Saturday blogging break

IMG_20130310_103604This is one of my favorite places to sit and read. It’s also the chair that I have to share with the kids if I ever want to sit in it. The sunshine shines in just right and a breeze blows in through the window, so you can’t help but feel happy in this chair. It’s also a great place to sit if you want to spy on the neighbors for sightseeing.

The finishing line for Michelle’s High Summer Read-a-thon is tomorrow night and my reading has slowed to a crawl. I’m planning to spend today and tomorrow curled up with the two books I’m reading. Hopefully it’s the kick I need.

How are you spending your weekend?

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What’s on My Nightstand

We’re six days into the New Year and I haven’t posted a review yet. Part of it has to do with having a fuzzy memory on the books I read during the end of the 2011. The other part of it is that I’m in a reading slump. I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that the semester starts on Monday or that I’m in the middle of so many books right now.  There’s so much I want to read before everything school starts but I doubt that it’s going to happen. Here’s what’s currently on my nightstand:

The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman. I received an advance reading copy of this for the Chunkster Challenge. It’s our featured chunkster for January. The book is about the lives of two men in New York and how those lives intersect. So far, so good.

I decided to join the Essay-A-Day Project for 2012 hosted by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) and Ash (English Major’s Narrative) because I love essays but I don’t read them often enough. I think the best stories and essays make you want to re-read them, to figure out how they work. The Best American Essays: College Edition edited by Robert Atwan is my essay read for this month.  I’ve already read “In the Kitchen” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Now I’m reading “Hair” by Maria Aldrich. I can recommend both essays.

I recently picked up The Grimm Reader: The Classic Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Maria Tatar, after reading Polly Shulman’s middle grade fantasy, The Grimm Legacy. I started reading the story, “The Twelve Brothers” and felt like a kid again.

Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners is another book I’ve been reading in bits. The collection’s first story, “The Faery Handbag” is weird and lovely at the same time. The second story, “The Hortlak” is a little too strange for me so I’ll probably read the last story “Lull” and put the rest of the book down.

Peter Hedges’ What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? is a book I’ve re-read almost every year. It’s just like the movie but better.

I’m also reading Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin for this month’s Game of Thrones read-along. It’s a dual reading in audio and print. I might just ditch the audio version though I love listening to George Guidall’s voice.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is a story that I failed to read last year though I hosted a read-along for it! It’s another chunkster but reads like a novel.

So that’s what I’m reading. What are you reading this week?

Reading Journal: Good Poems

I’m happy to be one of today’s stops for Serena’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour in celebration of National Poetry Month.

When I want to read a good poem, there’s a few volumes of poetry that I go back to over and over again. One that I really enjoy is Good Poems, an anthology of poems edited by Garrison Keillor. The book features poetry read on Keillor’s radio show, “The Writer’s Almanac”.  Readers will find greats like Mary Oliver, Charles Bukowski, Donald Hall, Hayden Carruth, and William Shakespeare side-by-side with lesser-known poets like Ginger Andrews and Erica-Lynn Huberty. In his introduction Keillor wrote,

“What. . . makes all good poems matter, is that they offer a truer account than what we’re used to getting. They surprise us with clear pictures of the familiar. The soft arc of an afternoon in a few lines.”

I agree. There’s nothing better than a work of art that explains some aspect of life without obscure references to dig through or miles of description that leaves me trying to figure out what the work is about. The poems included in this anthology are easy-to-read and understand by poetry lovers and those who don’t read from the genre often.

Keillor divides the collection into nineteen sections by theme such as yellow, elders, lovers, music, language and lives. I found myself loving certain sections more than others but found most of the poems satisfying. I found poets that I haven’t of before like Charles Bukowski. After reading Bukowski’s “The Way it is Now” which starts out,


I’ll tell you
I’ve lived with some gorgeous women
and I was so bewitched by those
beautiful creatures that
my eyebrows twitchd.
but I’d rather drive to New York
backwards
than to live with any of them
again.


I laughed so hard, tearing the poem out of my book and mailing it to an ex-boyfriend who was having women troubles at the time.

Did I mention that I’m on my second copy of this anthology? I tore out and mailed off so many poems in this collection that when I wanted to reread many of my favorite poems, I couldn’t. This is that kind of book. The book that you’re going to find many poems to love, pages to mark up or add a post-it to. There’s so many great poems that I would love to give you a taste of like Anne Sexton’s “Welcome Morning” whose last line makes me shiver because I know I’m reading the truth or “The Orange” by Wendy Cope about the sharing of an orange between friends. Instead I’m share “The Portrait” by Stanley Kunitz,


My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I cam down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.


  • Good Poems

  • Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor

  • 504 pages

  • Publisher: Penguin

Reading Journal: March in Review

First off I want to thank everyone who left a comment on my last post, “What inspires you to keep blogging?” I plan on going back to this post over and over again to remember all the great advice left in the comments. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to keep blogging but quit thinking about imaginary critics. I’m putting excessive pressure on myself.

This month I read:

  1. Tan to Tamarind: Poems about the Color Brown by Malathi Michelle Iyengar
  2. A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  3. 13 Ways to Look at a Novel by Jane Smiley
  4. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
  5. Running Shoes by Frederick Lipp
  6. The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkey
  7. Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Anderson
  8. Mrs. Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind by Judy Finchler
  9. The Girl who Hated Books – Manjusha Pawagi
  10. I am Going: An Elephant and Piggie Book by Mo Willems
  11. Nate the Great and the Hungry Book Club by Marjorie Sharmat Weinman
  12. Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl who Floated by Florence Parry Hyde
  13. The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
  14. Read, Remember, Recommend by
  15. My People by Langston Hughes. Illustrations by Charles R. Smith Jr.
  16. The Three Little Pigs by Paul Gladone
  17. This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace
  18. The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen.
  19. The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang
  20. Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh
  21. Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss
  22. Jellaby: Monster in the City by Kean Soo

Short works read:

  1. The Next Invasion by Philip Reed.
  2. Marrying Libraries by Anne Fadiman from the essay collection, Ex Libris.

Favorite March reads: Tan to Tamarind and This is Water

I’m pretty satisfied with my reading though I mostly read children’s books. One of my goals this year is to read more adult books so I’m hoping April is the month where I actually start on this, especially with the ROOB (Read Your Own Books) game, Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon, the Angela Carter celebration, and spring break all taking place. Plus April is National Poetry Month. I don’t think there’s a better month than April!

How was your reading in March? Do you have any reading plans for April?

Mini-Reviews

Can you believe that I haven’t posted a new review in over a week? I don’t know if it’s this confusing California weather (thick fog in the morning and warm during the day) or what. I’m in the weirdest mood though November is supposed to be the month where I get so much done. The week fter the readathon, I didn’t read much. This week I’m in the middle of five books so the next review I write will probably be next week. I don’t have the energy desire time to write longer reviews so I thought shorter reviews would be a nice change for right now.

hale

Rapunzel’s Revenge (2008)
Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale
144 pages

I first heard about this book during last year’s Cybil’s awards. My library just bought a copy last month and I’ve finally been able to read it. The Hales have taken the Rapunzel fairy tale and turned it on its head! After escaping from Mother Gothel, Rapunzel decides to go back and get her revenge on the witch and free her mother from enslaved in a mine camp. On the way she meets Jack of the Beanstalk fame and the two start on a daring adventure.

This was a great read. In this retelling Rapunzel is a daring young girl who won’t take no for an answer. With Jack by her side the duo chases off coyotes, wrestle with giant snakes, and rescue a spoil brat from a group of bandits. This is a book that has a place in my permanent library.

kubuishi 1

Amulet Vol 1: The Stonkeeper (2008)
Amulet Vol. 2; The Stonekeeper’s Curse (2009)
by Kazu Kibuishi

Kibuishi is the genius behind the fabulous Flight graphic series. Last year I found out about Amulet and read the first book in the series. The problem with reading books in a series is that you have to wait until the next volume comes out. Just last month volume 2 arrived and I dove in. Both books are about siblings Navin and Emily. With their mother they move to an old family home to start over after losing their father in a car accident. Only days after arriving, strange things start to happen and their mother is kidnapped by a strange creature and taken to another world.

Book two starts where the first book left off with Navin and Emily trying to rescue their mother. Filled with more action and adventure than book one, you can’t put this book down until you turn the last page. The graphics are so great, there were a few I wanted to blow up and put on my wall. Great read for all ages.

willingham

Peter and Max: A Fables Novel (2009)
Bill Willingham
400 pages

I have been a fan of  Bill Willingham’s graphic novel series, Fables, for years. Peter is a Fable who lives with his wife Bo (Little Bo Peep). When Bigby Wolf, Beast, and Frau Totenkinder informs Peter that his older brother Max has returned, Peter knows he has to go and finish the fight that started between the two brother centuries before.

With that said, I have to tell you this was an excellent read. Because I’ve already read the graphic novels I found the beginning slow-going and almost set the book down. After a while, the book picked up and I set aside almost everything to read it. The plot goes back and forth between the past explaining how Max became the Pied Piper and his jealousy with Peter, and the present as Max flies across the world to confront his brother.Willingham did a fantastic job providing the background information. Bigby and Frau Totenkinder both appear in the brothers’ past and readers find out more about Frau Totenkinder and the life she lead before coming to our world.

The fight that happened between the two brothers wasn’t what I expected after the build-up of so much suspense. It was a pretty crafty fight though. If you love fairy tales and/or love the Fables series, this is a great book for you.

Sunday Salon: Thoughts

24readathonRight now it’s early morning here in Southern California and the sun is not up yet. Sitting on my desk is a hot cup of coffee and today’s read, August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. I received it through PaperbackSwap for the read-a-thon but I’ve decided to read it now. Today will be spent visiting family, reading, and getting the kids ready for school tomorrow.

Last night on Twitter, Kailana stated that she’s only read 16 books so far this month. That made me check my calendar reading log to see how many books I’ve read this month. 3. That’s how many books I’ve read so far this month. Compare that to the 38 read in August or the 18 read in September, it makes October the worst reading month I’ve had in a long time. I’m hoping to get back into the reading groove by reading my butt off this week and during the read-a-thon.

If you’re on the fence about signing up for Dewey’s read-a-thon, you still have time. Even if you can’t participate for that many hours, it’s still a fun event to join. There’s games and prizes plus you find new blogging buddies too.

I have my strategy down for the big event. I have tons of short books and fast reads, waiting to be read. I’m planning a mini read-a-thon for my kids on Saturday to keep them busy. I also plan on snacking on fruits and quick foods so not to get bogged down cooking. At all. Pizza will probably be lunch and dinner on Saturday.

My goals:

To finish at least six books.
To cheer on each of the 200+ participants at least once.

To read the majority of the books in my pile even if it takes months

I don’t know which goal is going to be harder. I’ve already starting visiting participant’s read-a-thon pile posts to cheer them on a little. I have so many great books in my pile that I really want to read, so I’m going to try my best to read them before they’re due back at the library.  If you’re participating in the event, do you bother setting goals?

Last week’s reads

Last week I read two of October’s three read books: Sea Change by Aimee Freedman and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Both were engaging books. I reviewed Sea Change but not Catching Fire. There’s no point when all my review is going to say is: Go read it now! Catching Fire was a great book but I love Hunger Games more. Either way I will be buying book three when it’s published next year.

So that’s it for this post. Are you participating in next week’s read-a-thon? If so, what book are you really looking forward to reading?

Reading Journal: Currently Reading

Yesterday I started reading Marilynne Robinson’s debut novel, Housekeeping. The novel is the story of Ruth and her sister, Lucille, as they’re raised first by their grandmother, then her sister-in-laws, then by Sylvie, their eccentric aunt. According to the back cover,

Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

While reading Housekeeping I’ve learned that this is a book to read slowly. This book is lyrical, so well-written. I’ve been keeping a pencil with me every time I continue the story because of the beautiful passages I want to go back to later on. Like this passage,

If heaven was to be this world plunged of disaster and nuisance, if immortality was to be this life held in poise and arrest, and if this world purged and this life unconsuming could be thought of as world and life restored to their proper natures, it is no wonder that five serene, eventless years lulled my grandmother into forgetting what she should never have forgotten.

Originally published in 1980, Housekeeping was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. It didn’t win though Robinson later won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for her second novel, Gilead.

Reader’s Journal: More of The Rights of the Reader

I still haven’t been able to sit down long enough to write my review of Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader, but it’s coming. So for now I’m giving you an excerpt from chapter eleven, which is one of my favorite chapters. This excerpt is about the beauty of reading aloud and what it does for both parent and child. I hope you enjoy it.

Lost intimacy . . . Thinking about it later, as our insomnia kicks in, we see that that ritual of reading every evening at the end of the bed when they are little–set time, set gestures–was like a prayer. A sudden truce after the battle of the day, a reunion lifted out of the ordinary. We savored the brief moment of silence before the storytelling began, then our voice, sounding like itself again, the liturgy of chapters . . . Yes, reading a story every evening fulfilled the most beautiful, least selfish, and least speculative function of prayer: that of having sins forgiven. We didn’t confess, we weren’t looking for a piece of eternity, but it was a moment of communion between us, of textual absolution, a return to the only paradise that matters intimacy. Without realizing it, we were discovering one of the crucial functions of storytelling, and more broadly speaking, of art in general, which is to offer a respite from human struggle.

Love wore a new skin.

And it was free.

Sunday Salon: Reading Journal

Good morning! The sun is just starting to come up while the clouds are slowly moving in. Today’s forecast calls for rain which is perfect for me. Later on I’m leaving to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday but until then I plan on reading and relaxing.
My plan last week was to stay off the internet and get some homework done. It didn’t happen. I love being online. There’s so many things to read and learn about. Thanks to fellow bloggers, I found a ton of books to put on my TBR list and pile and ordered several books this week.

I’ve been dipping into Language for a New Century: Contemporary from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond all week. It’s a massive anthology of poetry from more than 400 poets, from sixty different countries, translated from fifty languages. One of the goals of the book is to introduce readers to poets they would never hear about otherwise. The book has been receiving criticism because it can only give you one poem per poet. I say the book is an introduction. If you want to read more from a poet then go and find their books and help support translated works.

The foreword by Carolyn Forsche gave me goosebumps and made me read it aloud:

We know, from the mellifluous litany of poets’ names, who wrote these poems, but we might also consider what wrote them: the urge to sing, pray, cry, announce, and whisper; to write cultures into visibility; to write not after events but in their aftermath, through collisions in time and space, exile within and without; to walk around in the ruins of wars, awake. What wrote them was a determination to revolt against silence with a bit of speaking. What wrote was an upwelling of poetic apprehension of world.

Forsche calls the book “a field guide to the human condition”. I think it’s a perfect description for all poetry.

Reading this book made me think of my relationship with poetry. As a teenager it was all I read. I checked out the Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson hundreds of times in eighth grade. “Because I could not stop for death/He kindly stopped for me. . .”

After Dickinson I read and reread the haikus of Richard Wright before moving on to Alice Walker’s Her Blue Body Everything we Know. “Good night, Willie Lee, I’ll see you in the morning” is a favorite poem from that collection. From there I arrived at Chitra Divakaruni’s Black Candle. It stayed next to my bed for months as I read and reread it, raking up library fines.

I wonder what happened, what made me neglect poetry for years? Now Language for a New Century is leading me back to the collections I’ve loved. Right now Black Candle and the Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson are sitting at my nightstand once again, while Her Blue Body is on its way to me. This week poetry has become the first and last things of my day.

What do you think of poetry? Do you read it? If so, what are your favorite poems? Who are your favorite poets? If not, why?