Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential

I loved Sweet Valley Confidential. I've heard negative reviews for it, but I think that you have to take it for what it is: a follow-up to a pretty poorly written teen series. Don't go in to it expecting a Pulitzer Prize winning read.

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are now 27. Jessica is with Todd Wilkins (omg!) and Elizabeth is heart-broken by their betrayal. If you have no idea what I am talking about, then this book really isn't for you. If you aren't aware of Sweet Valley, then it probably wouldn't be near as fun of a read.

I loved revisiting the Sweet Valley characters and was surprised by the paths many of them had taken. Some readers may find the developments in the characters' lives a bit far fetched, but I adored the story. I don't want to spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, I was very happy with where the Wakefield twins ended up.

Sweet Valley Confidential is a great read--if you already know and love the Sweet Valley characters and are able to put aside thoughts on the quality of the writing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Great Love Poems

For our seasonal book challenge this time, we have to read a book of poetry. I read Great Love Poems, which is a Dover thrift edition book. Dover editions are the classics that cost $1-2. Great Love Poems is a collection of poetry from the 1500s to the early 1900s.

A few I really enjoyed:

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will be his race to run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

False though She Be to Me and Love
William Congreve

False though she be to me and love,
I'll ne'er pursue revenge;
For still the charmer I approve,
Though I deplore her change.

In hours of bliss we oft have met;
They could not always last;
And though the present I regret,
I'm grateful for the past.

So, We'll Go No More A-Roving
Lord Byron

So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears it sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

When We Two Parted
Lord Byron

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this!

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow;
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is they fame:
I hear they name spoken
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me-
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee
Who knew thee too well:
Long, long shall I rue thee
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met:
In silence I grieve
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?-
With silence and tears.

My Life Closed Twice before Its Close
Emily Dickinson

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

Hilaire Belloc

How did the party go in Portman Square?
I cannot tell you; Juliet was not there.

How did Lady Gaster's party go?
Juliet was next to me and I do not know.

Apparently I like sad stuff...

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Cat Who Covered the World

I don't read pet stories very often. I can't handle when the pet dies.

I thought that The Cat Who Covered the World sounded fun though. Henrietta, the main catracheter (ha), was owned by a family of a New York Times reporter, so she followed them around the world. There were funny parts of the story. When the Wren family lived Moscow she was able to eat Russian caviar.

Henrietta sounded like a fun cat, but I really had a hard time liking her owners. We don't let our cat out because I'm worried she get hit by car or munched on by one of the many wild creatures around here. Henrietta's owners let her out in Beijing and Cairo. She disappeared for a month in Cairo before she showed up near starving.

It was a fun story, but I was left a bit disconcerted by the lack of care that I felt like Henrietta's owners gave her.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Library Book Sale

Earlier this year, I was selected to be the new chair of my library's book sale. The sale raises about $30,000 a year. We have three a year: April, July, and November as well as some shelves in the library year-round. We are lucky enough to have a dedicated space in the library basement.

Wyoming and the West

The first sale I'll be in charge for starts next week. I'm a little nervous, to say the least!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Willa Cather

Nebraska is on the way between Wyoming, where I live, and Georgia, where I'm from, so my parents, who always drive out when they visit, have driven through it on their many trips. They like to sight see along the way. One of their visits was to the Willa Cather House in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

Prior to their visit, I hadn't read any of Cather's novels. I'd hardly even heard of them. I just don't think they're as popular in the South. (There's just so much good Southern literature out there.) Anyhow, since then, they've been on my to-read list.

I read O Pioneers last summer; it was the first book I read on my kindle. I zipped right through it. And, I cried. I really enjoyed it.

I also read My Antonia on my kindle. I didn't like it quite as much, but it's still a really good read. There was one section, dealing with Antonia's father, that broke my heart.

Both My Antonia and O Pioneers are about life on the Nebraska prairie, focusing on the immigrant experience. They portray a stark and hard life, one that is ultimately, for many, bittersweet.

One of the things I love about my kindle is the ease of highlighting passages. From My Antonia:

"The only thing very noticeable about Nebraska was that it still, all day long, Nebraska."

Now, I'm not a fan of driving across Nebraska on I-80, but at least these days, we are through it in one day. Plus, it's got it's own unique minimalist beauty.

These are classics for a reason! They are quick reads. They are free for kindles and nooks. Add them to your to-read list. No excuses.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trylle Trilogy

A couple weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Times about a self published young adult author, Amanda Hocking, who had sold millions of books before signing a deal with a publishing house. I was interested in seeing what she'd written since she was such a hot commodity to book publishers.

Switched, the first book in the Trylle trilogy, was only 99 cents for my kindle, so I figured it was worth a try. Currently, it's #52 on the top 100 paid books for the kindle. I'm not really a fan of paranormal stories, but I liked Switched. It is what it is though: a fluffy fast read. I quickly bought the next two books, Torn and Ascend, for $2.99 each and flew through them too. The books were worth the $7 I spent on them.

The trilogy is about a teenager who discovers that she is a princess in a kingdom of trolls. Wendy, the main character, doesn't know that she was a troll until one of the trackers from the kingdom came for her. Back with the trylle (the trolls) she is the princess, but doesn't want that responsibility. Wendy's mother, the queen, is aloof and Wendy butts heads with her frequently. Wendy also has other issues: her family from growing up and romantic interests.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower

I'm posting this now, before I read it, because I'm afraid I'll have to say too much (too much that I shouldn't say) to post a review of it. I think my experiences teaching are going to make it a very interesting read.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Poisoner's Handbook

I bought The Poisoner's Handbook a few months ago when audible.com was having a 3 books for 2 credits sale. I thought it sounded interesting, but sometimes I don't enjoy non-fiction audio books. I do other stuff while I'm listening to audio books (walking dogs, chores, driving, etc) and sometimes my mind wanders and I lose track of what's going on in the book.

I first listened to an audio book a couple years ago as a part of my online book club's quarterly challenge. I really love them. I've listened to over 60 in the past two years. (Some of my favorites: The Help, Sarah Vowell's books, and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plus series.) But, I have discovered some types of books are easier to listen to than others.

Luckily, The Poisoner's Handbook was great in audio version. The book is the story of the early days of the medical examiners office in NYC. The book is divided up by different poisons and death caused by them. It was interesting to read about the different medical developments that were made and about the men who worked so hard to solve these chemical mysteries. Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, a toxicologist in the office, dedicated their lives to professionalize the medical examiner's office and to make society safer.

The book has lots of information about Prohibition and several true crime stories. It's an easy to read (or listen to!) non-fiction book.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Escape and other FLDS stories

Oh my goodness. Escape is horrifyingly terrifying. Jessop was raised in the FLDS group in southern Utah/northern Arizona. She was married to a 50 year old when she was 18 because it was destined by God. She lived through years of abuse from her husband and his other wives. She has 8 children (her husband had over 50 kids when she escaped). Her last 4 pregnancies were life threatening due to placental abruptions, however, her husband was reluctant to let her get proper medical care. Nor was she even allowed birth control when risky pregnancies were a possibility.

I've previously read Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer and recently read Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall. The lives people lead in the FLDS are so unlike our own and so lacking in basic human rights. Jessop quotes the Utah Attorney General as saying there's a corner of Utah that is worse than the Taliban, and after having read these stories, it has got to be comparable. All 3 of these books are fascinating (yet horrifying) reads.