoping to catch up on blogging this weekend since I have finished several good books recently and to catch up on my reading during the 24-hour readathon, although I don't plan on reading the full 24 hours. I get real grumpy if I don't get enough sleep.

As for the 100 Worst Bosses, even if business books aren't your thing, it's a really great book. The stories are horrifying! You will be thankful for your boss after reading it. Unless your boss has ever thrown a stapler at you or pulled a gun on you. Or is completely wasted by noon every day. Then you might just get a little motivation to leave already! And if you've ever had a bad co-worker or employee, you can submit your story to and get a chance to see your story in his next book and win an autographed book! And if you want more of an actual book review of the 100 Worst Bosses, you can check out the blog post on my company's leadership blog.

Oh, and for any Office fans out there, we got Andy Buckley, who plays David Wallace, Michael's ex-boss, to emcee our event! I have his cell phone number! And no you cannot have it. :) Isn't that crazy? I'm going to have to actually buck up and watch the show before the event since I'll meet him.