Welcome to my bookshelf


I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Soap

Currently Reading: The Cider House Rules

OK. I changed my mind. I want to soap box a bit. The secondary character, Dr. Larch is so passionate in his beliefs that women should be able to choose that he has gotten me all riled up. So here is my main beef. If we make the women have these babies, we often cause the amount of people living under the poverty line to rise. The kids have terrible situations and often are behind in school and so they have to be cared for through state support. The people who want the babies are the same people who want to cut federal funding for the unfortunate. So they want more unfortunates and yet don't want to pay for them. Maybe if they let people have abortions in such dire circumstances, then we wouldn't need as large welfare and other type support systems. Now I'm not saying kill all the babies, however I know that I for one would not have wanted to be born into a life where I was not wanted and where I was a burden on those around me. What kind of life is that? All these bible toting pro-lifers should be the ones to adopt and care for the unwanted children. Then I may be OK with the whole thing. They'd be well cared for (and get some sweet tax breaks). Of course now I am just asking for more Republicans and preachers!! What am I saying?!?! Really though, we need to allow this decision to be made by the mother and those close to her. Who are we to decide what is right or wrong for a total stranger? If you make a decision, you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences. If that decision making power is taken away from you, then those who took it should be responsible for the consequences. OK. I'm stepping down now.

Read this book. It gives all perspectives and tackles a very touchy subject. And while getting an education in orphanages and abortions in the mid 1900's, you get an amazing story about incredible characters and it is a worthy journey to take. Man, I am so crazy about all this stuff that I may have to turn to fluff next. Give my mind a break. And yet, part of me has truly enjoyed the challenges that this book poses.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Choices

Currently Reading: The Cider House Rules

Pg 375: "These same people who tell us we must defend the lives of the unborn - they are the same people who seem not so interested in defending anyone but themselves after the accident of birth is complete!"

There is more to follow this quote, but it basically expresses the same idea. Those who profess to love life and think that women shouldn't have the right to choose are the same people who encourage war, gun rights, the death penalty and heath care for only the elite. It is such a contradiction of beliefs that it makes me sick. What makes one life better than the other? I could go on and on, but this blog is supposed to be about the books and not the politics and so I will not bore you with my political and moral beliefs (for the moment).

So I am again on my travels through John Irving's works. I have put off reading this one as it seemed so different from the others and the main thing I remembered from the movie was cutie patutie Toby MacGuire, so I never gave it the time. It is of course turning out to be an excellent read. Irving creates such wonderful characters and his third person writing is so incredible that you find him authentic no matter who's point of view we are reading at the moment. His main character is again a sort of out there young man, but again I find that he does women so well too. I want him to write more from the point of view of a woman like A Widow For One Year. Another thing that I keep finding in all his books is interesting names. This is all about Homer. Just like Owen Meaney, Garp, Piggy Snead and others, he continues to give his characters such appropriate and unique names. How does he come up with these? I always think of Joe and Bob and whatnot. I guess that is why Irving is the bestselling author and I am a mere math teacher. Anyways, read this one too. I am anxiously awaiting the outcome of the novel and find that I have been too busy to read as much as I want. The main theme of this book revolves around orphans and abortion. It is interesting because we see the results of a choice. We see the women who abandon their children before birth and those who leave them on the door step afterward. Homer has a very interesting position regarding this subject. As an orphan himself, he believes that unwanted children can still find a place in the world, but through his experiences, he finds that he still believes women should have this choice. He was fortunate to have a place to grow up and learn. All too often children are born into circumstances that are horrible and their lives are terrible, filled with pain and wanting. At the end of the day it comes down to choice. And what a personal choice it is.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Truly Epic

Currently Reading: The Thorn Birds

I love epic tomes. Yes, they take forever to read and there are an impossible amount of characters, but they really allow you to immerse yourself in a whole new world. This is a tale about a family in Australia in the early to mid 1900s. I have never read anything is this setting before and am discovering much about what life was like there. It has an amazing history. I didn't realize what the people went through and what a prominent part of life the environment was. It could ruin everything in a minute.

This book reminds me a bit of The Pillars of the Earth and also Jame Smiley's The Greenlanders, not to mention all of Taylor Caudwell's books. These are all so amazingly research and so authentic. While I find myself drawn towards the future, it is important to know where people come from. Our pasts define us. And not only our individual experiences, but those of our ancestors as well. It makes me want to look up more of my family history. I am only really aware of as far back as my grandparents. It seems like our culture doesn't focus as much on family history as others. You don't often hear Americans going on about their lineage or anything, but this is very important in other places. Perhaps it is because we are such a young country. A lot of people who came here were escaping unfortunate experiences and wanted to start over. Perhaps this is why family history is so unimportant to us. It is our own person who defines us. This is a very American belief.

Nevertheless, this book was highly recommended to me by the super-awesome librarian at my school. It is thanks to her that I have read some fantastic historical novels and I am appreciate of the opportunity to step out of my traditional comfort zone and try something new. Very good stuff.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Decisions, decisions

Currently Reading: The Diagnosis

This is starting to be a good one, but I'm not far enough into it to talk much. I'm sure I will have further postings once I get into the meat of the story. It certainly deals with social issues in our world today.

So instead I will talk about one I read just a bit ago, but never posted on. School (work school) is about to start and school (grad school) is still in full swing. I am a busy lady. What I wanted to talk about was some connections between literary devices and things that are used in making movies as well. Jeffery Archer's Sons of Fortune was really an epic tale about two twins who were seperated at birth, but their lives parellel each other so much that they end up back together again at the end. It was interesting, but hard to keep track of who was who in the beginning. The end of the book deals with a vote between the two brothers who are running against each other for governor. It is so close that the tie is supposed to be decided by a coin flip. The coin is tossed and one of them, we are never told who, calls heads and that is the end of the book. Talk about suspense. Archer leaves the ending up to us and let's the reader decide who won. Of course in my mind the Democrat totally gets it, but from allusions to calling heads earlier in the book, it was probably the Republican. Although, maybe not even Archer could decide who would win. Sometimes authors become so enamored with their characters that it is hard to make rational decisions about their futures. This ending was interesting because it came just after I had seen the movie Inception. I will try not to spoil anything for you, but at the end of the movie, it appears that all is well. However, there is a spinning top and the deal is that if the top tips over and stops spinning, you are in the real world. If the top continues to spin forever, you are in a dream. The camera focuses in on the top, it wobbles a bit, but still keeps spinning. Then run credits. Ahh!! Why do they do this to us? Is poor little Leo stuck in a dream or has he finally found happiness? The world may never know.

While these techniques can become frustrating to us as readers and movie goers, it seems that they are really used to allow us some autonomy when it comes to taking meaning from the story. We are left to construct whatever outcome we would like for the characters. Sometimes I like having this decision making power, but at others I just want to be told what to think. It even ties into my grad school stuff. Do we simply lecture to students or do we allow them to create their own meanings and understands based on experimentation and observations? Is it OK to be wrong in the course of discovering what is right? Can we each take away something different from the activity and still find understanding? Something to think about.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lucky Us

Currently Reading: Jakarta Shadows

Pg 47: "If you were especially wicked, like you cooked children alive or voted Conservative, then you were condemned to the Oval for eternity."

Hee hee. All the bible belters are screwed!! Now onto the actual story. This is a mystery/detective tale that takes place in Jakarta, Indonesia. It is interesting because the main character is actually an Englishman who is working in Jakarta and gets mixed up in a murder investigation full of shady characters and terrible twists. I love reading stories that take place in other countries because they give you a glimpse of cultures different from your own. What is kinda cool about this book is that the main character gives his western perspectives, but you also get a picture of what life is like for the natives as well. We take so many things for granted here. We have freedom, policy and security forces who are honest for the most part and truly protect us by adhering to the letter of the law. This is not the case in so many other places. What would we do if we were suddenly stripped of all the rights we throw about so cavalierly? I for one, cannot even contemplate it. Seriously. It is unimaginable to my little brain. It makes you want to protect the rights that you do have. But I do feel that some of the rights that we hold so dear are really not in the best interest of all. Back to the bible belters. So we can all carry guns in our back pockets. Hurray. In all honesty, this rule probably hurts more people than it helps. There are also some other issues that come up with respect to our individual rights, but that is one that stands out as having the least amount of arguments for it. Of course, if we start messing around with this right, it leaves the others open to change. What about free speech? It certain hurts a lot of people, but there is a place where it becomes less black and white. We have free speech, but what we say can be monitored and held against us. Who are we to decide what is OK and what will land us in the slammer. Ugg. I need to stop now before this post gets too long. Back to the story. Graham, the main character is now attempting to emulate TV sleuths and get out of dodge unscathed. Let's wish him luck.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bossy

Currently Reading: Up and Out

Pg 21: "I am not really comfortable being in charge of a team. I have a hard enough time being responsible for myself."

The Shoe Queen ended pretty much as I expected, but was way too ambiguous. I don't want to go into detail because I still think it is one you should all check out, but I will say that no one is truly happy. They are basically OK with the status quo. It is so much easier to accept things as they are than speak your mind and instigate change.

Now onto the current read. It is basically the book equivalent of a chick flick, but I do find myself empathizing with some of what the main character is dealing with. I too have found myself in charge of a team and am not sure how I feel about it. I have great ideas and want to influence others with my "good" ideas and get them to try what I do, but I often have a hard time being pushy without being pushy. I feel like I need confirmation or something for making someone do something. I always leave it too open-ended and then stuff never gets done. I need to work on being assertive, but if I can't even make a personal decision, how can I expect to make decisions that affect more people? Since I feel like things need to change and know what works, I need to be "in charge" to promote the growth of my team. Still, I feel like I am unworthy. My leadership skills are still definitely in need of some polishing. It is important to be open-minded while still being in control. A fine line to walk and a balance that is difficult to achieve. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who are you wearing?

Currently Reading: The Shoe Queen

A woman after my own heart. Who can help but love shoes? Of course her style varies greatly from my own, Converse All Stars. I am back with a French woman. The main character, Genevieve, is immersed in the 1920's culture and flair of Paris. On the surface, she is a patron of the arts and amateur poetess herself. Underneath though, she is hiding a dark past. She tries so hard to fit in and be accepted by the unique members of the arts circle. Her husband is of no help, being a boring American who doesn't understand his wife's passions. She has a love for shoes which stems from her desire to be more like her mother. In the course of the novel, she discovers this amazing shoe designer and is now in bed with him. His influence on her live is seen everywhere. She cannot stop thinking of him and yet is still haunted by childhood trauma. An excellent read so far. I am looking forward to seeing what happens. Often in these Victorian type books, the woman makes concessions and ends up staying unhappily with her husband while the lover escapes into the night. I do not wish such a fate upon Genevieve and yet do not want her to throw away her life on this promiscuous young man. If only she could find true happiness, or if not bliss, at least contentment. But of course, that is my wish for myself as well.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Satisfaction

Currently Reading: The Last Great Dance on Earth

It is book number three and the Bonaparte reign is in full force. My earlier question has been answered. Napoleon was voted to be First Consul for life. So the people did decide. It is funny how enamored they are with him. When a leader or politician is doing things we love and defeating our enemies, we love him. When things go badly or we are ruined, even by forces outside their control, we hate him. I can't imagine having such power. I wouldn't know what to do. I question myself even when making small decisions. To really hold the fate of an entire country in ones hands is too much to imagine. Some people relish such power though. Sometimes I think, well let them have it. At others though, it seems that these are the types of people we should least want in power. Once they have it, they are loathe to give it up.

I guess I should get back more to the literary thoughts. Gulland is a very skilled writer. She has written all three books in the form of a diary. It seems like this should be easy, but I have a feeling that, as an editor, she takes her job very seriously. To put words in someone's mouth, especially someone who really lived, takes a lot of confidence. It appears that Gulland has done her research though and I for one have appreciated her insights into the life of this amazing woman. And so the moral of this saga is that you should read these books. Entertaining, enlightening and informative. What more can a reader ask for?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Good Frustrations

Currently Reading: The Blue Nowhere

Pg 205: "Schools, however, tend to prefer their students' mind to be compliant first and curious second, if at all..."

Who but me would be immersed in the French Revolution one day and then logging onto the world of hackers and krackers the next. This turned out to be a surprising book and I found myself wanting to hurl it across the room several times. But don't take that the wrong way. It is a good thing. I thought I had something figured out, then wham! I was totally on the wrong path. And to make matters worse (or better) Deaver writes this book in a way that encourages jumping to erroneous conclusions and leads you to believe falsehoods. It was fantastically awesome!! I have always been drawn towards sci-fi, particularly near future stuff where you can see it actually happening sometime soon. This detective novel was actually set in the present. People are actually doing all this crazy coding as we speak! It makes me want to know more about not just the computers themselves, but the minds and scripts behind them. As amazing as they are, computers need someone to build them and to give them instructions. When you think about how far we have come in such a short period of time, you are overwhelmed by the creativity and imagination of the people who are part of this digital revolution. Just recently my little brother helped me do some crazy cool stuff for my grad school class. Really it was just posting a video on a host site, but still, I didn't have the capacity to figure it out on my own. We always poke fun at and ostracize these people who are good with technology. They are called geeks and dorks and we mock their lack of social skills. Of course, who are we to play name games? If it weren't for all these cyber-jockies, there would be no email, facebook, twitter, blogger, etc. that we have now substituted for social skills. Hooray for the nerds! I love them and am thankful for all their ingenuity. I wish I could truly count myself among their numbers. (I don't think being able to identify all the alien species in Star Wars truly counts).

Now onto the quote. I was grateful to find this quote in the book as it is something I have to deal with each day and very pertinent in the class I am currently taking (for only two more days thank goodness!). Too often we as teachers, simply want our students to sit down, shut up, and take notes. It is the easiest way for us to get through the day, but when we do this, are we really doing our jobs? It has been documented time and time again that meaningful experiences, cooperative engagement, and authentic activities are how students learn best. As teachers, isn't that our number one goal? If it weren't for creativity and the ability to try new things, none of this technology stuff would be possible. Did the founders of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, etc. learn this stuff in the traditional classroom? Heck no. I have a mission this year to make my class a positive place where everyone shares in teaching and learning. Giving students a chance to voice opinions, make mistakes, and try new things is the best gift we can give to them as teachers. OK, now it is immortalized in code. This means I can be called out if I don't live up to my words. Cross you fingers for me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Storming the castle

Currently Reading: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.

Ah ha! The little emperor has made his entrance. unfortunately, it is at the end of the book and so I have a feeling I am going to have to wait until book 2 to find out what transpires. I am still loving all the history, but am having a hard time keeping up with who is who. All these French names start running together. I wonder if that happens with people in other countries who are reading about Americans. Do they wonder why everyone is named Ryan, Bob, Lisa, Julie, etc? It is something to ponder.

Onto the book again. I can't believe the things that people do in the name of honor and country. They flip-flop positions. He is bad one week and a hero the next. They "despise" nobility and wealth and yet hoard every last coin. The saddest part about all this is that, like I mentioned yesterday, it is still occurring today. Look at the whole health care debacle. We don't want to have to spend a penny on anyone else, and yet if someone tried to take away our tax break, a plague upon both their houses!! It is so hypocritical and hard to stand. I think I need to be more proactive in my community government. It is at the local level that we can make the most changes and sometimes there is a trickle up effect. I'm not going to overthrow France or anything (I will leave that to Mr. B) but I would like to see some pro-activity and refreshment in our local leadership. I live here too and since I am a teacher, it is even more important for me to be an advocate for my students. No more electing crazies. That is my new motto and I will holler it to the French as well. (Although I don't thing Napoleon was elected. I guess that is one of the things I will learn upon further reading.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Never Forget

Currently Reading: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.

Hooray to my reading buddy for recommending this to me. Unfortunately it has been sitting on my bookshelf all summer. Don't you hate it when you find out that such an amazing tale was waiting just feet away from you forever? This is truly a historical tome and I am enjoying learning more about the French Revolution. It is something that I have been relatively unfamiliar with in the past. I know that this is a novel and all, but it has footnotes and references and so I feel better about believing most of it. How terrible time were back then. It is amazing how much history so many of these countries have. Here in America we tend to focus on the present. Sure we tout the revolution and whatnot, but we do not dwell. I think that it is important to review the past and actions that people have taken. We really can learn from it. So many mistakes, but also triumphs. What I had never known about this era in French history is how much civil rights were part of the equation. There were slave rebellions and calls for equality for all. It is amazing how much of each country's history is repeated in other countries. It seems that we all have so much to learn from each other. Why is it that we have to experience the sorrows ourselves before we realize the truth of the matter? I am only about halfway through the story and it is the first of three books. I am looking forward to seeing how the story progresses. So far nothing is as I remember. It makes for good reading!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Disappointment

Currently Reading: Native Tongue

So I'm at the library and I think, Carl Hiaasen is pretty popular, maybe I'll try one of his books. Way overrated! Sure it was similar to my last posted book in that it took a bunch of different lives and intertwined them in a clever way, allowing them to pop in when least expected. That's all fine and good, but I found that there was so much extra wordiness that was so unnecessary. He could have told the story in like a third of the amount of words. But I suppose publishers require a certain amount. Especially when you are Mr. Famous. Maybe I'll pass on his other offerings. I have too many other books to be reading and too little time to spend reading.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's not fair

Currently Reading: Sea Glass

As promised, this one turned out to be amazing. The various characters finally all met and Shreve intertwines their stories beautifully. You see different perspectives of the same activities and the dramatic irony provided by being allowed glimpses of their unique thoughts brings a suspense and amount of sympathy to the tale. She sets this profoundly human story on the backdrop of a national conflict, labor unions against unethic factory bosses. It is so sad that people had to fight these inequities for so long and it makes me reflect on the inequities we still see today. This story could be written in our time as well. I am currently in a grad school class focusing on diversity in education. While I am hating the workload, the information is enlightening. So many microaggressions are rampant amid our lives today. It makes me sick, but also makes me feel helpless. I guess my main goal at the moment is to make sure that I am as accepting and supportive as I can be. It is important to celebrate our differences and allow everyone to achieve to their greatest potentail. We all have a unique skill set to bring to the world. Why is it that only certain people are viewed as "good"? We are all people. Why does ourskin color, weight, gender, hair color, etc. place us in a certain niche or category. It seems like things would be so much better if we were all blind. This way merit and only merit would determine the best. Unfortunately, life is not fair and I fear stereotypes will always haunt the human world.