Sunday, May 31, 2009

Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture

One Word Summary: Childhood Dreams, Chestnuts, Brick Walls, Disney, Chutzpah
More Words: It's hard to fault a dead man. But as I read, nodding my head and taking mental notes the whole time, I kept thinking if Jai can put up with her Alpha Male then I can too. Weird thought right. Anyhow, the man is amazing. His whole life is a miracle. He's just so cool. He's interesting and dynamic and engaged... I can't stop singing his praise. I liked the book, and I think I'll start writing thankyou notes. The first person to thank is Jon for gifting this book to Will for his birthday. We both liked this book. Thanks Jon. The note's in the mail.

To Do List:
Write Thank You Notes
Dream some more
Work Harder than possible to realize dreams
Keep up with journals

More Words:
I would just like to say that my most cherished childhood dream was fulfilled when I married Will. I always wanted to have a happy family. We don't have a white picket fence, but it's all I could have hoped for.

Anne Tyler: Breathing Lessons

One Word Summary: Almost Happily Ever After

More Words: The writing is flawless. Characters, Setting, Dialogue - Superb. Only now that I've read this book about life's disappointments and compromises I'm not sure if my life is really as great as I imagine. Anyhow I started out feeling enamoured with Maggie (she's just so cute) and then slowly I started to fall out of love with her (she's pathologically inaccurately wishfully meddlesome). Finally at the end of the day... well it was a just a long day, and I like her anyway. Only now I feel depressed. Don't read this book on a bad day.

Plot Summary: The misadventures of a long-time married couple travelling to and from a funeral, and all the history in between.

"Mom? Was there a certain conscious point in your life when you decided to
settle for being ordinary?"

Why did popular songs always focus on romantic love? Why this preoccupation with first meetings, sad partings,honeyed kisses, heartbreak, when life was so full of children's births and trips to the shore and longtime jokes with friends? Once Maggie had seen on TV where archaeologists had just unearthed a fragment of music from who knows how many centuries B.C., and it was a boy's lament for a girl who didn't love him back. Then besides the songs there were the magazine stroes and the novels and the moves, even the hair-spray ads and the pantyhose ads. It struck Maggie as disporportionate.Misleading, in fact.

  • Why does Ira play solitare all the time?
  • Is Maggie's idea of Ira accurate?
  • Do all marriages settle out like this?
  • Why is the story entitled: Breathing Lessons?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Daphne DuMaurier: Rebecca

One Word Summary: Haunting
More Words: When Will asked if Alfred Hithcock's film was based on this novel my vision automatically shifted to a black and white film, so silent you can hear clocks ticking, and short uncomfortable dialogue with the nameless girl painfully repeating the same answer to different questions. I started holding my breath for the terrible thing to come at last. Before that I felt impatient with the nameless girl. I wanted her to be better than Rebecca after all, eventhough there's no competing with Rebecca. I felt frustrated and jealous for the nameless girl. Really, DuMaurier is a genius with words, she can capture so much human feeling with them. I like how her words pulse through the text ("We would not talk of Manderly, I would not tell my dream. For Manderely was our no longer. Manderly was no more.") There was one passage in chapter two that made me think "this will be quite different from Jane Eyre". I really liked reading this book, although I may never read it again.

The devil does not ride us anymore. We have come through our crisis, not unscathed of course. His premonition of disaster was correct from the beginning; and like a ranting actress in an indifferent play, I might say that we have paid for freedom. But I have had enough melodrama in this life, and would willingly give my five senses if they could ensure us our present peace and security. Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind. Of course we have our moments of depression; but there are other moments too, when time, umeasured by the clock, runs on into eternity and,catching his smile, I know we are together, we march in unison, no clash of thougth or of opinion makes a barrier between us.
We have no secrets now from one another. All things are shared. Granted that our little hotel is dull, and the food indifferent, and that day after day dawns very much the same, yet we would not have it otherwise.

This passage reminds me very much of the famous passage in Jane Eyre near the end where she says,
I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest - blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character - perfect concord is the result.
Study Questions:
  1. Who is the nameless girl? A natural extension of her husband, a foil for Rebecca, a sort of Everyman, a ghost?
  2. Does Maxim love the nameless girl? Why does he love Manderly? Why can't he forget Rebecca?
  3. How do societal conventions help the plot, and inhibit the characters?
  4. What words and phrases does DuMaurier use to create such on ominous tone?
  5. Are the nameless girl's imagining more real than what's actually happening?
  6. When does the nameless girl star refering to herself and Maxim as we?
  7. Do they have children?

John Van De Ruit: Spud

One Word Summary: Spudliness? Ick
More Words: This book is vastly hugely wildly inappropriate. Will would be so disappointed if he knew I actually read it. And that I laughed (except at that one part near the end that sort of got glossed over). In my defense, I only read the first two sentences on the jacket cover ,"It's 1990. Apartheid is crumbling." before plunging in. I completely missed the phrases: "raging hormones" and "prepubescent choir-boy". Anyhow, curiosity outmaneuvered wisdom once again. It's been awhile since I've had raging hormones, and I've never been in a choir. Let's just see, I reasoned.
Plot Summary: There was no plot. It's a Seinfeld book.
On the Upside: There is a reading list... which I didn't write down and don't dare hunt out.

Other Book Suggestions, if you're interested in Fictional Adolescent Male Psyche:
The Catcher in the Rye by Jerome David Salinger
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
Inside the mind of Gideon Rayburn by Sarah Miller
The Black Book by Jonah Black
Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

Friday, May 22, 2009

Katy Moran: Bloodline

One Word Summary: Legend
More Words: I wish I had a map of England and some working knowledge of Ancient History. Anyhow, this story is King Arthur Legend meets Crispin (Avi) with a maybe a whisper of The Legend of Lady Ilena (Patricia Malone) into the mix. I liked it, although my eyes started to get blurry at the final battle scene. And the end, where the two lovers alone survive, is a little sketchy.

Robin Palmer: Cindy Ella

One Word Summary: My therapist says...
More Words: I'm not proud of having read this book in the least. I didn't like it at all, except that it made laugh a little and sometimes the dialogue was fluid. The main character was extremely self absorbed, she kind of reminded me of Candice Cameron's best friend in Full House. You know annoying. I think Palmer was going for quirky and intelligent, like a Meg Ryan typecast. But she did do a good job with her Romantic Interest. He's handsome and kind and athletic and popular and a touch shy and vague enough to satisfy anyone's dreamboy.
Plot Summary: A few weeks before Prom Cindy Ella writes a letter to the editor of her school newspaper stating emphatically that prom is a waste of time blah blah blah. She's already uncool, but now she's even more uncool. Anyhow... the letter is somehow the catalyst for her romance with out-of-her-league Adam. Actually it's probably just the excuse for writing a book.

Barry Jonsberg: Am I right or Am I right.
One Word Summary: Too Much Unnecessary Detail
More Words: It was funny enough, but only because the jokes had nothing to do with the story. Again, the narrator was annoying... so annoying that even my curiosity couldn't compel me to finish skimming this novel. And the notes to Fridge reminded me of Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty, which I did like. I kept thinking, it must be an Australian thing. To end on a positive note I did like the instructions on how to write a poem in less than two minutes.
Plot Summary: I didn't read enough to actually know what happened, but I think Fridge (AKA: Mom) gets involved with an abusive man who is also the father of the BestFriend. Don't worry the Abusive man gets told off. Meanwhile, absentee Dad shows up to talk and there's a
Cute boy. Maybe they go on a date. Cute boy and Narrating Voice, I mean.
Instructions on how to write a poem:

Let's get rid of some misconceptions. Misconception number one: poetry has to rhyme. Wrong. Rhyming poetry is actually very old-fashioned (as well as a pain in the arse to write) and we are modern, up-to-date wordsmiths here. Misconception number two: rhythm is important. Wrong, wrong. Modern poetry relies upon the rhythm of the street, the natual cadences of the spoken language (memorize that and repeat it to any teacher who challnges you). Misconception number three: poetry has to make sense. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Let's be honest. How many proper poems have you read where you've known what the hell was going on? Few, if any, I'll bet. And the same appies to your teacher. He or she will read your poem and nod wisely. They can't admit they don't understand it. They're English teachers, after all. In the unlikely even they ask you to explain, recite the following: "It was my attempt to rationalize the dichotomy between personal emotions and the presures of modern-day living." That'll shut them up.

Okay. We don't need rhyme, rhythm, or meaning. The key is that it should look like a poem.

[and then it goes on for about another page or so]

Marianne Curley: Old Magic.
One Word Summary: Nothing at all
More Words: The idea was good, only the writing needed a lot more polishing. It was so rough draft-ish I thought I was reading the outline notes. I tried skipping to the end, only it confused me a little so I had to read the middle too.
Plot Summary: New boy is school has very strong magical powers, only he doesn't know it. Freaky Girl, Kate, senses his magic and figures out that he's cursed too. She helps him, they travel through time, they fall in love.

Richelle Mead: Frostbite.
One Word Summary: Love Conquers All
More Words: Are you ever curious about all those vampire love stories out there? This is one of them. It's number two in the Vampire Academy series. There's a prologue that gets you up to speed on the storyline if you've skipped the first book. I didn't read much beyond that. Think I might find book three and read it's prologue. And then if I'm really addicted book four.
Plot Summary: Unlicenced half-trained teenaged vampire bodyguard saves the world, yet again. And maybe kisses her badboy heart-throb (who is also her teacher, ewwww).

okay... I should admit that I feel terrible for having nothing but unkind things to say about what I've read. I watched Ratatouille the other day, and I know it's easier to be a critic than a creator. So to all you would be writers: you've done what most people in the world wish they could do. Go You.

Tamora Pierce: The Will of the Empress

One Word Summary: Escapism
The back cover reads: Long-awaited... Highly anticipated... The Circle Reforged. Four Mages. One Destiny. No Turning back.
More Words: ummmm, the book was very interesting while I was reading it. Only I forgot about it almost as soon as closed the back cover. In fact I don't really care about The Circle of Magic Series. Although I do like some of the other series, like Trickster's Choice and Terrier. Now those I really liked. Anyhow this is the third time I've checked this book from the library (thinking it's something else?), so I finally just hunkered down and read it. And yeah, the book is just fine if you need a break from all responsibilty but still need to actually be a little responsible. Oh, it's possible to understand without having read the other books.

Donna Jo Napoli: The Smile

One Word Summary: BitterSweet
More Words: I think I need to learn a little more European History, like I should read a book dedicated to it instead of gleaning facts from fiction. Now, DJN is a very prolific writer. All the novels I'ver read of her's are bittersweet. It's weird how she can make settling almost satisfying. It's especially weird that keep coming back for more, since I prefer the more traditional happy ever after.
Plot Summary: The story is set in Florence just after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent. A young noble girl is preparing for her come out, only a series of unfortunate events delay the actual party and ultimately her betrothal. Meanwhile there's political turmoil and she meets Leonard Da Vinci and falls in love with Giuliano the youngest Medici boy- who names her Monna Lisa.
Dedicatication: For Headley, my newest joy
I give a small laugh. Only city folk could say such a thing. And only a
childless man.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Suzanne Harper: The Juliet Club

One Word Summary: Besotted Grin

More words: I can't honestly say this book was spectacular, because it was over the top ridiculous. But, instead of cringing I found myself grinning like a love struck fool. None of the characters were the least bit boring -something you don't find in nature. Each one had their unique voice and idiosyncrasies, my favourite had to be Sylvia followed closely by Grandma. While the story was completely unrealistic it also felt genuine. I even learned something about Shakespear's writing, and something about Juliet. The author did wonderful research and clever thinking. I liked this book. It would be a pleasure to read more of Harper's work.

Plot Summary: Disenchanted with Romance Girl Next Door travels to Italy for a summer Shakespear seminar and falls in love, despite her seriousness and stiffness. In fact all the lead characters fall in love.

"You're thinking of magnets," she corrected him. "Not people."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ted Dekker: Blink of an Eye

One Word Summary: Precognition proves existence of God
More Words: I'm not having very much luck just pulling books off the shelf in the library. The only reason I finished this story was because I wondered where Dekker was going with his precognition thing. Anyhow here's the plot. Super Genius Suffer Dude foils an attempt to overthrow the Saudi Arabian government, maintains the status quo, and finds true love. Yep that's it. I bet the movie was better.
The collective mind of America was headed down the toilet. At some point during the last twenty years, someone decided that intelligence wasn't such a hot commodity after all, and the rest of the country licked up that nonsense as though it were a melting vanilla cone on a hot day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chaim Potok: The Chosen

One Word Summary: Tzaddik
More Words: This is a work of genius. I even pulled out my pen and sticky notes to study it as I read, although I didn't commit anything to memory. I loved reading every word, and following significant words as they appeared through the story. I love how Potok used sight and sound to define his two main characters. I love how everyone blinks, but it means different things. I like Davey Cantor, whose only purpose is to show up with bad news. I love how the title is open to so many interpretations. I love how beautiful Potok's images are and I love the complete lack of superfluity in his style.

Study Questions:

  • Is the Master of the Universe as silent Danny's father or as effusive Reuven's father?
  • Is the World Cockeyed? How do different character define the world?
  • How does having a soul counter cruelty? How is Reb Saunders both cruel and compassionate?
  • Warfare and fighting language figure throughout the novel. What are Danny and Reuven fighting against?
  • In the beginning Reuven's father is angry and lectures him on the importance of listening. At the end Reuven's father is angry again for the same reason. How does Reuven change and remain the same?
  • Why does Danny want to study psychology?


My father looked at me. " What did I never tell you?"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

One Word Summary: My Master
More Words: This novel is a masterpiece. Books that are good enough to study should have study questions. So I've come up with a few questions to spend time thinking about.

Study Questions

  • Why can't Jane live with Mr. Rochester as his mistress? And the parallel question, why does she offer to accompany Mr. Rivers to India as his secretary but not as his wife?
  • How is Jane's love for Helen similar to her love for Mr. Rochester? What does she feel for Mr. Rivers?
  • What makes Jane Eyre so different from Pride and Prejudice?
  • How does Charlotte Bronte define good or bad in her characters?
  • Is Jane really an elf/faerie? Who is she?
  • What words were threaded throughout the text?
  • Was the finale satisfying?
  • Which do you think better, love in this world or glory in the world to come? Must a person give up one to achieve the other?


He made me love him without looking at me. p203

Alas the readers of our era are less favoured. But courage? I will not pause either to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay; they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty and strength again on day. Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed! Genius banished! No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the though. No; they not only live, but reign and redeem: and without their divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell - the hell of your own meaness. p427

This was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort. p284

Hush, Jane! you think to much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, to vehement: the sovereign Hand that created your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble self, or than other creatures feeble as you. Besides this earth, and besides the reace of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us, and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angles see our tortures, recognise our innocence (...) and God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward. Why then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with destress, when life is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness - to glory. p45

Glen Ebisch: Grave Justice

One Word Summary: that insipid nasal sound
More Words: Murder Mysteries are like olives, you have to try them now and again just to see if you still don't like them. I think I need to sample a better olive, before I give up on them entirely. For this story my biggest complaint is the dialogue. It felt too convenient. One character makes a statement, another person replies, a few remarks are shared, and the author sets you up nicely with some vital information, and everyone is satisfied. Sort of like in a sitcom. Conversations are never so straight forward. They're supposed to be messy. There was also some romance, which made me feel really embarrassed- again just because of the way the would be lovers were talking. It was weird, and maybe even unhealthy. However to be fair I did like the criminal mastermind ploting.
I did read a similar novel earlier in the year by Catherine Coulter: Double Take. I liked it fine. But I'm not addicted in the least to this genre.