Friday, January 29, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Essays. Webster's defines an essay as "a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative." I can't remember the last time I sat down and read an essay. College, I would presume, and it certainly wasn't for pleasure. But part of my goal for reading challenges is to try to "expand my reading horizons". So one of the books I picked for the Women Unbound Challenge was a book of essay called Couldn't Keep it to Myself by Wally Lamb and the Women of the York Correctional Institution: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters (368 pgs, Harper Collins, 2003). I'm afraid this is going to be a rather long review, but even then, I don't think there is a way to do justice to this book.
Wally Lamb, the bestselling author, was a teacher first. When he wrote his first two novels, they were both picked up by Oprah Winfrey and her book club, causing them to become instant successes. Because of the success, Lamb was forever being asked for speaking engagements or to support causes. And because he is such a nice man, he has an incredibly hard time saying no. In fact, Lamb had to write down his refusal on an index card and keep it next to the phone. It was the only way he could say no. But when the prison librarian at York Correctional Institution called to ask Lamb to lead a writing workshop at the prison, he couldn't find the card. And so he said yes.
A rash of suicide attempts had happened at York. The overall mental well-being of many of the prisoners was despair, and the staff there thought that using writing as a coping tool might be of value to the women housed at York. I used to keep a hand-written journal. I wish I knew why I stopped using it, to be honest. When I could put feelings on paper, it always made me feel lighter. In the way using this blog for my venting has lightened my mood, writing in a journal was indeed therapeutic for me. The same was thought about the women at York. Maybe if they could write down their feelings, it would make them feel better about themselves. And Lamb was asked to lead the workshop. But once the workshop had ended, Lamb was once again put on the spot. "Are you coming back?", they asked him. He gave each woman an assignment: Write an essay. Entrance to the next "class" was that essay. What started out as a committment that seemed like a burden, to something that fills him with hope and love: Lamb returned to teach another workshop. And he has not stopped returning.
What he came to realize, is that these women were more than just criminals. More than just their crimes. "There are things that need to be known about prison and prisoners. There are misconceptions to be abandoned, biases to be dropped. There are a heart and a mind that need opening. There are many. We are a paradoxical nation, enormously charitable and stubbornly unforgiving. We have called into existence the prisons we wanted. I am less and less convinced they are the prisons we need."
"To imprison a woman is to remove her voice from the world, but many female inmates have been silenced by life long before the transport carries them from the court house to the correctional facility. Because incest and domestic violence cut across the economic divide, women of all means are schooled in silence. Of the eleven contributors to the volume, eight have been battered and nine have been sexually abused, a statistic that reflects the norm for incarcerated women. Their essays, then, are victories against voicelessness -- miracles in print."
I think this book has two points. The first being, using writing as a tool for coping with the bad things in life is healthy. Each woman "grew" into a different person by giving voice to their pasts. It was a way to release the inner demons.
The second point being that the prison system is flawed. The eleven women that contributed essays to this book each has a story to tell. And each is equally heart-breaking. Most of these women were let down by society and by the system long before she committed any crime. It seems to me the chain of events leading up to their convictions were almost inevitable. Both of the above quotes come from Lamb himself, questioning the prison system itself. It's easy to believe that these women are criminals, and to just lock them up and throw away the key is the right thing to do. When you look at the system as a whole, it seems to work. But to break it down by an individual case by case scenario, the sheer wrongness screams out from the pages.
There is a short biography of each of the contributing authors in the book. Each of the essays are a look into the past -- to the life that was lived and events that led up to incarceration. But the biographies tell a bit more. You learn a bit about each crime that was committed and where each woman is today. Each woman's voice is distinct; each woman's writing varies. And yet, there is a common thread that runs through each essay: the violence and horrific childhood that shaped the lives of each woman. Here are just a few examples:
Convicted of Larceny by Embezzlement, Carolyn Adams' life has been one of mental health issues and pain. She was not only sexually abused by her father starting at the age of 6, but when she was in the 7th grade, she found herself pregnant. Not even understanding what was going on, she was sent to a home for unwed mothers until she could give birth. "I find the one that says 'Baby Boy May'. His face is pink and wrinkled and he's sucking on his tiny fist, eyes shut. I stare at him for a long time, memorizing each part: his perfect miniature feet, his tuft of blond hair, his tightly shut eyes. I can't connect the child lying here to the "it" I carried inside my body. This baby was the secret. He doesn't seem real. Just as he opens one dark blue eye, a had clamps onto my shoulder. 'Young lady, didn't you see that sign? Children aren't allowed on the nursery ward. Now scoot before you get into trouble'. " After her release from prison, Carolyn today volunteers at a wellness center for battered women, CRIS Radio for the Blind and a service center for the elderly. She continues to write to help her advocacy of the mentally ill.
Brenda Medina has been incarcerated since she turned 18 in 1993. She was convicted of homicide (gang related) and is serving 25 years without parole. Raised by her parents, her mother was mentally ill and beat her. She joined a gang at a young age to find someplace she belonged. She was known for being tough and stoic. " 'I'm not dying for nobody,' I said. 'No matter how many times they drag me over to seg'. He stopped bouncing and leaned forward. Looked me in the eye. 'You've got it backwards,' he said. 'That's exactly what you are doing. Every time you convince someone else what a hard case you are? Every time you earn yourself a ticket, or a lockdown? Your spirit dies a little more. They can make it pretty tough for you in here, Brenda, but they can't kill your spirit. Only you have the power to do that.' I had never cried in front of him before that day. Still incarcerated, Brenda completed her GED and has completed 36 hours towards an associates degree. She is a bilingual tutor. She is now a writer, photographer and editor for the York Voice, the inmate newsletter. She also designed, organized and implemented the first ever Latino Appreciation Week at York. Writing has become her "sanctuary".
Barbara Parsons Lane was convicted of manslaughter, due to emotional duress. When she was 6, she was molested by her grandfather -- who had molested her mother when SHE was a child. Her mother committed suicide years later, leaving an emotionally unstable daughter to pick up the pieces of her life. In her essay entitled Puzzle Pieces we learn a little more about why she has been incarcerated: "I am tired now, sick of puzzles and memories. My grandfather is long dead, and my mother, now, too. And I'm in prison for having taken the life of my husband, the man who molested my granddaughter, the child of my child." Lane has since earned an associate in science degree from the local community college, graduating with honors. She is a certified tutor and maintains her membership in the active support group, Survivors of Abuse and Struggles, a writing- and reading-based group for victims of battering. She is also deeply involved with the prison's PUP partnership, training dogs to assist special needs adults and children.
These are just a few of the voices you hear ringing out from this book. The final essay is written by Dale Griffiths, one of the teachers at York. She was instrumental in getting Lamb to come, and keeping him on as a volunteer. These are MY students. The ones who fell through the cracks at public schools. By my seventh year of teaching at York, I had gathered, edited and "published" four booklets of my students' writing -- stories describing worlds where love and hate blur and where sexual abuse, violence, and drug addiction are both commonplace and epidemic. I'd long known the statistical connection between childhood brutality and incarceration. Now I knew the writers, too. Each of those statistics has a name, a face, a history.
If you get a chance to read this book, I encourage you to do it. It is hard to read. Brutally honest and forthright, it tugged at my heart strings like nothing I've ever read before. I spent many a page openly weeping. I have never considered myself privileged. But I do realize now that a childhood like mine is a treasure. Although I didn't feel like it was exciting, and I couldn't wait to grow up, I was certainly lucky not to have to deal with the issues that these women did. This book also makes me hug my kids just a little tighter each night, and say "I love you" a couple extra times a day. No child should have to endure the violence these women did. If this book does nothing else, it should give you a reason to look at the injustice that is indeed the American prison system. Heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, this book will leave you, the reader, wanting to do more. I know I do. Now, I just need to find a way to channel that desire into action. A 5-star review, and then some. 5/5
Saturday, January 23, 2010
One bright and starry night, the Gods, the Goddesses, the Demons, and the Spirits gathered in Heaven for a dinner party.
This book, told in Graphic Novel format, contains 3 separate tales:
The first tale is the legendary Chinese fable of The Monkey King. The Monkey King was the ruler of all the monkeys on the Flower-Fruit Mountain. When the Gods were having their dinner party, he tried to attend. But because he was a monkey (and didn't wear shoes) he was denied admittance. This changed the Monkey King. He was embarrassed by it, and decided to change himself. He required all monkeys to wear shoes. He studies the 12 disciplines of kung fu to become more than just a monkey. In fact, he transforms himself into a different type of deity all together.
The second tale is about Jin, an American-Born Chinese. His parents immigrated from China and met in college. Jin's mom told him the reason she chose to marry Jin's father. "Of all the PhD. students at the university, he had the thickest glasses. Thick glasses meant long hours of studying. Long Hours of studying meant a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic meant a high salary. A high salary meant a good husband." When Jin is 9, his family moves out of Chinatown, and Jin has to start a new school. Where he is different; the outsider. He suffers from bullies and bouts of embarrassment over his culture.
The final tale is of Danny, the American boy that has a Chinese cousin, named Chin-Kee. Chin-Kee is the epitome of a negative Chinese stereotype. He has buck teeth, a thick accent, and even eats cats. Danny is so embarrassed by Chin-Kee's yearly visits that he has to switch schools every year.
What can be said about this beautiful little book that hasn't already been said?? It truly is a masterpiece. We follow Jin through grade school, where he befriends the student, Wei-Chen, who has just arrived from Taiwan. At first, Jin tries to ignore the other student, but when the two boys start talking about toys (Transformers), they soon become best friends.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
See? It's not always doom and gloom over here!! This week, there will be no whining or rantings. Just a rundown of the last week, and it's been a pretty good one!!
Last Wednesday was my birthday. I don't usually mention it. I hate the idea of getting older. It's not so much the number that bothers me anymore. As far as I'm concerned, age is just a state of mind. You are only as old as you feel. Trouble is, I'm starting to FEEL old. I'm on my feet alot more with all the hours I'm putting in at the restaurant. And my knees have been bothering me a bit. My shoulder seems to be taking a long time to actually heal up. I know it's because I'm getting "older". Sucks, that's for sure.
But this was a pretty great birthday. I had to work a double on my the actual day, and I woke up to sound of someone banging on my door. As I staggered down the stairs in my Jammie's, I found the most gorgeous flower arrangement sitting on the steps. Yellow roses and all sorts of pretty yellow flowers (I have no idea what they are called. Wish I had taken a picture now) in a beautiful vase. All from the wonderful Michelle @ Michelle's Masterful Musings....one of my very best blogging friends. Such a sweetie!! My co-workers decided it would be fun to torment me by singing all night. They even made me a cake. It was just nice that no one forgot. I got a check in the mail from my parents that was way over the top. All in all a great day even though I worked most of it. We had planned on celebrating with the family later on in the weekend, since I didn't have to work then.
A few weeks back I won tickets to a concert that was on Friday night. It was 3 Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin and Flyleaf. Bands that I like ok, but nothing I'd really bend over backwards to see. HOWEVER, 3 Days Grace is Chad's favorite band. So, plans were made for him to go to the concert with my nephew. Nic is 17, and I'd be pretty comfortable with the two boys at the Civic Center (Chad's only 13). Besides, the Red Cross is literally one block from there. I'd be able to drop them off and make sure they got home ok. Unfortunately, the day before the concert I find out that Nic was home with a horrible fever and a bad case of the flu. So, I took Chad instead. I would have loved to do it in the first place, but I know 13-year-olds. Figured he wouldn't want to go with his "old" mom. Of course, with no other options, he was stuck. BUT, we had a great time. Apparently, I'm not TOO uncool. I knew most of the songs, and free tickets aside, they were 2nd row in the lower bowl. Fantastic seats. I bought him a cool hat. Sang songs. Had a blast.
Sunday, the girls had their first basketball game. 2nd - 4th graders. Not very experienced. But we won 15 - 9. Bella scored a basket and Ana played a fantastic defensive game. The coach even told the other girls if they all played like Ana, they'd be winning by 40 points! She tied up another player at least 5 times for jump balls, and hustled her little butt off. I'm such a proud mama!! Then we went back to my in laws for my "birthday" party, complete with balloons, dinner, a red velvet cake (my favorite) and presents. Mike got me the coolest Jack Skellington hoodie and tote bag (huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan), some Ed Hardy sneaks, and a Ramones tote. My in-laws got me some good smelly bath stuff, money, and flannel PJ's. And the kids actually spent their own money to get a present. They seem to know me better than anyone. They got me a book. And not just any book, but Under the Dome by Stephen King. Yeah. THEY know me well. Ana and Bella even wrote me stories and drew me gorgeous pictures. All in all a fantastic birthday!!
Since Monday was a holiday, I took the kiddies out to spend Christmas gift cards at the mall. Fun!! And finally, ending up a great weekend, I woke up this morning to 4 books in the mail. I'm really haven't been doing a lot of ARC's lately. I'm been trying to weed through the lists. I have a backlog of books to read anyway, and I hate committing to something if I don't have the time. BUT, I was pretty excited to hear about these:
I love a good thriller. I haven't read a book by Dekker before, but I've heard good things. The Bride Collector is being released in April, and I can't wait to dig in to this one!!
I've read both of Joe Hill's books, and am extremely excited about his new book, Horns. It will be released on Febrary 16 (my dad's birthday!). I love a good scary story, and Hill being Stephen King's son has it in his blood!!
I don't read a lot of "Chick Lit" or Women's Contemporary Fiction any more. But Nicole from The Book Reporter has been extremely good to me, and when she asked if I'd review this, I said yes. I've reviewed a couple of Kristin Hannah's books for them, and I've enjoyed each one. Figured Winter Garden would be just as good. It is set to be released on Feb 2nd, so look for this review soon.
SO excited about this one. I actually squealed when I read Nicole's email asking me to take part in this blog tour. And another squeal when I got the book this morning!! Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins in the first in a series about a reform school for "wayward Prodigiums" IE, witches, faeries, shape shifters, etc. SO much fun!! The book is being released on March 2. Will let you all know blog tour dates soon!!
That's it for me. I have a couple of books to review this week: Breathers by S. G. Browne and The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Liga. Also, will be reviewing Couldn't Keep it to Myself. And maybe a Library Loot post too. Till then, happy reading!!
Friday, January 15, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
In the first section, she guides you through explanations about your changing body, from puberty to piercings. In an easy to read format, complete with Dr. Ashton's "Playlists" (certain advice that she offers over and over) and questions to ask yourself, Dr. Ashton gives a no-holds barred explanation for all topics, especially those that girls might find embarrassing to talk about. Each chapter is filled with facts, do's and don'ts, and "myths" to be debunked.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Technically, I can still call this a "Sunday Salon" post, since I started it on Sunday!! I was actually going to write this up last night, but the time got away from me at work. Most weekends when I work at the Red Cross is super-slow. The last few nights have been extremely busy though. So...less time to read and post. Here are the rules: There are 3 levels: You’re not required to make a list or stick to one, but it would be fun if you did! A recommendations post will also be up today, to help you make choices. For me, I'm sticking with the Western Europe lit because I'd never be able to whittle down my choices. I'm also going for a Lord/Lady designation, but who knows what will happen once I get started! Here is my pool of books that I would love to draw from:
And right now, I seem to have the blues. Hence, the melancholy nature of this post. I'm not really sure why. Probably a combination of any number of things: The weather. The past week it has snowed a foot, and the temps have been in the negative numbers. When I went out to start my truck this morning, the gauge said -9! I just can't ever seem to warm up. I hate being cold. How about the fact that it is dark so much of the time?? It's already 10 days into the year, and I've only finished one book. There was no time for Bloggiesta this weekend, and I would have loved to spend some time on my blog. I had wanted to move to my own domain, but the name I wanted is already taken.
Or maybe it's because my birthday is this week. Another year older. For the most part that never bothers me. But I have to say this year is a bit different. Not much has changed, and I think that's the problem. Another year....and not much to show for it. Sounds kind of silly when I put it into words. But I worked SO hard this year, and yet, everything is the same as last year. Still struggling. I do have an interview this week, so maybe things will start to look up. Regardless, I need to get myself out of the blahs.
And what better to curb the blahs than join more challenges!! If there is one thing that I like more than challenges, it's making lists!! And I've had fun this week finding more challenges for 2010!
A Tournament of Reading is a Medieval Literature Challenge hosted by Meghan @ The Medieval Bookworm. Now, actual Medieval Lit would probably be a bit more than I could chew off at this point in my life. Would love to read a little Chaucer, but not sure if I'm up to that challenge right now. BUT I do love Historical Fiction. It's been awhile since I've stuck my toes in that particular pond, and I really miss it.
This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010. The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted right here at Medieval Bookworm. Challenge genres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction. Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe.
Peasant – Read 3 medieval books of any kind.
Lord – Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind.
King – Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.
Here are the rules:
There are 3 levels:
You’re not required to make a list or stick to one, but it would be fun if you did! A recommendations post will also be up today, to help you make choices.
For me, I'm sticking with the Western Europe lit because I'd never be able to whittle down my choices. I'm also going for a Lord/Lady designation, but who knows what will happen once I get started! Here is my pool of books that I would love to draw from:
The Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge, hosted by Lisa @ Lit and Life is a chance to read some of the books on Rory's Reading list. I'm a newbie to The Gilmore Girls, never having watched it while it was actually on in prime time. But that doesn't change my love for the series now. And since I got the entire Series on DVD for Christmas (thanks to my awesome in laws!), my Gilmore Girl's obsession is back!! Hence this challenge and the perpetual Rory Gilmore Books Project, which I'm also partaking in!
The challenge runs all of 2010, and there are 3 levels of Participation:
Emily: Read 5 books from at least two different categories.
Lorelai: Read 10 books from at least three different categories.
Rory: Read 20 books from at least four different categories.
I consider myself a total Rory! I would love to get at least 20 under my belt, but we will see. I will pick the books as the year rolls on!
Mind Voyages Science Fiction Reading Challenge is hosted by Robin of My Two Blessings. "Science fiction and fantasy books have always been my one true love ever since I read my first sci fi book back in the 70's. Whether it was Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Clark, Ray Bradbury, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey or Robert Silverberg who captured me first, I don't remember. When I recently came across the Hugo Award Web site, the list of winners made my mouth water and tickled my imagination. All the books on the list looked so good that I decided to read through the list, starting with the oldest. But all those who were nominated looked too good to pass up, so decide okay, will take some side trips and read some of the nominees. Other ideas started popping up in my brain. That's what the sci-fi and fantasy genre does to you - expands your mind and gives you ideas."
There are several levels of participation for the challenge:
Moon Voyage : Read at least 6 winners on the Hugo Winners List
Sling shot back to Earth: Read at least 3 winners on the Nebula Winner's List
Venus Voyage: Philip K. Dick Quest - Read at least 2 of his books
Mercury Voyage: Robert Heinlein Quest - Read at least 2 of his books
Mars Voyage: Read at least 6 winners on the Hugo List and take a side trip through the 21st century and read at least 4 nominees.
Go into Warp Drive and visit the other planets:
Jupiter Voyage: Go side tripping 90's Style
Saturn: Go Side Tripping 80's Style
Uranus: Go Side Tripping 70's Style
Neptune Voyage: Go Side Tripping through the 50's and 60's
The I'm going to Pluto because Pluto is still a planet as far as I'm concerned Voyage: Mix it up, choose the number of books you want to read from each voyage, include some new books you pick up along the way and enjoy the ride.
I have no idea what level of participation I will go for, but I have a huge list of books to choose from, including:
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons
- Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
- Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
- Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
- Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
And that's just to name a few!
Finally, the Cybils Award Challenge and the 2010 YA Challenge kind of go hand in hand. If you read my blog enough, you know that besides fantasy, my favorite genre is YA.
The Cybils Award Challenge is hosted by Michelle @ Galleysmith. It's a chance to read books from the Cybil Award Nominees. There are lots of levels of participation, but I think I will be going for the Shorties Rule – choose to read books in a specific short list (finalists will be publicized Jan 1, 2010. And the books I want to read are from a couple of categories:
Fiction: Fantasy & Science Fiction (MG)
- 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
- Dreamdark Series by Laini Taylor
- The Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel
- Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
- The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott
- Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories by Joan Aiken
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Fiction: Fantasy & Science Fiction (Young Adult)
- Candor by Pam Bachorz
- The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
- The Dust of 100 Dogs by A. S. King
- Fire by Kristin Cashore (but I must read Graceling First!)
- Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
- Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey
- Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis
Fiction: Middle Grade
- Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford
- Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
- Heart of a Shepard by Roseanne Parry
- All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg
- Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes
- The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O'Connor
Fiction: Young Adult
- Blue Plate Special by Michelle Kwasney
- Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford
- Cracked up to Be by Courtney Summers
- How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
- In the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
- North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Hedley (already read this one!)
- Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
I have participated in the YA Challenge for the last few years. It's one of the few that I always complete!! Hosted by J. Kaye @ J. Kaye's Book Blog. It runs through the entire year of 2010, and has various levels of participation:
--The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.
--Just My Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 25 Young Adult novels.
--Stepping It Up YA Reading Challenge – Read 50 Young Adult novels.
--Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels.
I'm probably good for the Just My Size Challenge
That's it till next Sunday!! I'll probably finish up my final round of challenges!! Happy Reading!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
So...this post is not only my sign-up. My initial post. My list of books I'd love to read. But it's also my chance to the do the first Mini-Challenge!! See? I really can multitask! Which is what I will do first. The point of the mini-challenge is "to write a paragraph or two on why this challenge and/or this issue is important to you."
Goodness. Seems like it would be easy. It should be. But like everything in life, there is always a little more to it than just black and white.
I grew up in a small farming community here in Illinois. And when I say small, I mean "TINY". My hometown has a population of about 520. My high school, when it existed (it has since consolidated with other schools and was actually leveled!) never topped 80 for all 4 grades. Life was simple and everyone came from the exact cookie cutter family. Differences weren't really tolerated. In fact, they were bad. Being gay was against everything that was taught to us. Hell, the bible said it was wrong...so it must have been.
Fast-forward a few years, and I went to college. Differences were not only common; they were celebrated. I now had friends from different races, nationalities, religions, and dare I say, sexual orientations. Amazingly enough, I embraced all that was different in the world around me and just accepted. I've seen first-hand what hate can do. During my years at Bradley, I had the unfortunate opportunity to take classes with a guy named Matt Hale. If you are from the area, or even Illinois, you probably will know who he is. If not, I'll explain. Mr. Hale was a local area boy that became the leader of the World Church of the Creator. A White Supremacist. A particular nasty one at time. I even had a class with Hale, and if I say he was an ignorant, redneck pig, that's being way more generous than he deserves. He led a KKK group onto MY campus, reeking all sorts of havoc. It was a really scary time, and it brought out a lot of hate, the likes of which I had never seen face to face before. And which I never want to see again.
After I graduated, I met a guy that turned out to be my best friend. To this day, I can call him that. He's the sweetest, kindest person I know. He's my children's godfather. He is mine and Mike's closest friend. He loves me and my family unconditionally. And he's gay. He has experienced the bigotry of the uninformed. I would love to shield him from that if I could. But that is the way of the world, as much as I hate it. So, in my own little way, I'm working to change it. I had a friend one time comment on a BBQ we had at our house. She said coming to our house was like going to a meeting of the Rainbow Coalition. I looked around and realized it was true. We have friends that are black, Native American, Chinese, Spanish, gay, straight, white....and just about any mixture you can imagine. I want my children to grow up in a world where THAT is normal. Where being different isn't a bad thing. Where there is no such thing as different. A world where people just are. A place where every person is free to love whoever they choose, no matter what gender. That is what I believe in, and it is what my children are going to believe.
As far as the reading challenge, I have a few books that I want to read. I'll do my best to hit the Rainbow level. But I know how well I usually do on challenges, so we'll see in the end what I can accomplish. I know that I will pick up huge amounts of titles for my TBR, as well. So this list is just a start!!
- Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block
- Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
- Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
- Normal by Amy Bloom
- Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
- The House you Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
- Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford
- Sex Talks to Girls: A Memoir by Maureen Seaton
- Sugar Rush by Julie Burchill
- My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
Hopefully, this will be a wonderfully enlightening challenge. Many thanks to Amanda for hosting!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
It feels weird to do a review post when I haven't even finished posting all my 2009 reviews. But the way I'm going these days, I didn't want to end up posting this wrap-up post in February!!
I sometimes find it rather depressing to read everyone's wrap-up posts. I can not even come close to touching the numbers of other bloggers. There are just not enough hours in the day. But since I've decided to go with the Zen approach to blogging, I'm carrying that over to my reading!!
So....since my numbers are low, this shouldn't be too long for all of you to read! I finished 2009 with a total of 49 books. That's one less that last year and the same as 2007. I'm nothing, if not consistent!! Of course, with the addition of Graphic Novels to my reading, I would have thought I could squeeze in a few more this year. My hopes of ever hitting 100 are swiftly getting dashed. Maybe when I retire, and only have puppies and kittens to take care of! Till then, it's a Dare to Dream kind of thing. I will forever put up 100 as a goal I'd love to make it to someday.
Since 49 is the total, I'm going to give you the top 5....and a few that made the runners-up list. (in no particular order)
- Looking for Alaska by John Green such a great book. Heartbreaking, but ultimately a wonderful look at teens, love and grief.
- Hunger Games/Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - It's hard to have one on the list without the other. I can't even tell you which one I liked better either. Both were fantastic. YA dystopian series. My son thinks these are the Best. Books. Ever!
- The Knife of Never Letting Go/The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness - The same as above. Can't very well have one without the other. Although, this time I actually think I liked The Ask and The Answer better than the first (boycolt!) YA Dystopian Series, like none I've ever read. Gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, heart-pounding intensity. SO GOOD! I actually bought both for Chad for Christmas. Though he insists nothing will be better than HG, I'm trying to get him to read these soon!
- I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - I can't begin to describe what a surprising delight this book was! A look at one of the oddest, most eccentric families ever. Just plain wonderful!!
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - A year-end Best of List would not be complete without something from Neil Gaiman!! He's been on my list the last 2 years, and this book was no exception. Fantastic YA book, so deserving of the Newberry!!
Well....those were definitely the best I read this year. To be honest, there were very few books I read that I didn't enjoy. I have a few that also made my Honorable Mention:
- North of Beautiful by Justine Chen Headley
- Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
- The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
- Fables Series by Bill Willingham
- Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
- Preacher: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis
- Monster by A. Lee Martinez
- Morganville Vampire Books 3, 4, 5 by Rachel Caine
- Magyk: Septimus Heap Book 1 by Angie Sage
Finally, a few numbers to add to my (pitiful) list of stats!!
Books Read in 2009: 49
Total Pages Read: 16,286
Comic/Graphic Novels: 6
Non-Fiction: 3 (AWFUL!)
Short-Story Collections/Essay Collections/Novellas: 2 (AWFUL!)
Young Adult/Children's: 24
By Men: 22
By Women: 27
New-to-Me Authors: 30
So....all in all, it was a rather low in quantity year. But I do have to say, the quality of the books I read was fantastic!! I still have a couple of reviews to finish up before I start my 2010 reviews. (of course, I haven't actually finished a book yet this year, so it's all good!) I have a bunch more challenges that I've signed up for/will sign up for. So, a couple posts announcing those. Then....we'll just see how it goes!!
Thanks for reading my blog in 2009!! Hopefully, you'll stick around for a great 2010!!
Monday, January 4, 2010
Friday, January 1, 2010
A New Year. Hell, it's a new Decade! I'm not one for resolutions. I've always felt that making New Year Resolutions is setting a person up for failure. Too much pressure to make drastic life changes. Besides, failure depresses me. My mind set is a little different. Especially since I have such a hectic schedule right now. I just try to live my life day to day. I don't think that turning a page on a calendar should be a catalyst for inspiring change. If a change is needed, then do it.
All of that said, I've been looking back on my year in blogging and can see that a change is in order. This past year, I posted less than I have in any of the preceding 3 years. And I stressed about it. I have enough stress in my life without throwing blogging into the mix. I'm through with feeling stress over it. I'm not going to pressure myself to make sure I post a certain amount per month. Blogging started out being fun, and I'd like to make sure it stays that way. I will try to post more. I feel like I have neglected my blog and my blogging friends this year. I do have lots to say, and I would love to be able to broadcast it all. I'm just not going to feel bad if I don't accomplish it.
This past year there were so many conversations about "top-tier" bloggers. I gave up on popularity contests in high school. I. Don't. Care. There. I said it. I will state for the record that I realize I'm not a "top-tier" blogger. I don't have hundreds of followers or thousands of posts. I don't have thousands of hits a day. So be it. In the past three years I have carved out a tiny little niche for myself in the blogosphere. And I like it. As far as I'm concerned, there is plenty of room in the book blogging community for everyone: from the biggest blogs to the smallest; from those that post multiple times a day to those that only post a couple of times a week. I blog for me. To keep myself from going (completely) insane. The jury is still out on whether it's working or not. I know I will still check my blog stats. But I'm not going to feel bad if they never change. I'm happy just being me.
I'm not going to pressure myself to read more ARC's. Or more Classics. Or more non-fiction. I've come to the decision this year that I'm happiest in my reading when I don't have to "force" myself to read a book. It's not fun, and I don't enjoy it. But I like joining challenges and trying to stretch myself in my reading. I'm just not going to put any undue pressure on myself to complete a challenge or read something I won't enjoy.
And finally, I'm not going to use my blog as a crutch. This past year, I've whined about my life way too many times. I have fallen back on using this blog as a release for all the bad stuff that builds up inside me. I don't really like doing that. Yes, it's great to let things out sometimes. But I don't want anyone to think they NEED to comment on something I've said or feel sorry for me.
The point of this post? I probably won't change how I blog. I probably won't change how I read. What I want to change is how I FEEL about it. I'm not putting pressure on myself to do something I dislike. I'm not going to feel bad about not reaching the exceedingly high expectations I usually place on myself. In essence, I'm not going to try to change my habits. I'm just going to be. I know: very Zen, isn't it?? I'm hoping this approach will bring the fun back into something I have loved for the last 3 years.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was perfect. I received a few wonderful presents from my wonderful blogging friends. I received a few wonderful presents from my wonderful family. But most of all, I spent time with the ones I love. And it was wonderful!! (Sorry. Should have busted out the old thesaurus. But wonderful just seemed to work, ya know?)
Here's wishing you a beautiful and blessed New Year. Peace to all of you !!